Michelle O’Rourke at the Little Museum of Dublin, 25 March 2015
The last in the current series of ‘Santa Rita Concerts’, curated by Ergodos at the Little Museum of Dublin, features singer Michelle O’Rourke. Backed by composer and musician Simon O’Connor (switching between piano and electric guitar), with bassist Dara Higgins and percussionist John Dermody from Dublin rock band The Jimmy Cake, they perform a set of songs by O’Connor entitled ‘Left Behind: Songs of the 1916 Widows’. As the title suggests the source material draws on recent social histories of the 1916 Rising, evoking the voices of the women ‘left behind’ in the wake of conflict. This ancient theme never feels stale, least of all in these songs, which breathe life and emotion into the history of the Rising.
With lyrics also penned by O’Connor, the songs recall the lives of Grace Gifford, Agnes Hickey, Kathleen Daly, Lillie Reynolds and Muriel Gifford (widows respectively of Joseph Plunkett, Michael Mullin, Thomas Clarke, James Connolly and Thomas Mc Donagh), along with Constance Markiewicz. The songs vary in style from folk-inflected lyricism, to jazz, blues, and – for Lillie Connolly’s expressive rage – prog rock. O’Rourke’s fine technique serves her well as she unassumingly moves from one style to the next, bringing a range of colours to the music. The affecting lyricism of Your face through time (Kathleen’s song) and the deeply soulful blues of From the waters (Muriel’s song) are particular highlights, contrasting strongly with the full-on belting of Holidays (Lillie’s song) – which proves a liberating moment, the singer firmly smothering the now-redundant microphone in her hand. In addition, the ensemble performs Tim Buckley’s Song to the siren, which fits into the programme nicely.
The encore, Robert Johnson’s Jacobean theatre-song Have you seen but a white lily grow, adds a note of purity and transcendence. O’Rourke sings it sweetly, drawing this short, intimate concert to a close.
Simon O’Connor: Help me draw the ghosts, William (Song of Grace)
Simon O’Connor: Come home drummer boy (Song of Agnes)
Simon O’Connor: [Title not listed] (Song of Constance)
Simon O’Connor: Your face through time (Song of Kathleen)
Simon O’Connor: Holidays (Song of Lillie)
Tim Buckley: Song to the siren
Simon O’Connor: From the water (Song of Muriel)
Encore: Robert Johnson: Have you seen but a white lily grow
Michelle O’Rourke (voice); Simon O’Connor (piano, guitar); Dara Higgins (bass guitar); John Dermody (percussion)