A musical side to The Dead

Morgan Crowley, plays Bartell D’Arcy in The Dead and is also the cast’s Singing Captain. Here he explores the musical side of this dramatisation of Joyce’s famous short story.

Working on a world premiere is exciting & challenging enough when dealing with text alone, but when another layer is added to the new creation in the form of original music, the piece takes on a whole other dimension. The cast are then entrusted with an even greater responsibility to the work on its first outing.

James Joyce was himself a fine singer and his appreciation of music is well reflected in the compositions and arrangements of Conor Linehan for this production. When songs sourced by Frank McGuinness for inclusion in the final draft of his play could not be found in print, Conor set them beautifully to music in the style of the period, while other musical items already in existence were arranged specially to complement the action as effectively as possible. Frank had stressed during the early days of rehearsal that the music was an integral part of the drama for his work to be accurately realised.

From the beginning of the play, music washes over the audience. A haunting chorale of the song from which Joyce reputedly took the name for this piece (“O Ye Dead”), several charming solo songs from the Thomas Moore collection of melodies, two newly arranged vocal trios and a delightful Bellini aria provide entertainment at the dinner party and of course the song which jars Greta into the memory of her forgotten youth is given two very different interpretations.

I think audiences will be genuinely delighted by the musical elements of the play. The cast does a remarkable job of singing the difficult but beautiful music and hopefully it will have the desired complementary effect in completing this delicate creation.

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