By Lauren Colegrove
Sounds of acoustic guitar and Irish verse broke the usual silence of Falvey Memorial Library during the musical event, “An Evening with Sean Tyrrell,” held in the Speaker’s Corner on Sept. 20.
The event, hosted by the Irish Studies Program and co-sponsored by the Office of Music Activities, featured Irish folk singer Sean Tyrrell and his lyrical interpretations of Irish poetry.
Tyrrell created a relaxing atmosphere by Setting the scene before each song with anecdotes about famed author James Joyce or his own personal experiences as a musician.
“It made it feel like I was sitting in a pub,” says sophomore Ciara Sprance.
The musical event was an illustration of the Irish Studies Program’s dedication to cultural engagement on campus, and it showed that the University’s already vibrant Irish presence is continually growing.
The University has always had a distinct Irish connection, beginning with the establishment of Villanova College by Irish Augustinians in 1842. The Irish Studies Program was created in 1979, and since has hosted distinguished Irish poets and musicians as well as the Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. Chair of Irish Studies, a position held by a prominent Irish writer each spring semester.
Summer and semester-long study abroad programs are offered through the University in Ireland. In addition, a concentration in Irish Studies and Irish courses are offered through the English and history departments.
Gearoid O’Duinn, a one-year University faculty member through the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program, is teaching an introductory Irish language course this semester.
Along with the four-credit language course, an Irish Language Conversation Circle facilitated by O’Duinn is offered on Wednesday evenings in Falvey Library Room 205 at 6 p.m. and is open to all students on campus.
The Circle is meant to be informal and provides an environment for beginners to learn the basics of the Irish language and where students in the language course can practice their conversational skills.
Accents ranging from natural to practiced, exchanges of “Dia Duit,” a standard greeting in Irish meaning “God to you,” can be heard in Irish throughout the group meetings as well as can discussions about culture and dialects within Ireland.
“There’s a cadence in the Irish language and a pronunciation you can’t get from reading,” Sprance says. “It seems like poetry is built into the Irish.”
Along with the recent addition of the Irish language experiences offered on campus, this semester also welcomes the re-emergence of the Irish Cultural Society.
The ICS aims to promote understanding and appreciation of Irish society and identity. It is in the stages of planning events both on and off campus for this year.
Sophomore president of the ICS Conor Fitz says that this year, the club plans to hold movie screenings on campus, collaborate with the University’s Irish dance team for cultural events and traveling to Philadelphia for live Irish music and the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Other upcoming Irish events sponsored by the University include a lecture by Irish philosopher William Desmond, a non-fiction reading by Molly McCloskey and poetry readings by Catherine Phil MacCarthy and Dermot Healy.
With an active Irish Studies Program and active student involvement in the new organizations, O’Duinn says he is hoping to reign in the enthusiasm students have for the Irish culture through these learning opportunities and believes that “this year will be a turning point” for the Irish presence on campus.