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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

That’s Distinctive!: Samhain

October 27th, 2023

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. “That’s Distinctive!” will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

To continue our spooky journey through Spencer’s collections, this week I share Samhain or “All Hallowe’en.”: A Romantic Irish Cantata. As noted in the Concise Oxford Companion to Irish Literature, “Samhain had an important place in Celtic mythology as a time when the normal order is suspended to allow free passage between the natural and supernatural worlds.” As defined by Merriam-Webster, a cantata is “a composition for one or more voices usually comprising solos, duets, recitatives, and choruses and sung to an instrumental accompaniment.” This particular cantata was written and composed in 1902 expressly for the Dublin Musical Festival, or Feis Ceoil. Established in 1897, “Feis Ceoil Association promotes excellence in the learning and performance of music across all ages, levels and disciplines…Today, Feis Ceoil is an event of major significance in the development of musical talent in Ireland.” The festival now comprises 180 competitions with a diverse range of ages from seven years old and up.

Dr. Annie Patterson (1868-1934), who wrote the cantata, “composed sacred and secular cantatas, orchestral works and songs based on Irish themes. She also wrote poetry, essays, short stories as well as professional articles and books on music.” Working with Rev. Houston Collisson – the cantata’s composer – and others, Patterson co-founded the Feis Ceoil in 1897 as part of the broader Gaelic revival in Ireland.

No matter what you believe or how you celebrate, I wish everyone a safe and very happy Halloween! Next week we will share one last item in the spirit of October before returning to regular postings.

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The front cover and first two pages of Samhain or “All Hallowe’en.”: A Romantic Irish Cantata, 1902. Call Number: O’Hegarty D613. Click images to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
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