30th November – 1st December 2023 at Trinity College Dublin
Manuscripts for Medieval Studies Project supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York
We are delighted to announce a Call for Papers for a symposium on ‘The Many Lives of Medieval Manuscripts’ as part of the ‘Manuscripts for Medieval Studies’ project, supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York. The symposium will take place on Thursday 30th November and Friday 1st December 2023 at Trinity College Dublin.
During my first year on the Carnegie Project, I had the opportunity to work on a group of five 15th-century manuscripts, mostly antiphonaries (choir books), ranging in size from 40×30 cm (TCD MS 101) to 54x38cm (TCD MS 77).
Three of the manuscripts (TCD MSS 77, 78 and 79) presented themselves, as is the case of a large number of other manuscripts from this period, in a typical 18th-century binding that had been “Executed for the College in 1741-1744 by the shop of John Exshaw of Dublin in speckled calf”; whether the original contemporary binding had been discarded during this process, or if the manuscripts had already been rebound before 1741, it’s difficult to say.
What is certain is that the contemporary medieval binding was replaced with a typical 18th-century full leather structure with hemp sewing supports laced-into laminated boards. At a later stage all three of the manuscripts were rebacked in the early 1900s with the use of poor-quality leather.
If she were alive in 2020, the Irish composer Ina Boyle (1889-1967) would be unfazed by the current Covid-19 restrictions. She was accustomed to living a relatively isolated and solitary life, rarely venturing far from her family home at Bushey Park, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. Yet that did not prevent her from seeking every opportunity to have her music performed and published, as she meticulously chronicled in her ‘Musical Compositions Memoranda’ (TCD MS 4172).
So Boyle would have been very gratified that a long-planned project to record most of her songs at the Wigmore Hall in London was not derailed by the pandemic, in spite of a few late obstacles. The original plan for a public lunchtime concert and live recording had to be abandoned, but the three Irish singers Paula Murrihy (mezzo-soprano), Robin Tritschler (tenor) and Ben McAteer (baritone), along with pianist Iain Burnside, assembled on the appointed day (28 October 2020) so that the recording team from Delphian Records could still capture their performances for a CD due to be released in 2021.
Only two of Boyle’s songs for voice and piano were ever published, so in preparation for the recording 35 songs had to be edited and typeset from the original manuscripts held at the Library of Trinity College Dublin. There was a last-minute hiccup when the editorial team needed to recheck some details in the manuscripts, but found that the campus was by then open only to TCD staff and students. Happily, Research Collections staff were able to save the day by calling up the manuscripts, taking photographs of the relevant pages and dispatching them urgently to the editors so that they could meet the deadline for preparing definitive typeset scores for the performers.
The 37 songs recorded – from a total of 66 preserved in the manuscript collection – represent the full span of Ina Boyle’s life as a composer, from 1909 until 1966 (only a few short months before her death). About half come from the 1920s, her most prolific decade. Boyle was inspired to set words by a wide range of poets, from Sir Philip Sidney, George Herbert and Robert Herrick to more recent writers such as Walt Whitman, Rudyard Kipling, Edith Sitwell, and Walter de la Mare. Settings of poems by several near-contemporary Irish poets also feature – Eva Gore-Booth, Patrick Pearse, W.B. Yeats, Austin Clarke, and James Stephens.
An RTE television news report on the recording session is available (Boyle segment at 39:00 – 41:00). And four of the songs were included in Ben McAteer’s recital at the 2020 Belfast Festival (Boyle songs at 26:06 – 37:40). As well as the forthcoming CD, the typeset scores will be published next year by TU Dublin so that other singers will be able to add some of Boyle’s songs to their repertoire. This project is another great success for the Ina Boyle Society and its indefatigable director, Katie Rowan, in achieving their primary aim of bringing the music of this pioneering Irish woman composer to the ears of a much wider audience.
UPDATE: A video report of the Boyle song recording at the Wigmore Hall, including interviews with the artists, score editors and others involved in the production, is now available. The central role of the manuscripts collection is acknowledged.
Born in Dublin on 17th March 1917, Brian Boydell became one of the most influential figures in Irish cultural life from the 1940s until his death on 8th November 2000. After studies at Heidelberg, Cambridge, and London, Boydell embarked on a multi-faceted career as composer, conductor, singer, teacher, broadcaster, academic researcher and writer. For many years he represented the interests of creative artists on the Arts Council. He was appointed Professor of Music at the University of Dublin (Trinity College) in 1962, and developed the School of Music to the point that it became a fully-fledged academic department in 1974.
Notwithstanding his date of birth (St Patrick’s Day), in his approach to composition Boydell believed that self-conscious reliance on folk music idioms to denote Irishness was a cul-de-sac; instead national character would emerge naturally from the composer’s engagement with the cultural environment in which he lived.
To mark the centenary of his birth a selection of items from the Boydell archive (TCD MS 11128) is on display in the Long Room until the end of July, and a special conference will be held in the Trinity Long Room Hub and the Royal Irish Academy of Music on 23-24 June. As well as several of Boydell’s compositions, the display includes items which represent his musicological research, his participation in the Arts Council and Aosdána, his career as a performer and director of ensembles, and his deep immersion in the life of the College.