Sixteen Blooming Years

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UlysseesSixteen years ago (1996) I began to research references to songs in the works of James Joyce. This was for a production entitled “doublin babble on” (an evening of theatre & music in Newman House). I started reading and re-reading Joyce’s works with a view to cataloguing all the song references therein. This was an enjoyable but also a daunting task. Consequently I was delighted to discover the existence of 'The James Joyce Songbook' (a scholarly work edited by Ruth Bauerle, reference-only copy available). She had completed precisely what I was only embarking upon. The result of my (Bauerle assisted) research was the James Joyce music room where three other singers and myself, together with musical director and accompanist, Margot Doherty, performed a selection of songs from Joyce’s works. The James Joyce song repertoire is a treasure trove of varied musical genres: opera, operetta, parlour songs, music hall numbers, traditional Irish melodies and all the songs that Joyce himself liked to sing (Joyce was a fine tenor who, before he devoted himself to literature contemplated a career in music). This performance developed into "Bloomsongs" which Margot Doherty and I (under the name Winedark Productions) have performed regularly since then.

In 2004 (the Centenary of Bloomsday) "bloomsongs" became "Bloombel" staged in the chapel of Joyce’s alma mater, Belvedere College. We were delighted to perform Joyce related music for the Dublin: One City, One Book celebrations in April of this year (at the Central Library, Ilac Centre). On Thursday, June 14 we will be performing our fourth annual version of “Bloomsongs” (Central Library, 1pm). Although this concert is being held on June 14, it is, of course, in celebration of Bloomsday (June 16). Sixteen years/sixteenth day of the sixth month (Bloomsday): there is a nice numerological ring to this!!! And there is a nice ring to the songs; they are still in bloom you might say!!!

The Music Library's extensive stock of scores and music CDs can offer you a taste of music referred to in Joyce's writings (from the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan of which Joyce was very fond) to Moore's melodies which play a special role in Joyce's literary works.

This post was submitted by James Barry

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