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A James Joyce Songbook | Walter Hall, Toronto
Music in, and on, the works of Ireland's greatest writer, James Joyce.

date: March 15, 2009

Covering the musical allusions and connections in the works of James Joyce proved to be an almost foolhardy project: the “Song Index” in a companion to his writings has over 400 entries  –  and these do not include his most massive work, Finnegans Wake, a symphonic poem in its own right.  Joyce himself was an accomplished singer, sharing the stage with John McCormack on at least one occasion, and he loved the Italian repertory in particular; for some years, he unsuccessfuly sought to promote the career of another Irish tenor, John Sullivan.  Many contemporary composers were friends or acquaintances of his, including Bax, Busoni, Schoek and Antheil, and in 1933 a Joyce Bookwas compiled by the Irish composer, Herbert Hughes, containing settings of Pomes Penyeach by 13 different composers.  (We were fortunate in discovering a copy of The Joyce Book in the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.)  The centrepiece of our concert was a new cycle of Eight Songs to Poems by James Joyce commissioned by the Aldeburgh Connection, with the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council, from James Rolfe.  The remainder of the programme presented other settings of Joyce’s verse, juxtaposed with a tiny fraction of the music which inspired his life and of which he made use in his writings.  Substantial excerpts from Joyce’s works were read, brilliantly, by actor Raymond O’Neill, to whom we were hugely grateful for taking over that role at short notice from the unavailable Robert G. Kearns.  At the concert’s end, the rafters were raised by the whole company, including the audience, joining in the choruses of The Holy City, so significant in Joyce’s Ulysses.

SONG ARTIST COMPOSER POET
Oft in the stilly night (Irish Melodies) Whyte, Katherine, soprano; McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Colvin, Michael, tenor; Barrett, Peter, baritone anon. Irish Moore, Thomas
Strings in the earth and air McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Ubukata, Bruce, piano Moeran, Ernest John Joyce, James
Rosefrail Whyte, Katherine, soprano; Ubukata, Bruce, piano Moeran, Ernest John Joyce, James
Donnycarney Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ubukata, Bruce, piano Moeran, Ernest John Joyce, James
I’ll sing thee songs of Araby (Lalla Rookh) Colvin, Michael, tenor; Ralls, Stephen, piano Clay, Frederick Wills, William Gorman
Oh, ye dead! McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Ubukata, Bruce, piano Irish folksong, arr. Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers Moore, Thomas
I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls (The Bohemian Girl) Whyte, Katherine, soprano; Ubukata, Bruce, piano Balfe, Michael Bunn, Alfred
My love’s an arbutus Ralls, Stephen / Ubukata, Bruce, piano Irish folksong, arr. Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers n/a
Quick! we have but a second Ralls, Stephen / Ubukata, Bruce, piano Irish folksong, arr. Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers n/a
Bright cap and streamers McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Ralls, Stephen, piano Moeran, Ernest John Joyce, James
Rahoon McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Ralls, Stephen, piano Moeran, Ernest John Joyce, James
She weeps over Rahoon (The Joyce Book) Whyte, Katherine, soprano; Ubukata, Bruce, piano Hughes, Herbert Joyce, James
Tutto è sciolto (The Joyce Book) Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ubukata, Bruce, piano Ireland, John Joyce, James
The Holy City Colvin, Michael, tenor; Ralls, Stephen, piano Adams, Stephen Weatherly, Fred
Rain has fallen McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Ralls, Stephen, piano Barber, Samuel Joyce, James
I hear an army Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ralls, Stephen, piano Barber, Samuel Joyce, James
INTERMISSION
Strings in the earth and air (Eight Songs to Poems by James Joyce) Whyte, Katherine, soprano; McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Colvin, Michael, tenor; Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ralls, Stephen, piano Rolfe, James Joyce, James
Frail (Eight Songs to Poems by James Joyce) Colvin, Michael, tenor; Ralls, Stephen, piano Rolfe, James Joyce, James
Bid adieu to girlish days (Eight Songs to Poems by James Joyce) Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ralls, Stephen, piano Rolfe, James Joyce, James
O cool is the valley now (Eight Songs to Poems by James Joyce) Colvin, Michael, tenor; Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ralls, Stephen, piano Rolfe, James Joyce, James
In the dark pinewood (Eight Songs to Poems by James Joyce) Colvin, Michael, tenor; Ralls, Stephen, piano Rolfe, James Joyce, James
Gentle lady, do not sing (Eight Songs to Poems by James Joyce) Colvin, Michael, tenor; Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ralls, Stephen, piano Rolfe, James Joyce, James
All day I hear the noise of waters (Eight Songs to Poems by James Joyce) Whyte, Katherine, soprano; McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Colvin, Michael, tenor; Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ralls, Stephen, piano Rolfe, James Joyce, James
I hear an army (Eight Songs to Poems by James Joyce) Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ralls, Stephen, piano Rolfe, James Joyce, James
When first I saw that form endearing (Martha) Colvin, Michael, tenor;Ubukata, Bruce, piano Flotow, Friedrich von Jeffereys, Charles
Solitary hotel McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Ralls, Stephen, piano Barber, Samuel Joyce, James
The low-back’d car Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ubukata, Bruce, piano Lover, Samuel Lover, Samuel
Nuvoletta, Op.25 Whyte, Katherine, soprano; Ralls, Stephen, piano Barber, Samuel Joyce, James
The Holy City Whyte, Katherine, soprano; McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Colvin, Michael, tenor; Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ralls, Stephen, piano Adams, Stephen Weatherly, Fred
The Holy City   – ENCORE Whyte, Katherine, soprano; McMurtry, Lynne, mezzo; Colvin, Michael, tenor; Barrett, Peter, baritone; Ralls, Stephen, piano; Ubukata, Bruce, organ Adams, Stephen Weatherly, Fred