In truth, no one night could encompass the effect that someone like Seamus Heaney has had on Ireland. It’s an impossible task to take on, but the lovely night at the National Concert Hall put on by Dublin City Council and Poetry Ireland gave it a good shot!
John Kelly was the master of ceremonies for the event, and encapsulated the man by telling a short anecdote about when Seamus asked John if he knew the Empress of Japan. John snorted into his tea and said ‘not that well’. Seamus was a man that knew the great and good of the world, and was easy company with them, the same as he would be with anyone else. His great skill as a writer allowed him to move in all circles and his grace and humility made him loved. In all walks of life you can see people that clawed themselves to the top. Seamus was someone that proved if your talent is great enough, the ascent can be easy.
The night focussed on his work, with the poets all reading his lines without adding anything more to them. The young reader Niall Ó hAnnagáin deserves special mention for a moving rendition of ‘Mid-term break’. The young man won the Poetry Aloud competition in 2013, and recited the piece in his soft Donegal accent. After the interval, the RTE Concert Orchestra played number of pieces, along with a number of other musical interludes. Lisa Hannigan, Zoe Conway and John McIntyre sang a lovely version of ‘Anahorish’, and Paul Simon travelled a long distance to perform his version of one of Seamus’ pieces put to music.
It was a sad and quite beautiful night, that made you appreciate what we have lost.
Part one –
Liam O’Flynn – Port na bPúcaí
Seanus Heaney (Recording) The Given Note
Michael Longley – Bogland, The Harvest Bow
Tomas Venclova – Mid-Term Break (Translation)
Niall Ó hAnnagáin – Mid-Term Break
Paul Brady – Arthur McBride
Colette Bryce – Two Lorries, Glanmore Sonney vii (‘Dogger, Rockall, Malin…’)
Theo Dorgan – The Tollund Man, A kit for Michael and Christopher
Mebdh McGuckian – Clearances, iii (‘When all the others…’), Glanmore Revisited, vii (The Skylight)
President Michael D. Higgins – From the Republic of Conscience
Donal Lunny/ Zoe Conway – Tribute to Peadar O’Donnell
Liam O’Flynn/ Neil Martin – Taimse i mo Chodladh
Eilean Ni Chuilleanain – Mossbawn: Sunlight, Fosterling
Ciaran Carson – St. Kevin and the Blackbird, Lightenings, viii (‘The annals say…’)
RTE Concert Orchestra/ Micheal O Suilleabhain – Ave Maris Stella (Variations on a Plainchant Theme)
Gabriel Byrne (Replaced by) – Casualty
Lisa Hannigan – Sliabh Gaoolon’s Brae
Peter Fallon – At the Wellhead, Their Dialogue: A Villanelle for Marie
Lisa Hannigan/ Zoe Conway/ John McIntyre – Anahorish
Paula Mehan – A Kite for Aibhin, In Time (for Siofra)
RTE Concert Orchestra – Brahms Lullaby
Paul Muldoon – Miracle, Keeping Going
RTE Concert Orchestra/ Liam O’Flynn – An Droichead, Mo Ghile Mear (Arranged by Neil Martin)
Seamus Heaney (Recording) The Blackbird of Glanmore, Postscript