Thoor Ballylee blooms for Yeats’s birthday

Every year a Poet’s Picnic is held in celebration of the birthday of WB Yeats. This year is no different. On afternoon of Saturday 13 June 2020 from 2 pm, the poet’s tower in Galway hosts a video event of poetry, music, and memories. This is the first in a series of events held all summer long at Thoor Ballylee, as the tower opens virtually and for outdoor visitors in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.

WB Yeats Poet’s Picnic 2pm 13 June 2020

Visit Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Facebook Page

Livestream on

https://www.facebook.com/yeatsthoorballylee/live/

or go to

https://www.facebook.com/events/317595142567428/

We are delighted to say the waters have long gone, our volunteers and staff have removed all sand bags, tidied away all flotsam, and the gardens are thriving: these are all recent photographs! Though due to current restrictions we have not been yet allowed inside, the grounds are spectacular for visitors. And this weekend Thoor Ballylee blooms again to celebrate the 155th birthday of WB Yeats.

First, a reminder of our story.

WB Yeats bought the old Norman tower at Ballylee for a song in 1916, and had it renovated by local builder Michael Rafferty under the direction of architect William A. Scott, with whom Yeats had a lively relationship, describing him on one occasion as a ‘drunken genius’. With its attached thatched cottage it became a comfortable summer home for his wife George and their two children, Michael and Anne, and the Yeats family returned year after year.

Living there inspired Yeats to write some of his best poetry. Fruits of this work were published in two volumes considered by critics among his best: The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair (1933). They contain such poems as ‘The Tower’, ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’, ‘Coole Park 1929’, ‘Blood and the Moon’, and many others, some featured in this weekend’s birthday celebrations.

The Winding Stair (1933) cover by Thomas Sturge Moore

The tower, which Yeats named Thoor Ballylee, fell into disrepair after the poet’s death in 1939. It was given by the children of the poet to Board Failte, who opened it as a tourist information office, while offering tours showing its extraordinary literary heritage.

Built by the de Burgo family in the 14th century as a Hiberno-Norman stronghold, the tower stands beside the Streamstown River and is subject to sporadic winter flooding. It truly is a livestream: the floods have been severe in recent years, so in 2009 the tower was shut by Failte Ireland who decided that it was no longer economically viable. It remained closed until a group of volunteers, with the grand-sounding name of Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, appealed to Failte Ireland to let them re-open the Tower as a visitor centre once again. This was granted, and after restoration and repair work the tower was opened with music and song in June 2015, the 150th anniversary of Yeats’s birth. Exhibitions, tours, and all kinds of cultural events have attracted thousands of visitors. His birthday has been celebrated there ever since.

This summer, these events are set to continue. Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society continues to adhere to all the COVID-19 guidelines from the Government of Ireland. While this does not currently allow for visitors inside the tower, the Society continues to host special events with social distancing in place in the grounds, by the mill wheel, by the river, and online.

In addition to the Poet’s Picnic taking place this Saturday 13 June 2020, there are ambitious plans in the coming year to hold the type of events the tower has become famous for: poetry readings, plays, musical get-togethers, talks of historical, natural, and literary interest, including virtual multimedia tours, talks, and readings from WB Yeats’s inspirational home, and from our new studio space dedicated to art and cultural workshops which opened just last year.

This summer the magic of the tower can thus be experienced in a number of ways. The grounds remain open to visitors practising social distancing, while the tower hosts small gatherings for invited attendees, and an exciting series of events broadcast to the world by video or audio link.

WB Yeats Poet’s Picnic 2pm 13 June 2020

Visit Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Facebook Page

Livestream on

https://www.facebook.com/yeatsthoorballylee/live/

https://www.facebook.com/events/317595142567428/

To donate to this voluntary group, our webpage yeatsthoorballylee.org has updates, and see also the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society facebook page. Visitors this summer still be able to enjoy the charm of Ballylee, and perhaps agree that it is the perfect place for a poet to rest and write.

 

Still singing: folksinger and friend of Thoor Mary McPartlan dies

Yesterday we heard the sad news of the death of Mary McPartlan. Leitrim-born McPartlan was a singer, actor, director, promotor and well-known cultural activist for music and the arts in Galway and nationally. She was also a force of nature: despite spending significant energy over a number of years battling with cancer, she always came back stronger, full of new ideas and collaborations; and still singing.

Throughout a varied career, Mary McPartlan worked with Druid theatre, TG4, and RTÉ, as well as helping to found Galway theatre company Skehana, the Galway singers club Riabhóg, the Galway Youth Theatre and Glór, the national Irish music centre in Ennis. With TG4 she founded the thriving Gradam Ceoil National Traditional Music Awards and produced and presented the music show FLOSC.

Working at the National University of Ireland Galway she set up Arts in Action sparking new art projects and bringing together artists, musicians, actors, writers and performers from around the world. Even in these restricted times the series continues to find an audience online.

Her first love though was music. She founded folk duo Calypso in the 1970s, and more recently she received a Fulbright award for her work collecting and editing folksong from Ireland and Scotland to America and beyond. Her debut album The Holland Handkerchief (2004) was heralded as folk album of the year by MOJO Magazine, follow-up Petticoat Loose (2008) featured more of her award-winning solo singing, and she continued to record and tour.

As a longstanding friend of Thoor Ballylee she took a leading role in the last concert held here in October 2019.

Mary McP

As tributes came in from around the world, from RTÉ, Breakingnews.ie and the Irish Times, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins released a statement:

“It is with deep sadness that Sabina and I have heard of the death of a dear friend, Mary McPartlan, musical director, broadcaster, and one of Ireland’s great folk singers.

She leaves a legacy of achievement for the arts that will endure. […]

Her invocation of place, history and feeling was unique. Sabina and I were among the many who were privileged to call her our friend, and we will all miss her so much.

For myself, I will always hold wonderful memories of being on tour with her and of her singing her tribute to Victor Jara at those five gigs we did together in 2011 in Leitrim, Donegal, Wicklow and Kerry; the wonderful company she was; and later I often admired how brave she was, indomitable, transcending loss and adversity with a nobility of heart and a powerful reach of humanity that was of course always there in her singing and in her life.”

Mary McParlan is featured in many fine performances and live recordings, too many to name here. Her solo version of ‘Lord Gregory’ (also known as ‘The Lass of Aughrim’) from The Holland Handkerchief expresses the strange grief that so inspired James Joyce’s story ‘The Dead’, where a rendition of the song ‘in the old Irish tonality’, ‘made plaintive by distance’ reminds Gretta Conroy of her Galway youth and precipitates the story’s climax.

Mary McPartlan is survived by her husband, Paddy, and daughters Mairéad and Meabh. All at Thoor Ballylee remember well her courage, vivacity and spirit, which continues wherever music is played in Galway.

 

Yeats dance play comes to Galway

The year is 1916. A young man arrives to the hills of County Clare by night. He is on the run, looking for refuge after his part in the Eastern Rising in Dublin. After some time trying to find his way on the mountain side, two strange figures emerge from the dark, and offer him guidance. It soon turns out that they are not ordinary people, but the ghosts of that infamous twelfth century couple, Dermot and Dervorgilla, who have been held responsible for the first invasion of Ireland by foreign armies. They need the young man’s help.

With Thoor Ballylee is now closed for the winter season (though visitors to exterior and grounds are welcome), Yeats enthusiasts must find their fun elsewhere.

Thankfully, with this dramatic staging, DancePlayers returns to Galway with another astonishing production of a rarely seen Yeats play. Their highly acclaimed performance of The Only Jealousy of Emer was a highpoint in Thoor Ballylee’s 2018 season and the Galway Theatre Festival. With original music, movement, and staging, this new imagining of Yeats’s play about violence and history promises to be even better. Set in the Burren, as the ghosts circle Corcomroe Abbey, Co. Clare, near Thoor Ballylee, The Dreaming of the Bones is in this production coming home to the west.

DancePlayers presents

The Dreaming of the Bones

By W. B. Yeats

Thurs-Sat 7-9 November at 8pm 

Sunday 10 November at 1pm with performer Q&A

O’Donoghue Theatre, NUI Galway

Running Time: 40 mins without interval

Tickets: €5 Concession / €10 Standard

Booking and more information:

https://the-dreaming-of-the-bones.eventbrite.ie/
https://www.facebook.com/DancePlayersCompany/

The Dreaming of the Bones is a one-act dance piece by W. B. Yeats. Written in 1918, it is one of the earliest plays by an Irish writer for physical theatre, with dance, masks and music. With its topical subject and completion only two years after the Rising, it was deemed too problematic for the public stage for more than a decade, hence no attempt was made to produce it until its belated premiere in the Abbey Theatre in 1931. Since then, it has become one of Yeats’s most frequently played dance dramas both in Ireland and abroad. Inspired by the Japanese Noh theatre tradition, Yeats wrote this piece for an empty stage, where movement, gesture, masks, spatial relations and dance all contribute to act of storytelling.

After their acclaimed debut at the Galway Theatre Festival with The Only Jealousy of Emer in 2018, DancePlayers Company returns with a new staging of The Dreaming of the Bones in an attempt to exhibit the qualities of dance plays to the full, thus showing the availability of Yeats’s play texts for contemporary audiences. The play will be staged with movement and live music, composed exclusively for the performance.

View the on site Burren video promo here

Listings Information

The Dreaming of the Bones

Venue: O’Donoghue Theatre, NUI Galway
Dates: 7 – 10 November 2019

Time: 8pm on Thursday 7th, Friday 8th and Saturday 9th  November 2019, 1pm on Sunday 10th with open Question and Answer session from the director and performers.

Running Time: 40 mins without interval

Tickets: €5 Concession / €10 Standard

Booking and more information:

https://the-dreaming-of-the-bones.eventbrite.ie/
https://www.facebook.com/DancePlayersCompany/

Credits

Directed by              Melinda Szuts
Music                           Akos Lustyik
Choreography        Jeremie Cyr-Cooke

Lighting design         Sarah Timmins
Stage manager           Aisling Fitzsimons
Masks and design       Yvette Picque

Gergely Kuklis            violin
Nicola Geddes            cello
Gilles Dupouy             harp

Cast: Aimee Banks, Kashi Cepeda, Jeremie Cyr-Cooke, Conor Gormley, John Rice, Una Valaine

Melinda Szuts is a Galway-based director and researcher at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUIG. Melinda has been involved in many theatre productions both in Ireland and her home country, Hungary in previous years. Her theatre credits include many Yeats productions, both as actor and as director.

DancePlayers is an ensemble newly founded in Galway in 2018. It is a group of professional theatre makers and musicians who produce collaborative pieces for physical theatre. Their production of Yeats’s The Only Jealousy of Emer had a successful series of performances at Galway Theatre Festival and in Yeats’s tower, Thoor Ballylee in Gort, Co. Galway

Grand Season Closing Concert

Come and celebrate our 2019 season with a grand Yeatsian evening of poetry, music, song, and stories.

And enjoy of course the warm hospitality of our Thoor hosts, and the chance to ascend the tower one last time in 2019.

Grand Season Closing Concert at Thoor Ballylee

Máirtín O’Connor and Garry O’Briain
with
Mary McPartlan

A grand Yeatsian evening of music, song, & stories featuring box, guitar, and singing

Saturday 19th October 8pm
Tickets 15 euro
Call 0858620935 or email
yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.com

 

Culture Night at Thoor: The Pot of Broth

The Pot of Broth

A short play by W. B. Yeats and Augusta Gregory is our featured event for Culture Night at Thoor Ballylee.

The Pot of Broth was premiered in Dublin in 1902 at the Irish National Theatre even before it became the Abbey Theatre. Yeats called it a ‘little farce’, but it pioneered the use of local dialect speech foreshadowing the later comedies of Gregory and J.M. Synge – and some of the comic relief of Yeats’s tragedies. This taut and tightly-worked piece is directed by Anthony Hall and presented by a local theatre group in its first ever performance at Thoor Ballylee, alongside a short talk about the early Abbey Theatre and some real pots of delicious home-cooked broth for the audience.

Drop in for Culture Night Friday 20th September for any of two performances at 7.15pm and 8.15pm – stay and enjoy our exhibitions, climb the tower in the setting sun, and consume our hospitable home-made broth!

 

Sanctuary Event at Thoor Ballylee

Writers and artists invite public to discover for themselves at interactive exhibit at Thoor Ballylee

A collective of eight poets, writers and visual artists from County Galwaypresent their original works on the theme of sanctuary at a one-day exhibit on Sunday, September 15th, 2019 from noon at the Studio at Thoor Ballylee, outside Gort. The event, The Roots of Your Refuge, will be free and open to the public, and offered rain or shine. Light refreshments will be served.

Conceived by poet, educator, and psychotherapist Aoife Reilly, the exhibition is the culmination of a five-month exploration of what sanctuary means in the natural and modern worlds. It consists of readings of poetry and prose, interactive exhibits, writing exercises, guided meditations, and artworks displayed in the Studio and surrounding woods. Each element was created specifically for this event.

Works will be arranged along a trail, with contributions from each artist and writer presented over the course of the afternoon. Visitors are invited to enjoy the part indoor, part outdoor event in this peaceful wooded setting where they can take in words and images, contribute their own, and tap into what sanctuary means to them.

“This has been a rare opportunity to delve deeply into the age-old need for sanctuary, and set our imaginations free in a beloved natural environment,” said artist Aisling O’Leary, one of the project’s contributors. “For many people, sanctuary is an internal place, but one we arrive at most easily by tapping into nature.”

The grounds and medieval tower house at Thoor Ballylee were a place of sanctuary and inspiration for the poet W.B. Yeats, Nobel laureate for Literature, who spent summers there with his family before and during the Irish Civil War. The curated site attracts visitors from around the world for its serenity and rich history, offering them a place to explore what poet Reilly calls “the sanctity of green/ when you’re shaken to the bone.”

Autumn Season at Thoor

Music, culture, and storytelling comes to Thoor Ballylee for our summer and autumn season (with one unexpected closure for Sunday 25th August only to announce). Join us and donate, come to our events, or just visit anytime until the middle of October!

8pm Saturday 24th August The Art of Song Heritage week at Thoor Ballylee comes to a climax featuring the singing and playing of Helen Hancock and Mark Keane.

(NB Sunday 25th August Thoor Ballylee CLOSED as surrounding roads shut down for Galway Rally Race).

8pm Friday 30th August The Burren Bandits at Thoor Ballylee play guitar for the Gort River Walk.

Friday 27th – Sunday 29th September Lady Gregory Yeats Autumn Gathering comes to Galway, with events at Thoor Ballylee on the morning Sunday 29th September.

Saturday 5th October our Storytelling Workshop returns to Thoor Ballylee (details to follow).

Saturday 19th October Máirtín O Connor and friends close the season. Come along and join us for our traditional festive closure!

Further details on selected events below:

After Folk & Farm with Christy Cuniffe, The Story of Butter with Anna O’Donnell, Heritage week at Thoor Ballylee comes to a climax 8pm on Saturday 24th August featuring music, The Art of Song with Helen Hancock and Mark Keane.

The Art of Song

with Helen Hancock & Mark Keane

8pm Saturday 24 August

Thoor Ballylee, Co. Galway

€10/€5 admission

As part of Heritage week Oranmore soprano Helen Hancock presents a beautiful evening programme of singing and music, The Art of Song, at Yeats’s Tower, Thoor Ballylee. The concert also features pianist and accompanist Mark Keane. Helen, in her 5th year of vocal studies with international tenor Owen Gilhooly has just returned from Abingdon Summer School for Solo Singers in the UK and is very enthusiastic about the recital. “I love singing with Mark Keane and Thoor Ballylee is a gorgeous intimate performance space […]. I always enjoy explaining the background to the songs and arias which brings them to life for the audience”. The programme is a varied one with lots of takes on life and love – which W.B. Yeats memorably called “the supreme theme of art and song”. It features music from all classical genres – baroque, opera, art song, lieder and musical theatre. Admission is €10  for adults and €5 for children and tickets are available in advance, or on the door on the night. Refreshments are available at the interval.

 

8pm Friday 30th August The Burren Bandits at Thoor Ballylee sing and play guitar for the Gort River Walk.


 

27th-29th September Lady Gregory and Yeats Autumn Gathering comes to Gort with speakers including Marina Carr, Nicholas Grene, and Lucy McDiarmuid. Sunday 29th September at Thoor Ballylee from 10.30 with Lelia Doolan and Cecily O’Neill talking about women playwrights. More details at the Gathering’s new website!


Saturday 5th October our Storytelling Workshop returns to Thoor Ballylee (details to follow).

Saturday 19th October Máirtín O Connor and friends close the season. Come along and join us for our traditional festive closure!

Join us and donate, come to our events, or just visit anytime until the middle of October!


For more information about these events or any others at Thoor Ballylee contact 091 631436 yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.com

 

Heritage week at Thoor Ballylee

Heritage week comes to Thoor Ballylee 17th – 25th August featuring fun, education, and cultural events for all the family.

Folk & Farm

with Christy Cuniffe

2-4pm Saturday 17 August

The Studio at Thoor Ballylee, Co. Galway

Free admission

A short but informative talk by Dr Christy Cunniffe, archaeologist, in The Studio at Thoor Ballylee. The talk explores old farming techniques from the local area and is followed by a guided walk to the mill by the river.

The Story of Butter

with Anna O’Donnell

2pm Wednesday 21 August

Local food historian Anna O’Donnell takes us through the story of butter in the Studio at Thoor Ballylee with a talk and demonstration in keeping with the week’s agricultural theme. Butter has an interesting cultural history – and freshly made is even tastier than you think!

The Art of Song

with Helen Hancock & Mark Keane

8pm Saturday 24 August

Thoor Ballylee, Co. Galway

€10/€5 admission

As part of Heritage week Oranmore soprano Helen Hancock presents a beautiful evening programme of singing and music, The Art of Song, at Yeats’s Tower, Thoor Ballylee. The concert also features pianist and accompanist Mark Keane. Helen, in her 5th year of vocal studies with international tenor Owen Gilhooly has just returned from Abingdon Summer School for Solo Singers in the UK and is very enthusiastic about the recital. “I love singing with Mark Keane and Thoor Ballylee is a gorgeous intimate performance space […]. I always enjoy explaining the background to the songs and arias which brings them to life for the audience”. The programme is a varied one with lots of takes on life and love – which W.B. Yeats memorably called “the supreme theme of art and song”. It features music from all classical genres – baroque, opera, art song, lieder and musical theatre. Admission is €10  for adults and €5 for children and tickets are available in advance, or on the door on the night. Refreshments are available at the interval.

For more information about these events or any others at Thoor Ballylee contact 091 631436 yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.com

 

Maud Gonne & Yeats talk

This weekend at Thoor Ballylee, columnist and author Anthony J. Jordan gives us his views on an interesting and controversial topic.

Maud Gonne’s Men

Anthony J. Jordan

Thoor Ballylee

3pm Saturday 13th July 2019

Biographer of Arthur Griffith, W.T. Cosgrave and Sean MacBride, Anthony J. Jordan is a native of Ballyhuinis, Co. Mayo, educated at NUI Maynooth, UCD, and St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. He has wide interests in Irish culture and politics, and in particular the complicated repatriation of the bodies of Irish writers like W. B. Yeats and James Joyce.

His talk this weekend delves into the thorny thickets of Maud Gonne’s life, loves, and nationalist activities following his own book on the topic (see above). Gonne’s long affair with the right-wing French nationalist Lucien Millevoye produced two children, one who would die tragically young, and an agreement to take on the British Empire in any form. This entanglement overlapped with her spiritual marriage with W.B. Yeats, and prefigured a disastrous marriage with the revolutionary John MacBride which ended with abuse allegations and a fraught separation case. Even then after his execution in 1916 she wore black in honour of a man who Yeats’s ‘Easter 1916’ says he ‘dreamed / A drunken vainglorious lout’. Amid renewed interest in the subject stimulated by new work such as Adrian Frazier’s The Adulterous Muse: Maud Gonne, Lucien Millevoye and W.B. Yeats (Lilliput, 2016), Anthony J. Jordan gives us his considered opinion and answers questions.

Join us for an engrossing talk, a cup of tea, and a unique view of Yeats’s tower.

Artist at Thoor Ballylee

In our newly renovated studio space artists can exhibit and conduct workshops and residencies. This week Thoor Ballylee hosts Cindy Lund as artist in residence.

Cindy Lund ‘Come Away’

From Monday July 1st till Saturday 6th , from 11am-2pm, the newly renovated Studio at Thoor Ballylee will  host artist-in residence Cindy Lund. Originally from West Cork, Cindy has been a professional artist for over 30 years. She attended art school in London, then completed a degree in ceramics in NCAD Dublin. She worked as a decorative artist for many years during which time she learnt many of the techniques she now uses in her distinctive paintings including the use of gold and silver leaf.

Her work is inspired by the unique landscape of the Burren, by the marks and textures created by time and by the language of symbolism. The paintings ultimately describe both outer world and the inner landscapes of the unconscious, or as Yeats so eloquently described it: “the rich, far-wandering, many-imaged life of the half-seen world beyond”.

Cindy sells her work to private and corporate clients both in Ireland and abroad, and she also enjoys sharing her experience and enthusiasm for the creative process with others, running regular art classes and creative workshops from The Art Room studio, in Ardrahan village.

Do come along and visit her at work in the beautiful and creative surroundings of Thoor Ballylee. Paintings and prints, some of them inspired by Yeats’ poetry, will be available to view and purchase.

Contact Cindy on 087 7567988 or email cindylundartist@gmail.com

www.cindylundartist.com

 

Yeats’s birthday celebrations

W.B. Yeats was born on the 13th June 1865: on this day in 2019 that makes him a notional 154 years young, entering his 155th year. Though he complained loudly in verse about old age he did so from a very young age – and when approaching seniority retained a youthful vigour. Young, old, and somewhere in between gathered in Thoor Ballylee to read poems, sing songs, and share birthday cake for the grand old ever-young poet.

Rena McAllen, Tiana Fischer, Stephen O’Neill, and Melinda Szüts

Poems written early and late in life, from ‘Down By the Salley Gardens’ and ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ to ‘The Tower’ and ‘Blood and the Moon’ were sung or read out loud (the way Yeats believed poetry should be performed) at our newly opened studio.

Colm Farrell and the Doolan family: Lelia Doolan about to read

Poems were read putting blessings on the tower, and expressing a wish to leave the country, or the body: “That is no country for old men”, declares ‘Sailing to Byzantium’. With the young jackdaws nesting in the tower having just flown their nest, reading ‘The Stare’s Nest By My Window’ from ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’ was particularly poignant.

‘The Stare’s Nest By My Window’

The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We are closed in, and the key is turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house burned.
Yet no clear fact to be discerned:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

A barricade of stone or of wood;
Some fourteen days of civil war:
Last night they trundled down the road
That dead young soldier in his blood:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

The Nobel prize medal for Literature he won pictured a young fellow listening to a beautiful muse. “I was good-looking once like that young man”, exclaimed Yeats, “but my unpractised verse was full of infirmity, my Muse old as it were. Now I am old and rheumatic, and nothing to look at, but my Muse is young.”

A horse joins the celebrations

In celebration this piece of music and reading by Ciaran Cannon features recent footage of Thoor Ballylee.

When You Are Old – WB Yeats from Ciaran Cannon on Vimeo.

Melinda Szüts reads from the opening song of the play ‘The Only Jealousy of Emer’.

Happy Birthday to W.B. Yeats from all at Thoor Ballylee, County Galway!