Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Menu Search

‘The Show Must Go On’ – Ina Boyle Song Recording in London

Ina Boyle portrait, TCD MS 4174/1

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.

‘Musical Compositions Memoranda’, TCD MS 4172

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.

3 Songs by Walter de la Mare, TCD MS 10960/3

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.

Roy Stanley

Four Seasons in One Day

TCD MS 1282 30r Four Seasons in one DayRTÉ Cork visited Trinity College Library recently to film the Annals of Ulster (TCD MS 1282), one of the most well-known medieval Irish chronicles in M&ARL’s collections, as part of a new series ‘Four Seasons in One Day: Ireland’s Weather with John Creedon’.

Creedon’s journey will see him investigating stories from history, science, folklore, archaeology and modern life in order to examine how the weather has influenced our landscape and our nation. The programme looks at what causes our weather to be the way it is; how has it shaped us; and how we deal with it in our daily lives.

Examining the Annals of Ulster, Creedon interviewed Dr Francis Ludlow of Yale Climate & Energy Institute, Yale University (formerly of the School of Natural Sciences, TCD), who gave a fascinating insight into how, over 1200 years, Irish annalistic records have preserved records of extreme weather. Ludlow looked at the entry for the year 738 A.D. on folio 30r of the manuscript, which features the famous battle of Ath Senaig (Ballyshannon, Co. Kildare) between the Uí Neill King of Tara and the Laigin (or Leinstermen). This date corresponds to a very severe drought, registered in Irish oak tree-rings by very low growth. He also discussed how extreme weather events like this might contribute to increased violence in medieval Ireland. There are many reasons why any given year might have witnessed increased violence (e.g. existing or ongoing political tensions), but what the weather may contribute is an increase in these tensions by causing poor harvests and scarcity. Rival leaders might also see an opportunity to attack their weakened enemies during such years.

The first episode of this three-part series will be broadcast on Sunday 10 August 2014 on RTÉ ONE.

Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin