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Shannon Cunha

MUSC 1040-Cultural Semester Project


Ireland is a stunningly beautiful country with a rich culture that has stood the test of time
and oppression. Its people are hardy and caring, and they have brought their persevering nature
with them to the United States. Most people will agree that the Irish are a unique bunch, and
even those who have been in the US for years still hold a firm grip on their heritage. It is my
genuine pleasure to have met one of these amazing people.
Interview: Introduction/How Xander came to the US
Alexander Andersen, or Xander to his friends, was born in Blackrock, Ireland on April
25, 1992. According to Xander, Blackrock was a comparatively small town
1
on the east coast,
just north of Dublin that was filled with more stone walls and archways than Zion National
Park
2
. Xander and his family moved to Dublin in 1995 after the birth of his younger brother,
Oliver. Xander had attended only one year school when his father, who holds a Masters degree
in Medical Lab Science, accepted a job at ARUP Labs in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1998, 6 year
old Xander and his family made the journey from Dublin, Ireland to the United States. Xander
even remembers one of his first moments in the United States:
I remember getting off the plane at Salt Lake International Airport and clutching my
dads pant leg with all my strength. Everything seemed so big! We were walking through
the terminal and I remember my mom saying to my dad I wonder if they realize how
funny they sound. She was talking about the American accent that almost all the
travelers there had. I didnt even really notice it, since I was more focused on not getting
separated from my parents in the sea of strangers bustling about.
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1
Quote from Xander
2
Quote from Xander
3
Quote from Xander
Thankfully Xander and his family werent alone in the U.S. A few of his aunts and
uncles had moved to the U.S. in the decades prior, seeking new opportunities or even, as one of
his uncles put it to get away from the those smug tea-drinkers and their fluffy hats
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(apparently, Xanders uncle was not very fond of England). Xander thankfully also discovered
that he wasnt the only Irish immigrant in Utah. Throughout the years he managed to befriend a
large number of students from European countries, even joining the Multi-National club in his
High School.
Interview: Background Information
When Xander was asked what he could tell me about the background of the Irish and
Irish/American culture, he was more than enthusiastic to share. For continuity, I have done this
section in a question-answer type format where I stated my questions and recorded Xanders
answers.
Q: So what kind of things do you feel make Irish culture different than that of American culture?
A: The main thing is that there are a lot of stereotypes about us [Irish] that are largely
untrue. For example, the stereotype that every Irish person drinks 4 bottles of whisky a
day, can outdrink anyone, and loves bar fights. Im not saying I dont do that, but most
of us drink as much as anyone else. I think that many of the Irish stereotypes are mostly
American behaviors taken to the extreme.
I would go so far as to say that Irish culture is very much rooted in the old days. The
times of Vikings and Christianity before it became so backwards. A lot of the traditions
you see, such as traditional dances and songs, date back hundreds of years and havent
changed much. I think this is because, unlike America, most of the families in Ireland
have been there for centuries, even longer than the U.S has been around. Much of our
culture, with the exception of technology, hasnt changed at all.
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Q: Would you say that there is a huge difference between Irish and Irish-American culture?
A: Not as much as the difference between American and Irish, but there is a difference.
After spending time with some of my friends who have lived in the U.S. all their lives,

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Quote from Xander
5
Quote from Xander
but their parents have not, I noticed that there is a rather effective blending of cultures.
Most of them celebrate Irish traditions and holidays in traditional ways, sometimes with
complaints from the younger generation. But all of them retain at least some measure of
their cultural heritage that blends seamlessly with the American culture. There are a lot
of similar values. For example, both cultures place a high value on parents and elders,
and thus have specific holidays dedicated to them. But the difference is that Irish culture
puts more emphasis on being with the family on those days, whereas American and some
Irish-American cultural mixes seem to lean more towards materialistic offerings.
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Religion: Introduction
According to PBS.org, the early Celtic religion in Ireland was very much centered on
pagan, polytheistic types of beliefs [McCaffrey and Eaton, pg. 1]. The forces of nature and the
various gods and goddesses associated with them were worshipped, and often the early Celtic
people would make materialistic sacrifices to the various gods [McCaffrey and Eaton, pg. 1].
This was arguably the main form of religion until Christianity began to take hold in the early 5
th

century A.D [McCaffrey and Eaton, pg. 1, 2].
Religion: Main Denominations
In 2011, the main religion in Ireland itself was Roman Catholicism at 84.2% of the
population, which was the lowest percentage of Roman Catholics in Ireland in recorded history
[Central Statistics Office, pg. 7]. Non-religious persons (atheists, agnostics, and those not
affiliated with any major religion) and Protestants/Church of Ireland round out the top 3, with the
percentage of non-religious persons quadrupling between 1991 and 2011 [Central Statistics
Office, Pg. 12].
Religion: Beliefs of Roman Catholicism

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Quote from Xander
Roman Catholicism in Ireland follows the same basic tenants of any other branch of
Catholicism. They worship god as the Trinity
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: The father, the Son, and Holy Ghost as well
holding religious gatherings on Sundays and considering the Bible as their Holy text [Religion
Facts, Online]. They believe in following the word of the Bible as closely as possible as well as
believing in the concept of ultimate reward (heaven) after death [Religion Facts, Online].
Religion: Traditions
Some of the unique customs of Roman Catholicism include the Catholic mass (basically
church on Sundays, although much more formal) and observing the Sacraments [Religion Facts,
Web]. Xander, although he is now an atheist, attended church up until around his 10
th
birthday:
I dont remember much of church back home [Ireland]. Theres a few scattered bits and
pieces, mostly memories of a guy with a funny hat standing in front of everyone while
my mom kept shoving little toffee treats to me so I would stay still in the church house.
When we came here, it was different. My parents wanted church to be a part of our lives
so they found a catholic church near our home within weeks of us moving in. Like I said,
I dont remember a lot of church from back home, but I remembered enough to know that
the churches in Dublin and my home town were as different from the church we went to
here in the US as a cat is different from a dog. The outfits were the same, for both the
priest and for us, but the church here didnt feel nearly asreligious as the ones I had
become accustomed to. The church felt new, like it had barely been built. And compared
to some of the churches at home, they were. They [the US churches] just didnt have the
hundreds of years of history with them.
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Religion: Arrival in US
When Irish immigrants began to head to the US in the early 18
th
and 19
th
centuries, they
brought Irish Roman-Catholicism with them, forming new churches, Irish American clergies,
and even increasing the Catholic population of Boston six-fold in just a matter of years
[Wikipedia-Irish Americans, Online]. Irish priests became very prominent in the catholic

7
Anonymous. Roman Catholicism. 17 03 2004. 30 03 2014.
<http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/denominations/catholicism.htm>.
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Quote from Xander
leadership, even making up 50% of the Bishops within the US Catholic Church [Wikipedia-Irish
American, online].
Music: Styles
Music is one of the greatest things about the Irish culture. They have such a wide variety
and a deep cultural aspect to their music. By walking down any street in Dublin, you would be
treated to a wide variety classical Irish folk music and instrumental ballads [Wiki-Music in
Ireland, Online]. These kinds of folk music, Irish step dancing songs, and even drinking songs
are still very prevalent in Ireland today and have had their unique influence on the entire world
of music [Wiki-Music in Ireland, Online]. Even a considerable amount of the punk rock bands
dating from the 1980s to today have roots in Ireland such as Thin Lizzy, Snow Patrol, and Skid
Row [Wiki-Music in Ireland, Online].
Music: Chosen Piece (Last Rose of Summer) and its views
The Last Rose of Summer is a piece by John Stevenson, a classical Irish composer who
lived in the 18
th
and 19
th
centuries and who was well recognized by the Roman Catholic Church
for his many cathedral songs and anthems [Wiki-Music in Ireland, Online]. The song is a
musical adaptation of the poem of the same name written by Irish poet Thomas Moore [Wiki-
Last Rose of Summer, Online]. The song/poem is written from the point of view of a man who
witnesses the last rose alive in a garden at the end of the summer, and the man begins to lament
that this rose is the only one left alive [Eliot, 487].
The man promises that he will stay with the rose till it dies, so that It doesnt have to die alone
[Eliot, 487] , and through this Moore conveys the ideal that being alone in this world is worse
than being dead.
Musical Influence
Many Irish musicians made their way to the United States, and thus promoted the
traditional Irish music in other countries after some of them did amazingly well profit wise in the
early 1930s-1940s [Wiki-Music in Ireland, Online]. The Irish-American music blend has
increasingly popular in the last few decades or so, however, by combining Traditional Irish folk
music with the more American blend of punk rock by groups such as The Dubliners and
Dropkick Murphys [Wiki-Music in Ireland, Online], thus bringing it into the eyes of the
younger generation.
Conclusion
After all is said and done, I think that most people will agree that the Irish culture
possesses an unimaginable wealth of value that cannot be overstated. It is culture that has been
forged over centuries with periods of turmoil and peace dotted across the timeline, written by the
most amazing of peoples. In short, it is a culture well worth study and that anyone can benefit
from. To quote my amazingly patient interviewee Xander:
The culture of Ireland is a lot like sex. Its addictive, crazy, and no one can fully
describe it in words. You have a lot of preconceived myths about it, but once you
actually try it for yourself, youll see whats true, not true, and wonder why the hell you
didnt try this sooner!
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Quote from Xander


Bibliography

Anonymous. Roman Catholicism. 17 03 2004. 30 03 2014.
<http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/denominations/catholicism.htm>.
Eliot, Charles W. The Last Rose Of Summer- English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald. Ed.
Charles W. Eliot. Vol. 41. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 2001. 51 vols. 30 03 2014.
<http://www.bartleby.com/41/487.html>.
Ireland Central Statistics Office. Profile 7: Religion, Elthnicity, and Irish Travelers. Census.
Central Statistics Office. Dublin, Ireland: Stationary Office, 2011. 29 03 2014.
<http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/census/documents/census2011profile7/Profile,7,Educ
ation,Ethnicity,and,Irish,Traveller,entire,doc.pdf>.
McCaffrey, Carmel and Leo Eaton. Religion: In Search of Ancient Irealand. 2002. PBS. 29 3
2014. <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/ancientireland/religion.html>.
Wikipedia. Irish-American. 29 03 2014. 29 03 2014.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_American#Irish_Catholic_and_Irish_Protestant_relati
ons>.
. Wikipedia-Music in Ireland. n.d. 30 03 2014.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Ireland>.
. Wikipedia-The Last Rose of Summer. 2014. 03 30 2014.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Rose_of_Summer>.