Yeats in Words and Music: A Review of Liam O’Flynn & Andrea Corr

Saturday 18th June was a first for NLI as we held a special evening of music and poetry in our spectacular Reading Room. Guests of honour were uilleann pipe master Liam O’Flynn of Planxty, and Andrea Corr, formerly of best-selling folk group the Corrs, now a successful actress and solo artist.
The event served as the high point of the annual Summer’s Wreath festival which celebrates the legacy of W.B. Yeats throughout June. The Reading Room, usually a place of quiet study, was filled to capacity with extra seating dotted beside each desk, all eyes directed towards the specially-erected stage at the top of the room.
After a warm introduction by Katherine McSharry, Head of Services at NLI, Liam O’Flynn began by highlighting the significance of the location, noting that Yeats considered himself a privileged visitor to NLI and could often be found studying in the Reading Room.

He spoke eloquently of how poetry and music provide a terrific response to events in our history and how Yeats, through his early poetry, linked the landscape with a mythic past. He then played the first piece of music of the evening: a hornpipe entitled Sliabh na mBan, Mountain of the Women celebrating the legendary Tipperary mountain.

Other pieces played throughout the night included The Hosting of the Sidhe and one of O'Flynn's favourite Aislings By the River of Gems, Cois Abhainn na Séad. He marvelled at how this new genre of poetry was perfected in the 18th century despite being such a dark time in Irish history.

The highlight for many was no doubt O'Flynn's rendition of The Fox Chase by Edward Keating Hyland - a piece that was played for King George IV when he visited Dublin in 1821.

O'Flynn noted that while searching through Yeats’ poetry, he had come across The Ballad of the Foxhunter – a poem that had a huge emotional impact on him. Andrea Corr read out this poem, along with many other of Yeats's best known and best loved poems, including To a Child Dancing In The Wind, Never Give All The Heart, When You Are Old, and He Remembers Forgotten Beauty.

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