Unaccustomed as I am to writing concert reviews, I thought I should convey some observations on a very good show much deserving of your time if you have an interest in the history, language and literature of Ireland.
I saw Ancient Rain last week at the the Merrigong Theatre in Wollongong. The theatre was about ninety per cent full and I am assuming that most of the audience were drawn to the show by the very well-known ‘local boy’, Paul Kelly. And PK delivered, with his unique and curiously accented singing voice mesmerising everyone in the room.
However, my main personal motivation for making sure I would see this show was to see Paul Kelly’s ‘partner in rhyme’ Camille O’Sullivan (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). I stumbled on Camille O’Sullivan’s work on You Tube about a year ago and I was immediately impressed by the fact that she totally and comprehensively acts every song she sings. And the singing is very good! Seeing this commitment and intensity at close quarters in the Merrigong Theatre was an absolutely brilliant experience. I know I will be going back for more.
Some of the poems are read as such, poems, while most have been recast into song. And those of us learning Irish will be pleased to learn that there is a prayer in Irish, which has been transformed into a hymn by Seán Ó Riada. Also, the Canberra Gaeilgeoirí will certainly be fascinated by Michael Hartnett’s poem, ‘A Farewell to English Part Seven’. This ‘Farewell’ contains a particularly wonderful verse, which is possibly an allusion to those great Irish court poets who were rendered jobless and homeless by the departure of the last of the Irish-speaking nobility. The departure of the old nobility is an event known in Irish history as the Flight of the Earls:
But I will not see
great men go down
who walked in rags
from town to town
finding English a necessary sin
the perfect language to sell pigs in.
If there was a small fault in the show, it was of my making, due to my lack of familiarity with many of the poems. For my own benefit, and for that of anyone still reading, I have managed to assemble internet links for most, but not all of, the poems used in Ancient Rain. And at the end of the list of poems is a review of Ancient Rain from the Sydney Morning Herald website.