The Hippo


May 30, 2020








Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki. Photo by Nathan Ekis.

Songs of Emigration: Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki

Where: Millyard Museum, 200 Bedford St., Manchester
When: Saturday, March 25, 1 p.m.
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A musical journey
Irish experience explored in Songs of Migration

By Michael Witthaus

 Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki has become New Hampshire’s go-to fiddle player, from his early days with rootsy Jamantics to session work with a diverse array of acts like pop rockers Pat & the Hats, ethereal chanteuse Anna Madsen and protest collective Extremists for Peace.

His musical comfort zone, though, has long been Celtic music. He made his first album of traditional music at age 14, and his most recent collection of Irish songs is 2015’s Return to the Castle. The fiddler hosts a weekly Irish Night at Stone Church with Jim Prendergast and is a frequent guest member of Seacoast Celtic stalwarts Great Bay Sailor. Over the recent St. Patrick’s Day, Tirrell-Wysocki traveled the length of the state playing sets.
Though he wasn’t born into it, the music of Ireland has long called to him. 
“There is a power and an emotion to it, both on the sad and joyful pieces,” Tirrell-Wysocki said in a recent phone interview. “From a really early age, that’s the music that was calling to me.”
In February, Tirrell-Wysocki joined the New Hampshire Humanities Council to present Songs of Emigration, an hour long program that explores the role of music in the Irish immigrant experience. The recurring presentation stops March 26 at Manchester’s Millyard Museum. On both fiddle and guitar, he plays songs and puts them in historical context, describing the emotions behind them — why the new settlers left, and what greeted them upon arrival.
Tirrell-Wysocki feels the time is right for such an endeavor. 
“The dialog we’re having now in our country is about immigration,” he said. “A look back at history can tell us about the experience of different ethnic groups coming here. In this case, we’re exploring the Irish story and all the struggles they faced. What better way to do that than through music, which is the way the Irish have told their stories and preserved their culture for generations?”
It’s not just American emigration; one song, for example, deals with a native of County Clare now working in a London factory and missing his home. Another describes a man drafted to fight in the Civil War (on the Union side) immediately upon arriving in the United States.
Though it does span a century of migration from Ireland, the program whets the appetite for more. 
“I selected a handful of my favorite immigration songs — a very small slice,” Tirrell-Wysocki said. “I can’t possibly hope to give a comprehensive history or examples of all the songs out there, because it makes up such a huge part of the irish music repertoire.”
The idea is to spark a dialogue that lasts beyond the presentation, 
“It’s not a concert,” he said. “This is a chance to think and talk a little bit more about the music and maybe learn a little bit more about where these songs are coming from and what they might have meant to the people that were singing them originally.”
Songs of Emigration is part of the New Hampshire Humanities catalog, and Tirrell-Wysocki hopes to travel all over the state in the coming months with it. So far, he’s done it twice, in New Boston and Atkinson; one day after his Manchester talk, he’ll take the presentation to Bath. 
“I have one in May and several more coming up in the fall,” he said. “I’m excited to see where it goes from here. … It’s a huge honor  to be in the company of the great speakers and performers who are also on the roster.”
Work with his trio continues, with more outdoor concerts scheduled as the weather warms up. In the summer, a residency at an Irish pub in Bar Harbor, Maine, will enter its fifth year. 
“Somehow all the little pieces come together in just the right way,” he said. “I’ve been very lucky, and it’s keeping the schedule pretty full.”
On the family front, Tirrell-Wysocki suspects he might be passing down the musical gene as he watches his 18-month-old daughter.  
“My plan is not to push it or force it but I will definitely encourage her if she shows an inclination, and she seems to,” he said. “She comes to a lot of my concerts and loves to dance and sing and make up songs. So I’m excited to see where that goes.” 

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