The Music City will have its second annual Music City Irish Festival (MCIF) Saturday, March 12 near the Music Row Roundabout on Demonbreun Street. All attendees should expect to explore Nashville’s heritage and its Irish musical roots. In honor of our Irish musical roots, The Willis Clan will open with a special dance and six Irish artists from the Belfast festival are scheduled to perform soon after. There will be traditional Irish food and drink, crafts and instruments for attendees to appreciate during this daylong festival. More than twenty thousand people are expected to attend this year.
The History of Tennessee and Scots-Irish descendants, Irish immigrants from the Ulster region of Ireland
In the eighteenth century, nearly two million Scots-Irish descendants fled from Northern Ireland to the American colonies in search of better opportunities. The Scots-Irish brought with them the stories of millions dead from famines and political oppression. American soil offered them a relief from crop failures and economic depressions.
Known then as Watauga, Tennessee became sacred ground for Scots-Irish immigrants. They settled in the Appalachian Mountains. In 1772, Scots-Irish established the first independent government in America in Watauga (now Tennessee).
Serving as soldiers in the American Revolution, Scots-Irish Americans were able to defend their territory and influence other colonial sites down the Tennessee River. Knoxville was one of them.
Knoxville became one of the many thriving cities along the Appalachian Mountain range. The Scots-Irish established many whiskey distilleries after receiving land contracts for their service in the American Revolution. These distilleries paved the way for whiskey businesses in Tennessee.
However, the Scots-Irish brought more than whiskey to the Southeastern parts of the nation.
The Irish Culture
The Irish culture is nothing short of entertaining. Ireland is known for its art, dance, literature and music. Through endless storytelling in folk songs and bagpipe vibrations, the Irish culture is vividly felt by the average onlooker. The rhythm and style of Irish performances have deeply influenced the world of bluegrass.
If you listen closely, you will hear the Irish musical influences in Nashville’s bluegrass. Electric mandolins and steel guitars replace the sound of fiddles and harps nowadays, but fiddles and harps are still credited as the prevailing origin of Ireland and Scottish country music.
Modern Nashville and the Irish Community
Given the history rooted in our neighboring cities, Nashville made Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, a Sister City of Nashville in 1995. This partnership developed an exchange of cultural, educational, and economical opportunities between Nashville and Belfast. Ian and Katherine Brick established Belfast as a Sister City of Nashville and have maintained this 20 year relationship.
Mayor Megan Barry believes in doing the same.
“What an honor to welcome the Lord Mayor of Belfast to Nashville as we celebrate the incredible musical and culture heritage of Northern Ireland, while strengthening the bonds of our two cities in the process,” said Mayor Barry.
Since this partnership, the Irish community has grown in Nashville. There are highly rated Irish pubs and big scoring musicians/performers.
Even though it opened in 1990, Nashville Irish Step Dancers is celebrating 25 years of teaching as a result of the strengthened relationship between the two cities. As more people visit Nashville, I hope they have the chance to experience a slice of our Irish roots before leaving!
For more information about the Second Annual Music City Irish Festival, visit Music City Irish Festival.
For more information about our Sister City, visit Sister Cities of Nashville.
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