Since that brilliant October day in 1993 when an 18-wheeler drove up their dead-end dirt road in rural New Hampshire with over 70 boxes of Traditional Irish Music books, CDs, cassettes and videos from OSSIAN Publications in Cork, Mary Lou Philbin-Clarke and Charlie Clarke have been immersed in educating themselves about the MUSIC and how to get it to the People who need it in their lives.
How did OSSIAN USA happen?
Mary Lou had been a professional singer for over 20 years. In 1971 she performed at the River Valley Hotel in New Ross, County Wexford as a resident musician. The other performer-in-residence was John Loesberg. Mary Lou returned to the States at the end of that year and lost track of John. A few years later, John founded OSSIAN PUBLICATIONS with his wife, Therese, and settled in Cork.
While in Ireland that year Mary Lou was exposed to Traditional Music and began a pursuit of that interest. It continued back in the USA when she attended a Ballads Class at the Augusta Heritage Summer School Irish Week and heard about singers such as Joe Heaney, Len Graham, Paddy Tunney, Robert Cinnamond and many more from the great Dublin singer and song-collector Frank Harte. Unfortunately, there seemed no easy way to get recordings of these singers without getting them from Ireland. Charlie came on the scene and, being a native of Cork, was already “into the MUSIC”. They went to Ireland for their honeymoon in 1993 and while in Ennis, picked up a book called Folksongs and Ballads Popular In Ireland volume 1. There were 2 songs in the book listed as anonymous. Mary Lou knew who the authors were and thought that the publisher should give these authors proper credit. When they got to Cork, where the book was published, they went to OSSIAN Publications and were introduced to the owner; that same John Loesberg who had performed at the same Hotel in New Ross over 22 years before. The rest seemed inevitable. John showed Charlie and Mary Lou around and all the singers’ recordings that Mary Lou had been learning about were available through John’s business. She remembers commenting “You can’t get these recordings and books in the United States!” To which John, of course, replied, “Folks could if you sold them there!”
Seven years later Charlie joined the business full-time (he had a REAL job until January 2000) and for nearly 15 years Mary Lou and Charlie enjoyed their chosen servitude. They hosted a concert series in the venue which used to house hay and shingles, becoming known as OSSIAN’s LOFT and greeted customers face-to-face who come to the in-house Music Store.
Charlie died in April 2015 but Mary Lou carries on the work of OSSIAN USA with the love and support of her friends and customers.
(And yes, that 18-wheeler finally made it back down Beck Road)
OSSIAN USA, 118 Beck Road Loudon, NH 03307-1119
Traditional Irish Music in Print, Sound & Vision
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