Ir­ish songs, un­der the spell of Joyce and Yeats

The Washington Post Sunday - - THIS WEEK - BY CELIA WREN style@wash­ Wren is a free­lance writer. Songs of Joyce and Yeats June 15 at 7 p.m. at the First Con­gre­ga­tional United Church of Christ, 945 G St. NW. Tick­ets: $20.­las­ For more on Fran O’Rourke and John Fee­ley’s on­goi

Fran O’Rourke doesn’t see any in­com­pat­i­bil­ity be­tween his day job— as a phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor at Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Dublin — and his side­line as a singer.

“Lit­er­a­ture, phi­los­o­phy, mu­sic all fit very well to­gether. They’re all parts of the higher things of hu­man life,” says O’Rourke, the au­thor of texts in­clud­ing “Aris­to­tle’s Po­lit­i­cal An­thro­pol­ogy” and “Pseudo-Diony­sius and the Meta­physics of Aquinas.”

The scholar/tenor will be in Wash­ing­ton with Ir­ish clas­si­cal gui­tarist John Fee­ley for a June 15 recital of songs from the works of James Joyce and Wil­liam But­ler Yeats. The per­for­mance, at First Con­gre­ga­tional United Church of Christ in North­west, is spon­sored by the lo­cal Ir­ish-arts or­ga­ni­za­tion So­las Nua and will honor Blooms­day — the an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of Joyce’s “Ulysses” — and the 150th an­niver­sary of Yeats’s birth. ( Yeats was born June 13, 1865; Blooms­day is cel­e­brated June 16.)

Speak­ing by phone from Dublin, O’Rourke said the con­cert is part of his on­go­ing ef­fort, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Fee­ley, to draw at­ten­tion to Joyce’s in­ter­est in tra­di­tional Ir­ish song. Joyce’s en­thu­si­asm for clas­si­cal mu­sic, in­clud­ing opera, is rel­a­tively well­known, but less at­ten­tion has been fo­cused on Ir­ish song be­ing cen­tral to his writ­ings, O’Rourke said.

He and Fee­ley will per­form such songs as “The Croppy Boy” and “The Last Rose of Sum­mer” (both al­lude to “Ulysses”); “Ned of the Hill” (re­ferred to in “Fin­negans Wake”); and “The Lass of Aughrim” (which plays a prom­i­nent role in the short story “The Dead”). The con­cert also will in­clude mu­si­cal set­tings of such Yeats po­ems as “Who Goes With Fer­gus?” (a lyric men­tioned in “Ulysses”) and “The Lake Isle of In­n­is­free.”

Orig­i­nally from Gal­way, O’Rourke is a long­time singer — he has no for­mal train­ing— and a long­time Joyce en­thu­si­ast, hav­ing fallen in love with “Dublin­ers” and “A Por­trait of the Artist as a Young Man” in his 20s. Af­ter the launch of his aca­demic ca­reer, he be­came in­trigued by Joyce’s con­cep­tual debt to the phi­los­o­phy of Aris­to­tle and St. Thomas Aquinas. O’Rourke has writ­ten about that over­lap of lit­er­a­ture and phi­los­o­phy in “All­wis­est Stagyrite: Joyce’s Quo­ta­tions From Aris­to­tle,” among other works.

A few years ago, O’Rourke ar­ranged for the restora­tion of Joyce’s gui­tar, which is at the James Joyce Tower and Mu­seum out­side Dublin. The in­stru­ment has been played by Fee­ley, ac­com­pa­nied by O’Rourke’s singing, in con­certs at the Tower.

Paddy Meskell of So­las Nua says the con­cert will of­fer au­di­ences a chance to look at Joyce’s and Yeats’s lit­er­ary achieve­ments from an­other van­tage point.

“In­stead of giv­ing an­swers, which are easy, one of the great gifts of art is that it pro­vokes new ques­tions, new per­spec­tives to ex­plore,” Meskell says.

O’Rourke and Fee­ley’s trip to the East Coast is sup­ported by Cul­ture Ire­land, which pro­motes Ir­ish arts world­wide. The duo also will per­form June 16 at a Yeats and Blooms­day cel­e­bra­tion the Ir­ish Em­bassy is spon­sor­ing in Dupont Cir­cle Park. On June 17, they will take their songs to Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Mary­land.

Jazz im­prov

The Swedish jazz trio Nils Berg Cine­mas­cope has come up with a dif­fer­ent way to col­lab­o­rate with mu­si­cians from around the world, and it doesn’t in­volve a plane ticket.

The group— made up of mul­ti­in­stru­men­tal­ist Nils Berg, drum­mer Christo­pher Can­tillo and bassist Josef Kaller­dahl — per- forms along­side video clips of per­for­mances found on such Web sites as YouTube. The trio, which will per­form as part of Nordic Jazz 2015, has col­lab­o­rated in this way with a Ja­panese flautist, a Mary­land banjo player and a bal­a­fon player from Ghana, among oth­ers.

In­cor­po­rat­ing footage into a jazz act is a stim­u­lat­ing chal­lenge, Berg said via Skype from a Stock­holm air­port as he was trav­el­ing to Bei­jing. “It’s al­ways a re­ally good thing for your cre­ativ­ity to limit your­self, and this is a huge limit,” he said.

Berg said he of­ten be­gins the hunt for new ma­te­rial by Googling a par­tic­u­lar in­stru­ment or type of mu­sic but that the ease of search-and-click means “you al­ways end up in to­tally dif­fer­ent place from where you start.” And in most cases, he said, the per­form­ers give their bless­ing to the project.

This globe-span­ning vir­tual team­work has an op­ti­mistic geopo­lit­i­cal di­men­sion, Berg said, by prov­ing that peo­ple from dif­fer­ent cul­tures can work to­gether. In some ways, the strat­egy also cap­tures the essence of jazz.

“To adapt to new things — that’s maybe the big­gest part of the jazz iden­tity,” he said.


Fran O’Rourke, left, and John Fee­ley (with James Joyce’s gui­tar), want to draw at­ten­tion to Joyce’s in­ter­est in tra­di­tional Ir­ish song.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.