The 1916 leaders remembered in song and spoken word

By Grainne McCool @grainnemccool

The first Derry International Irish Music Festival showcased the writings and ideals of the leaders of the Easter Rising last night in a glorious exploration of what it means to be Irish.

Lorcán MacMathúna and his band explored these words and ideals of the 1916 leaders in a spectacular fashion.

Musically, dramatically, through song and spoken word, 1916: Visionaries and their Words, really offered an impressive snapshot of history on The Glassworks stage in Derry.

Lorcán MacMathúna
Lorcán MacMathúna

The entire script was written by those who fought in the Rising and actress Elaine O’Dea, interpreted the written words, against a background of archive footage showing Ireland 100 years ago.

Lorcán Mac Mathúna’s show interprets the vision of these revolutionaries and the impact they made on Irish life then and since.

Bringing the words of those who fought for Ireland’s independence, to life once again, this truly was an emotive piece of performance art.  

The audience were left to bask in the works of some of Ireland’s foremost thinkers and writers of the 20th century, including: Pearse, Plunkett, and Connolly.

From the onset with the Spoken word of O’Donovan Rossa’s famine account, the audience were transported back to one of the most harrowing parts of our history.

The 1916 Rising Leaders
The 1916 Rising Leaders

Songs such as Johnny Seioghe, White dove of the wild dark eyes, Óró sé di bheatha abhaile provided touching yet haunting musical accounts of a time long since gone but still felt in the heart of every Irish man and woman.

With so much of our history steeped in politics and troubles, it is easy to forget the culture and traditions that have developed, soared and excelled through time.

It is these cultures which help us retain our identity as a nation. It is these thinkers, writers, the revolutionaries, that have given us a tradition to be proud of.

W.B. Yeats paid tribute to these men in his poem, Easter 1916.  He concluded this work with the words: “Now and in time to be, Wherever green is worn, Are changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.”

Yeats acknowledged the idealism and the courage of these men.

In 1916: Visionaries and their Words, McMathúna has also acknowledged their idealism and courage in their writings, their work and their song.

He has interpreted their vision and the impact they made on Irish life that echoes to the present day.

At times throughout the night the music was sombre.  It eerily reflected the mood of that time, 100 years ago.

At other times it was upbeat, and at all times delivered with a precision and an accuracy that these men would be proud of.

As Brian Friel once wrote, It’s not the literal past, the ‘facts’ of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language.

Brian Friel
Brian Friel

The Easter Rising is embodied in language and song forever.

The standing ovation at the end last night was sincere and deserved and the re-playing of Óró sé do bheatha abhaile, welcomed by all.

1916: Visionaries and their Words featured: Lorcán MacMathúna, Íde Nic Mhathúna (voice), Martin Tourish (piano accordion), Daire Ó Breacáin (fiddle), Éamonn Galdubh (uilleann pipes) and Elaine O’Dea (spoken word).

The project is one of the nine Open Call National Projects included in ART: 2016, the Arts Council’s programme as part of Ireland 2016.

Derry International Irish Music Festival continues until Sunday, February 7 2016 with a host of events daily and nightly.

Check out Derry International Irish Music Festival for further details and forthcoming events.

2 thoughts on “The 1916 leaders remembered in song and spoken word

  • February 3, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Beautifully written Grainne. Love the music..

  • February 3, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    That is a very evocative piece Grainne and expresses so powerfully what I was trying to fit in to the FB page. For myself I am not above a bit of confrontation but I was thinking of those who scorn the Rising,particularly in Northern Ireland.They could not fail to be impressed! I thought a lot since about the barbarity of the British reaction! The upside is that these words and actions are remembered and give US a reason to be proud! What depth there is to our culture.I also learned more about the anthemic Se do Beatha ‘Bhaile! Even at 70 every day is a school day!!! Last year I visited Gallipoli where many young Irishmen also died at that time.
    God help us all!


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