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Irish Lit Scholar and Former WFUV Host to Speak at St. Patrick’s Day Brunch

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Colleen Taylor, FCRH ’12, credits Fordham with giving her a voice.

During her time at Rose Hill, she co-hosted WFUV’s long-running popular Irish radio program Ceol na nGael. And in her small classes and student clubs, she further refined her speaking skills and confidence. She’ll put both to use just before the St. Patrick’s Day Parade this month, when she speaks to a Fordham crowd about the University’s distinct Irish heritage.

Taylor’s own Irish heritage has been a constant focus throughout her education. She majored in English literature and Irish studies at Fordham, where she was valedictorian of her class, and studied abroad in Ireland twice. Following graduation, she earned a master’s degree in Irish writing at Trinity College Dublin, and she’s currently pursuing a doctorate at Boston College.

When Taylor first arrived at Fordham, she found herself missing the Irish dances she performed growing up. She joined the Gaelic Society, and at one meeting, a WFUV staffer came by looking for students to get involved with Ceol na nGael.

“I was so desperate for some Irish connection I decided to apply,” Taylor recalls. She started as an intern and served as co-host her sophomore through senior years.  “I was always fond of the contemporary traditional bands—young bands playing and creating new versions of old, traditional tunes,” she says. She also enjoyed speaking with Irish immigrants in the Bronx who would call in with requests and talk about listening to the show with their American grandchildren.

“One of the craziest things to happen to me while I was hosting the show was  [at] an outdoor concert  [in Manhattan] by Cherish the Ladies,” Taylor says. “I happened to start chatting with a man and his wife seated beside me, and they almost instantly recognized my voice from Ceol na nGael. The man figured out who I was before I introduced myself.”

Ceol na nGael—one of few shows on WFUV hosted solely by students—boasts 40,000 weekly listeners. The program recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with a concert at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, which Taylor was proud to attend. “[Ceol na nGael] is this interesting small village of New Yorkers and Americans who have an interest in Irish culture,” she says, “and I was lucky to be involved in it.”

Her own family’s roots go back to County Clare in Ireland. “My parents always had the Irish music on, and it was natural that I would fall in love with it,” Taylor says. Her commitment to her education comes in part from her grandmother, who was raised in a Catholic orphanage in Brooklyn in the 1930s.

“She was always really studious herself and a really bright woman,” Taylor says. “She wasn’t able to have continued schooling, and I think even though I was little, I absorbed that and wanted to work hard and get a really good education in her honor.”

Taylor’s research interests at Boston College include discovering lesser-known Irish authors. “There’s a romanticism and a melancholia that is just so quintessentially Irish but isn’t fake in any way,” she says of Irish literature. “It’s part of that complicated interrogation of what Irishness means.”

Despite being busy with her studies, Taylor found a post-WFUV outlet for her love of Irish music: She writes a column called “Music Notes” in The Irish Echo, contributing album and concert reviews. She recently interviewed Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains. “It was great fun,” she says. “He took the pressure off, even though he’s a legend in Irish music.”

For the first time since 2012, Taylor will be spending St. Patrick’s Day in America (she spent the past two in Dublin), and she’s looking forward to celebrating it with the Fordham community. She’ll speak at the University’s annual pre-parade brunch for alumni and friends, hosted this year by PricewaterhouseCoopers on Madison Avenue. (Read her talk, “Finding Ireland Outside of Its Myths.”)

“I’m really thrilled,” she says. “There’s just something about that march up Fifth Avenue and the grandness in New York that you can’t quite beat, even in Ireland.”

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Taylor sent FORDHAM her Top Ten Irish Playlist. Listen to it here.

—Courtney Allison

 

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