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James Connolly (1868–1916) was an Irish republican and socialist leader. He was executed by a British firing squad because of his leadership role in the Easter Rising of 1916. Connolly was the author of many books and articles, becoming one of the leading revolutionary theorists of his time. At the head of the Irish Citizen Army, Connolly's vision and determination proved decisive in launching the rising which proclaimed the Irish Republic from the steps of Dublin's General Post Office. This set in motion the sequence of events that would unleash the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921). While this did lead to 26 of Ireland's 32 counties becoming independent of the United Kingdom, it left unresolved the question of Irish sovereignty over the entirety of the island. Indeed, it left unresolved the very conflicts Connolly presciently warned against when he wrote: "If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you."

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Songs of Freedom: The James Connolly Songbook

Author: James Connolly
Edited by Mat Callahan with a Preface by Theo Dorgan and Foreword by James Connolly Heron
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-826-5
Published: 09/01/2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 96 Pages
Subjects: Music-Lyrics/History-Ireland
$12.95

Songs of Freedom is the name of the songbook edited by James Connolly and published in 1907. Connolly's introduction is better known than the collection for which it was written, containing his oft-quoted maxim: “Until the movement is marked by the joyous, defiant singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the most distinctive marks of a popular revolutionary movement, it is the dogma of a few and not the faith of the multitude.” Though most of the songs were of Irish derivation, the songbook itself was published in New York and directed to the American working class, explicitly internationalist in its aims.

 Songs of Freedom is a celebration of the life and work of James Connolly, the Irish revolutionary socialist martyred by the British government for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916. It is at once a collection of stirring revolutionary songs and a vital historical document. For the first time in a hundred years, readers will find the original Songs of Freedom as well as the 1919 Connolly Souvenir program published in Dublin for a concert commemorating Connolly's birth. Both are reproduced exactly as they originally appeared, providing a fascinating glimpse of the workers' struggle at the beginning of the last century. To complete the picture is included the James Connolly Songbook of 1972, which contains not only the most complete selection of Connolly's lyrics, but also historical background essential to understanding the context in which the songs were written and performed.

 

Praise:

"My grand aunt Nora Connolly, in her book We Shall Rise Again, said of rebel songs: 'For more may be remembered of a country’s history and treasured deep in the heart of a people through a song or a poem than through the pages of a history book'—how true. It was Nora who taught singers her father’s songs. ‘After 1916,' she said, ‘I never did any more singing’—how sad. Now with this project and through the great talent and commitment of all involved we can hear Nora sing again.”
—James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly and author of The Words of James Connolly

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Songs of Freedom (CD)

Musicians: The James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-831-9 UPC: 760137574125
Published:09/01/2013
Format: Audio CD
Size: 5.5x5.5
Length: 53 minutes
Subjects: Music-Irish, Acoustic
$14.95


From the rollicking welcome of "A Festive Song" to the defiant battle cry of "Watchword of Labor," Songs of Freedom accomplishes the difficult task of making contemporary music out of old revolutionary songs. Far from the archival preservation of embalmed corpses, the inspired performance of a rocking band turns the timeless lyrics of James Connolly into timely manifestos for today's young rebels. As Connolly himself repeatedly urged, nothing can replace the power of music to raise the fighting spirit of the oppressed.

Giving expression to Connolly's internationalism, musical influences ranging from traditional Irish airs to American rhythm and blues are combined here in refreshing creativity. As for the songs themselves, nine have lyrics by Connolly, three were written about Connolly, and one, “The Red Flag,” was chosen by Connolly to be in the original Songs of Freedom songbook of 1907, subsequently becoming a classic song of Labor. The instrumentation is acoustic: guitars, uilleann pipes, whistles, fiddle, accordion, and Irish harp, as well as drums and bass.

1. A Festive Song
2. Be Moderate
3. Human Freedom
4. Connolly Was There
5. A Rebel Song
6. Saoirse a Rúin
7. When Labor Calls
8. O Slaves of Toil
9. Shake Out Your Banners
10. The Irish Rebel
11. The Red Flag
12. Watchword of Labor
13. Where Is James Connolly?

Praise:

“My grand aunt Nora Connolly, in her book We Shall Rise Again, said of rebel songs: ‘For more may be remembered of a country’s history and treasured deep in the heart of a people through a song or a poem than through the pages of a history book’—how true. It was Nora who taught singers her father’s songs. ‘After 1916,' she said, ‘I never did any more singing’—how sad. Now with this project and through the great talent and commitment of all involved we can hear Nora sing again.”
—James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly and author of The Words of James Connolly

 

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Songs of Freedom: The James Connolly Songbook
The Cedar Lounge Revolution
September 28th, 2013

They’ve succeeded brilliantly in the book which is a facsimile reproduction, right down to advertising, of the original 1907 New York printing, and in addition to that a 1919 Connolly Souvenir program, for a concert that commemorated the birth of Connolly. There’s also a preface by Theo Dorgan, a Foreword by James Connolly Heron and an Introduction by editor Mat Callahan (for an overview of his interesting career see here).

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