New York Tartan Week 2012 To Open on Ellis Island

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The nation’s largest Tartan Day celebration returns for its 11th annual observance with the opening of “An Leabhar Mòr” (The Great Book of Gaelic.)

According to journalist Roddy Martine, Tartan Day on Ellis Island, "stands out as a beacon of what Tartan Day is all about: the emigrant ancestors of Americans who over 3 centuries crossed the Atlantic Ocean to create the world's greatest democracy."

“Tartan Day on Ellis Island” – the nation’s largest Tartan Day celebration - returns for its 11 annual observance with the opening of “An Leabhar Mòr” (The Great Book of Gaelic.) The exhibition, organized and produced by Pròiseact nan Ealan, the Gaelic Arts Agency, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, opens on Sunday, March 31 and runs through Sunday, April 8. The exhibition celebrates the art and poetry of the Gaelic-speaking people of Scotland and Ireland.

“Tartan Day on Ellis Island” is produced by the Clan Currie Society – one of the country’s leading Scottish heritage organizations. The Ellis Island event will open NY Tartan Week – a two-week festival of all things Scottish, including a Scottish fashion show, whisky tastings, and the annual parade.

“An Leabhar Mòr” is the 21st-century equivalent of the Gaelic masterpiece, the "Book of Kells." It brings together the work of more than 150 Gaelic poets, visual artists, and calligraphers. Scotland and Ireland share a mythology, a rich music tradition, languages and some very formative history. Irish Gaels, known as Scoti, invaded Scotland in the 5th century and gave it their name.

“An Leabhar Mòr" as a book is an artwork in itself which presents a major collection of Gaelic artwork. It renews and highlights the cultural connection between Gaelic Scotland and Ireland. At the same time it celebrates the diverse strands of contemporary Celtic culture.

It is a beautiful book featuring poetry from every century between the sixth and the twenty-first. It contains the earliest Gaelic poetry in existence. One hundred contemporary visual artists – in a variety of media – respond within its pages to one hundred works of poetry spanning the ages.

It includes work by poets Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill and Maire Mhac an tSaoi and by artists Allan Davie, Will Maclean and Rita Duffy among others. The exhibition “An Leabhar Mòr– the Great Book of Gaelic” is based on and inspired by this extraordinary book.

According to Malcolm McLean, the exhibition's curator and designer, “An Leabhar Mòr” is all about making connections between Ireland and Scotland, between literature and the visual arts, between poetry and song, between Irish and Scottish Gaelic, between one and a half millennia of Gaelic civilization and the English-speaking world.

There is more to the Leabhar Mòr than its aesthetic value, or its value as an introduction to Gaelic civilization. It is also a Gaelic project without a trace of either cultural cringe or of exaggerated assertiveness. How wonderful that this important exhibition has found its way to Ellis Island - the Golden Door to America for so many Scottish and Irish immigrants.”

For Clan Currie Society president and Tartan Day producer Robert Currie, the visit to Ellis Island is fortuitous and inevitable, “The exhibition speaks to the heart of our Clan's rich Gaelic history. For 700 centuries, MacMhuirich, or Currie bards trained in Ireland and composed many gems of bardic verse for their Scottish patrons. Indeed, out of the 100 poems selected for the exhibition, three of them were written by members of the Clan Currie.”

The International Tour Comes to New York for Tartan Week

“An Leabhar Mòr” has moved from strength to strength since its initial publication in 2002. An international touring exhibition of 100 artworks featured in the book is still on the road a decade later. Having completed a successful tour of Ireland in 2006 -2007 the Great Book Exhibition has recently delighted audiences throughout Canada and is currently working its way round an extensive tour of North America.

In the Ellis Island venue, where attendance is expected to exceed 50 thousand visitors, the exhibition “An Leabhar Mòr” will also feature a series of contextual panels of particular relevance to American audiences. Panels will explore the meaning of Gaelic identity and culture with a special emphasis given to Scots and Irish immigration to America. They will show how the Gaelic gift for poetry and language has influenced American music, ultimately giving birth to American country-western music.

The exhibition will be displayed adjacent to the Registry Room, the Great Hall on Ellis Island on the museum's second floor. In addition to Maclean and Currie, the Ellis Island exhibition team also includes researcher/writer Marsha Lebby and Gaelic scholar Michael Newton.

Poetry Readings, Lectures and a Film Screening Also Planned

The Ellis Island exhibition will be accompanied by two "Great Book" events in The Poets House, at 10 River Terrace in Manhattan, which looks out onto Ellis Island and is immediately adjacent to the Irish Famine Memorial.

On Tuesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 5, three eminent Gaelic poets will read a selection of poems from the “Great Book” and some of their own work. This is a great opportunity to experience 1,500 years of traditional and contemporary poetry in one of the oldest languages in Europe. The readings will be bi-lingual - in the original Gaelic with English translations - and refreshments will be available on both evenings. The three distinguished poets are Aonghas Dubh MacNeacaill, Christopher Whyte, and Kevin Macneill.

The April 3 event begins at 7:15pm with a 30 minute screening of Murray Grigor’s BBC film, “Is Mise An Teanga/ I Am The Tongue”, about the making of the Great Book and the Scots/Irish Gaelic connection. This will be followed by Q&A and the readings will begin at 8pm.

The April 5 event begins at 7.15pm with a rare opportunity to hear one of the leading experts on the subject, Dr. Michael Newton. Newton’s talk is entitled, "Gaelic Voices of Exile: The History and Literature of Gaels in America." This will be followed by Q&A and the readings will begin at 8.15pm.

Celebrate Tartan Day with Music and Dance

Starting on Friday, April 6 (Tartan Day) through Sunday, April 8, Ellis Island will play host to some of the finest Scottish entertainment in New York City, including the Rampant Lion Pipe Band, a Celtic harp circle led by Mia Theodoratus, the New York Metro Pipe Band and the NY Celtic Dancers.
Support for the exhibition has been generously provided by the Gaelic Arts Agency, the Clan Currie Society, Scotland's Islands and the Canadian Friends of Scotland.

Visit for additional information. Follow exhibit plans and preparations via Twitter, @ClanMhuirich.

About Tartan Day on Ellis Island

Tartan Day on Ellis Island is one of the principal Scottish heritage events in the United States. Playing host to literally thousands of domestic and international visitors each day, it is the largest Tartan Day celebration in the world. Ellis Island is a fitting place to observe Tartan Day. The island and its historic buildings represent America's "Golden Door."

From 1892 to 1954, more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. Although many Scots arrived during the colonial period of our history – helping to build the new nation - an additional half-million Scots came through Ellis Island. It has been estimated that 40% of Americans today can trace at least one ancestor's entry into the United States through Ellis Island.

Describing the program, noted Scottish journalist and author Roddy Martine reported that of all the Tartan Day events held in the United States, the Ellis Island observance has, "stood out as a beacon of what USA Tartan Day is all about: the emigrant ancestors of ordinary Americans who over three centuries crossed the Atlantic Ocean to create the world's greatest democracy."

Tartan Day on Ellis Island is produced by the Clan Currie Society - one of the preeminent Scottish heritage organizations in the United States. The Clan Currie Society began its successful collaboration with the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in 2002 in the coordination and sponsorship of their first Tartan Day celebration. That year, Clan Currie and the National Museums of Scotland joined forces to host the traveling exhibit, "Home and Away: Highland Departures and Returns.

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