Northern Minnesota native Brian Miller (Bua), left, and Wisconsinite Randy Gosa will give a concert of northwoods Irish music and stories from the lumber camps on Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Calumet Art Center. (Photo courtesy Calumet Art Center)
ST. PAUL, MINN.; CALUMET, MICH. -- Over a million people emigrated from Ireland to North America during the famine years of the mid-1800s. Their influence on the culture and politics of American cities like Chicago and Boston is well known.
But what about the tens of thousands of Irish who made their way in the more rural parts of 19th-century North America? Many settled in the forests of New England and eastern Canada in the midst of a booming lumber industry driven by the very population growth they contributed to. Irishmen went to work, alongside men of other ethnic backgrounds, in lumber camps where their rich stores of traditional songs and dance tunes quickly became valued as bunkhouse entertainment. By the time the lumber boom had moved westward into Michigan, Irish musical styles had come to dominate a new distinct tradition of northwoods music.
Northern Minnesota native Brian Miller (Bua) and Wisconsinite Randy Gosa will bring this music, and the stories surrounding it, to life with a concert at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Calumet Art Center, 57055 Fifth Street, Calumet. The cost is $12 at the door.
Brian Miller sings and plays guitar, bouzouki and harmonium while Randy Gosa adds mandolin, tenor banjo and harmony vocals to their rich arrangements of forgotten songs and dance tunes. The music will be complemented by a slideshow of historical photos from the lumbering era.
Miller and Gosa’s Calumet performance will focus on songs and dance tunes connected to songs and singers with ties to Michigan. The duo is en route to a performance in Mount Pleasant presented by the Michigan Humanities Council and the Michigan State University Museum Program commemorating folklorist Alan Lomax's field trip collecting traditional music throughout Michigan In 1938. They will also draw on 1924 audio recordings recently discovered by Miller of an Irish-American singer who worked and sang in the Michigan woods in the 1870s.
Brian Miller and Randy Gosa have been featured on Minnesota Public Radio and on TPT TV’s Minnesota Original; and they have toured nationally to festivals including The University of Chicago Folk Fest, Milwaukee Irish Fest and the Arizona Highland Celtic Fest.