Ciarán Mac Mathúna was the con­sum­mate laid-back pre­sen­ter. You would won­der if he was awake at times. He was very, very cool

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - Emo­tional power: Camille O’Sul­li­van will per­form on Septem­ber 3

He adds that he used to rel­ish in what he called “the Sun­day morn­ing se­quence” of RTÉ Ra­dio 1’s Sun­day Mis­cel­lany fol­lowed by Mo Cheol Thú, pre­sented by the late Ciarán Mac Mathúna.

“I worked at RTÉ at one point, just, you know, kind of vis­it­ing, pass­ing through,” he says. “Ciarán was the con­sum­mate laid-back pre­sen­ter. You would won­der if he was awake at times. He was very, very cool. And I just loved that se­quence of things. This is a for­mula that’s tried and true.”

The show has a “house band”, Rogue Oliphant, some­times re­ferred to as a “spo­ken word mu­sic group”. Muldoon is part of the band.

“It’s prob­a­bly in­ap­pro­pri­ate to de­scribe it as a band,” he tells. “It’s a group of mu­si­cians, quite a large group, a few of them will work on this, a few of them will work on that. It’s very var­i­ous, again, and that’s one of its strengths, I think.”

Rogue Oliphant hardly ever re­peats a song, of­ten play­ing two or three new ones on a given night. “I think it’s great. A lot of peo­ple don’t think that’s great,” says Muldoon. “In the record busi­ness, they feel a band has to have a sound. And of course we un­der­stand what that means, that there’s some­thing recog­nis­able about them. On the other hand, far too of­ten it leads to kind of a ter­ri­ble mo­not­o­nous feel which I just don’t like.”

Join­ing Muldoon for a leg of the up­com­ing Ir­ish tour are mu­si­cians The Lost Broth­ers, Duke Spe­cial, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Martin Hayes, Colm Mac Con Io­maire, Paul Brady, De­clan O’Rourke and Camille O’Sul­li­van, the ac­tress Lisa Dwan, au­thors Lisa McIn­er­ney, Anne En­right, Jen­nifer John­ston, Paul Mur­ray and Pa­trick McCabe, and po­ets Nuala Ní Dhomh­naill, Ea­van Boland, Michael Lon­g­ley and Sinéad Mor­ris­sey.

“I think we al­ways have a poet,” says Muldoon, who never reads his own work, but sees the show as a ve­hi­cle for po­etry in gen­eral. “Ab­so­lutely,” he says.

I al­lude to Muldoon’s show­man­ship and he dis­misses any sug­ges­tion that it is ex­cep­tional rather than nor­mal. “My own view is if you’re go­ing to stand up and read po­etry, you’ve go to do some­thing. You have to put some ef­fort into it,” he says.

“There’s a per­for­ma­tive as­pect to it, and why wouldn’t there be? Many peo­ple in Ire­land would have been fa­mil­iar with this at the feis, in verse-speak­ing com­pe­ti­tions. I was seven or eight when I first went to a feis and did my first verse-speak­ing. ‘The Lake Isle of In­n­is­free’. It’s not a bad thing at all.

“Peo­ple un­der­stood that to re­cite a poem re­ally de­manded some kind of en­gage­ment. You only get back what you put in. It’s as sim­ple as that. It’s one of the laws of all forms of entertainment, I’d say.”

Muldoon’s Pic­nic is gov­erned mostly by this law. The in­cor­po­ra­tion of mu­sic, the in­vest­ment in it on the night, too, fur­ther ropes in the audience.

“Mu­sic is a whole other com­po­nent with, as you know, this emo­tional power,” Muldoon says. “One per­son play­ing has a kind of power. Sev­eral peo­ple play­ing to­gether… I mean, it’s phe­nom­e­nal… it doesn’t even mat­ter if they’re any good, re­ally. Go and see a band on the back of a lorry some­where. They don’t have to be U2. All for the good if it is U2, but there’s an in­trin­sic de­light just about the emo­tional im­pact that mu­sic has. It’s not that it doesn’t en­gage the mind, but it en­gages so much else.”

He pauses be­fore con­tin­u­ing. “I think that’s one of the things that I’ve been drawn to my­self, when I try to write songs, and I’d never re­ally put it much more strongly than that. Although I wouldn’t put it much more strongly than that about the po­etry, ei­ther. One tries, you know? One tries. One can but try. One’s al­most cer­tain — al­most cer­tain — not to suc­ceed, but, one tries. And

that’s where the in­ter­est is.”

Muldoon’s Pic­nic will tour Ire­land from Au­gust 26 to Septem­ber 3. For lo­ca­tions, see www.po­et­ryire­land.ie

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