Books: Bards Gather at Ourland Festival at Lincoln Center

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How It’s New York: Joe Hurley’s Ourland Festival took place at one of New York City’s cultural hubs, Lincoln Center.

How It’s Irish: The Ourland Festival celebrated the literature, music, and dance of Ireland and Irish America. 
John Kearns attended the Ourland Festival at Lincoln Center a week ago Sunday, a day of literature, music and general frolicking! He reports back on the bardic portion of the day.

We previewed the event as well: see pictures from the launch party here, and John Lee’s preview here!

In addition, Mike Farragher, one of the bards who read, interviewed Hurley; read that here!

On Sunday July 29, 2012, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors presented a new celebration of Irish and Irish-Ameircan literature, music, and dance dubbed, “The Ourland Festival.”  Organized by New-York-based rock musician Joe Hurley, Ourland was divided into three parts: the Gathering of the Bards at the Hearst Plaza Stage, the Auld Triangle on Josie Robertson Plaza, and an evening rock concert at Damrosch Park. 
From my distracted vantage point behind the Irish American Writers and Artists (IAW&A) table alongside the Metropolitan Opera House, where other volunteers and I were promoting our own bi-monthly bard-gathering, the IAW&A Salon, as well as the IAW&A’s Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award event honoring Judy Collins on October 15th, I was able to enjoy much of the Gathering of the Bards.  Here are some of the highlights.
Joe Hurley introduced many of the writers, actors, and musicians before turning the hosting duties over to writer, filmmaker, and IAW&A Salon MC, Charles Hale 

Charles said stepping up to the mic at Lincoln Center made him want to echo the words shouted by James Cagney at the end of White Heat, “Made it, Ma!  Top of the world!”


Honor Molloy presented an excerpt from her novel Smarty Girl: Dublin Savage based on her memories of the famed Dubliners’ performing in her family’s living room in Baile Atha CliathAdding to the assemblage of famous Dubliners, Aedin Moloney gave a rousing and expert performance of Molly Bloom’s soliloquoy from Joyce’s Ulysses.  (There was also a reading from the Ithaca episode of Ulysses by a pair of performers.)
Honor Molloy and Mike Farragher (@Christine Walsh)

Fittingly, a few poets took to the stage of the Gathering of the Bards as well.  Barbara Feldon gave the audience a few selections from W.B. Yeats.  Writer and professor Christy Kelly read one of his poems.  Poet and jewelry designer Mikelle Terson recited a lyric by Eavan Boland accompanied by a doumbek drummer and other musicians. 

Dennis Dunaway offered an amusing story from his memoir about a 1960s Topanga Canyon séance attended by Alice Cooper and Jim Morrison
Niamh Hyland and David O’Leary did some outstanding sean nos singing.  Mike Farragher, author of This is Your Brain on Shamrocks, read about a subject many in the crowd were familiar with: Irish Catholic guilt.  After Farragher’s performance some thundershowers arrived at the festival, a misfortune for which Mike naturally blamed himself. 
Alphie McCourt, author of A Long Stone’s Throw, sang a wonderful and moving rendition of “Raglan Road” followed by a song of his own composition, “The Immigrant Game,” in support of today’s immigrants to the U.S.  Joe Hurley persuaded the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” in honor of the anniversary of Alphie’s birth. 

Charles Hale and Peter Quinn

Peter Quinn, author of Banished Children of Eve, Looking For Jimmy, and The Man Who Never Returned, gave a humorous and passionate introduction to novelist William Kennedy, urging everyone in attendance to write a letter to the King of Sweden, exhorting him to give the Nobel Prize for Literature to the Albany writer, whom Quinn called America’s greatest living novelist, belonging to the same literary category as O’Neill and Hemingway

William Kennedy then read an excerpt from his book, Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes.  After his reading, he was joined on stage by Alphie McCourt, Joe Hurley, and Malachy McCourt.  The four sang “A Mother’s Love Is a Blessing” and song about the happiness brought about from just hearing the word, “Saloon”!
The McCourts, Joe Hurley, William Kennedy (@Christine Walsh)

Malachy McCourt, actor, raconteur, and author of A Monk Swimming and Singing My Him Song, offered the Gathering of the Bards some hilarious remarks about how the snakes chased out of Ireland by her patron saint came to America to become conservatives and about the dubious genetics involved in the coupling of Adam and a woman made from his own rib.  He concluded the afternoon’s entertainment with a powerful and soulful a capella performance of what he called, “the greatest anti-war song ever written,” that is, “Ach, Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye.”  No better way to wrap up the afternoon’s festivities.   

As I passed through Josie Robertson Plaza in front Avery Fisher Hall. I looked back toward the sun already starting its decline in the sky of Manhattan’s West Side, watched for a moment a group of young step dancers tapping and stomping their feet on a board before a large, enthusiastic audience, and hoped that this first Ourland Festival is not the last we’ll see at Lincoln Center.
Joe Hurley and the Gents

Although — as I was occupied with distributing flyers, answering questions about the location of Damrosch Park, telling people they could probably find a restroom in Avery Fisher Hall and that no, the gentleman in the spectacles and hat is not Elvis Costello, but writer Joe Goodrich — I have every excuse for forgetting some remarkable highlights, I do and will feel guilty about any performers I have failed to mention.   Sorry, folks.

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Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts

Comments

  1. Very well done, John as always. Thanks for the mention.