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Irish American Women on the Folklife Today Podcast

Six people stand around a room. Betsy Peterson is handing an envelope to Mary Gay Scanlon while Alice McDermott looks on.

Betsy Peterson, AFC’s director, gives a copy of the audio recording and notes to Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon on February 6, 2020. Alice McDermott looks on.  Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.

We’re back with another episode of the Folklife Today podcast! To round out both Women’s History Month and Irish American Heritage Month, we’re presenting A Tribute to Irish American Women. Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher.

As usual, I’ll present links to relevant blog posts, videos, and audio selections in this post.  But first:

Get your podcast here!

To explain the context, on February 6, 2020, the Library of Congress held the live event “Fearless: A Tribute to Irish American Women.” The event featured a conversation among award-winning novelist Alice McDermott, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, and CBS anchor Margaret Brennan. As part of the event, an audio recording selected by the American Folklife Center and presented by our director, Betsy Peterson, served as a prompt for conversation.

As extended programming surrounding this event, staff from four Library divisionsAFCManuscript DivisionPrints & Photographs Division, and Hispanic Division were asked to develop a display of items related to the event that would facilitate connections and engage the public with diverse collections. The Center’s contributions took two forms: a display of collection items for the public and a curated mix of field recordings. (Read more about our participation in this blog post.)

The mix of field recordings we created for the event served as the basis for this podcast episode. To talk about them, John Fenn and I were joined by AFC’s director Betsy Peterson, since she was central to the event. Betsy took the opportunity to tell our followers her news: she’s retiring! We will have more to say about that here on the blog, but until then we wish Betsy the best. We will all miss her. Her long list of accomplishments at AFC includes updating our publications and media engagement through greenlighting both the Folklife Today blog and the podcast. We’ll strive to continue adding to her legacy for a long time to come!

A man and a woman stand behind a table with books, record albums, flyers, photos, and other items on display.

Melanie Zeck and I staffed the table for the display of items in the Library’s Whittall Pavilion on February 6, 2020. Melanie curated the tabletop display seen by our special guests, and I curated the audio selection given to them to take home. Photo by John Fenn.

The episode also included guests Jennifer Cutting and Melanie Zeck. All three guests helped John and me talk about the recordings, so many thanks to all of them!

Following the live event back in 2020, I wrote two extensive blog posts on the audio recordings. Since the items we used on the podcast were a subset of those, you can get all the complete audio, bibliographic information, and background in these two blog posts:

Songs and Tunes from “Fearless: A Tribute to Irish American Women”

More Songs and Tunes from “Fearless: A Tribute to Irish American Women”

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening!

In case you need that podcast link again…here it is!

Songs of Spring on the Folklife Today Podcast

We’ve had some scheduling challenges which led to an unexpected hiatus, but we’re back with another episode of the Folklife Today podcast! Since springtime keeps threatening to bust through the cold weather, we’re featuring songs of spring. Find it on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher–or find it at the link we provide from this blog. Also in the blog, see photos find links to most of the songs with more contextual information!

The Third Season of the ‘America Works’ Podcast is Here!

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is kicking off 2022 with the much-awaited third season of “America Works,” a podcast series celebrating the diversity, resilience and creativity of American workers in the face of economic uncertainty. The new season, launched today, features riveting stories from a teacher and workers at a circus, a meat plant, a vineyard, and a now-closed Boeing factory, among others. The first episode is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and at loc.gov/podcasts. Subsequent episodes will be released each Thursday through March 10, 2022. This blog post contains links and an episode guide to the season.

La Llorona on the Folklife Today Podcast

Halloween and Día de Muertos are almost here! So, believe it or not, Season 4, Episode 1 of the Folklife Today Podcast, our 2021 Halloween and Día de Muertos episode, is ready for listening! It features interviews about the Weeping Woman, La Llorona, a spirit from Latin American folklore, plus related songs and stories. The people interviewed are Juan Díes, leader of the Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Camille Acosta, who wrote her masters thesis on La Llorona before interning at AFC, and Allina Migoni, AFC’s Latinx subject specialist. This blog contains links to download the podcast, background on our guests, and links to full audio of the songs.

Music from Homegrown 21 on the Folklife Today Podcast

Summer is over, and autumn is here. That means the Homegrown 2021 concert series is also drawing to a close. We put a selection of songs from the series on the Folklife Today podcast, with commentary from me, John Fenn, series producer Thea Austen, and AFC interns Kennedi Johnson and Camille Acosta.  That way, if you haven’t had a chance to watch the videos, you can download and listen wherever you like to hear your podcasts. As usual, there are links to the podcast itself, plus links to relevant blog posts, videos, and audio selections in this post.

More Summer Songs on the Folklife Today Podcast

This post gives background to our latest episode of the Folklife Today podcast. This episode continues our look at songs about summer, from the amorous adventures of young lovers to the backbreaking work done by convicts in the sun. Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick, along with guest Jennifer Cutting, present their favorite summer songs. Songs include the English “Sweet Primroses;” the Trinidadian “One Fine Summer’s Morning” and “June Come, You No Marry;” the Tuvan “In Summer Pastures;” the African American work song “Worked All Summer Long;” and the Basque “When the Sun Shines Everywhere, How Good the Shade is!”

Summer Songs on the Folklife Today Podcast

Season 3, Episode 9 of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it on the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher. In this episode John Fenn and I, along with guests Nicole Saylor and Jennifer Cutting, look at songs on summer themes. The podcast includes Appalachian, African American, French Canadian, Finnish, Tuvan, and Irish songs. As usual, I present links to relevant blog posts, videos, and audio selections in this post.

August Online Symposium Will Feature Folklore Podcasters and Social Media Leaders

The American Folklife Center is pleased to announce Traditional Folklore in a Digital World, a two-part symposium on August 17 and 24 examining some of the ways folklore is spread, discussed, and transformed in the digital environment. The symposium will bring together leading podcasters and influential figures in social media who are helping define what folklore is in the 21st century. It will consist of two Zoom-based panels, one on podcasts and the other on social media. Each panel brings together four compelling leaders in online folklore, who will present a brief rundown of what they do, and then take questions from the audience. AFC staff, including me, will be there to moderate and direct the questions. The podcast panel features the hosts of Lore, Crimelore, The Folklore Podcast, and Jack Dappa Blues and the African American Folklorist. The Social Media panel features folks from Folklore Thursday, Folk Horror Revival, and the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic. We hope you’ll join us for a fascinating discussion. Both panels are free and open to the public, but registration is required.  (Don’t worry, the links to register are in this post!) 

Langston Hughes on the Folklife Today Podcast

Season 3, Episode 8 of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at the link from this post to the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher. In this episode  John Fenn and I, along with guests Langston Collin Wilkins and Sophie Abramowitz, look at Langston Hughes as a “Hidden Folklorist.” As usual, I’ll present links to the relevant blog posts and audio selections in this post!

Hidden Folklorists and Hidden Spirituals on the Folklife Today Podcast

Our latest podcast looks at three “Hidden Folklorists” from Louisiana with special guest Joshua Clegg Caffery from the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. The Hidden Folklorists are Becky Elzy and Aberta Bradford, two spiritual singers who had been born in slavery, but who years later sang over a hundred spirituals for collectors; and E.A. McIlhenny, the head of the Tabasco Sauce company, who first collected their spirituals into a book. We recount details of how a microfilm of unique, unpublished manuscript spirituals by Bradford and Elzy came to be part of the American Folklife Center archive, and how Bradford and Elzy came to be recorded on audio discs for the Library of Congress by Alan Lomax in 1934, with the resulting recordings also coming to the AFC Archive. It’s an amusing story in which the 19-year-old Alan Lomax is forced to leave his father, the seasoned collector John A. Lomax “by the side of the road” and drive 40 miles with the 73 year old Bradford to try to find the 82 year old Elzy so they can sing together for the Library’s recording machine. The episode also presents several of their spirituals, and ends with the very moving recording of two women who had been born in slavery singing “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, got free at last!”