James Joyce and Music with Barry McGovern & Benjamin Dwyer

A concert, followed by a very special Q&A

‘Joyce was born into a deeply musical family. He had a very fine voice, his father had considerable skills as a singer, his mother was a fine pianist, and his son, Georgio, was a professional opera singer. Music played a central part in the Joyce household. Joyce himself played both the piano and the guitar quite well. From the very first page of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, we see the baby Stephan Dedalus struggling to sing a song! So, music was in the family from the very beginning, and Joyce went on to develop an encyclopedic knowledge of music. Thus, the profound influence of music on the shaping of his works was there from the beginning and should come as no surprise.’ (Benjamin Dwyer)

As part of the Irish Cultural Centre’s Blooms Week 2024, we are delighted to bring you this specially curated event of spoken word, song, guitar music and conversation, which will celebrate music and songs in James Joyce’s Ulysses, Chamber Music, The Dead, and Finnegans Wake, among other texts.

Performed by one of Ireland’s greatest actors Barry McGovern (who is also a fine singer!) and the renowned classical guitarist and composer Benjamin Dwyer, this concert promises to be an unforgettable afternoon of entertainment. The programme will be a wonderful combination of introductions, songs and guitar music. The performance will be followed by a conversation between McGovern and Dwyer. Both actor and musician will offer their unique perspectives in which the powerful role of music in Joyce’s life and writing will be highlighted and contextualized. Furthermore, they will reveal how Joyce’s increasing complexity in language (from Ulysses to Finnegans Wake) represents a growing absorption of ‘music into writing’.

Fri 14 June 2024

Doors 7.30pm, Starts 8.00pm

Tickets: £16/£14

About Barry McGovern

Barry McGovern is one of Ireland’s most accomplished and revered actors. He has had a long and distinguished career in theatre, film, television and radio. He is regarded by many as the leading exponent of the work of Samuel Beckett. His one-man Beckett show, I’ll Go On, produced by Dublin’s Gate Theatre, has played worldwide. He has toured with the Gate Theatre productions of Waiting for Godot, Endgame and Happy Days; and he has also given acclaimed performances of I’ll Go On and Krapp’s Last Tape. His one-man Beckett show, Watt, garnered prestigious awards at the Edinburgh Festival. In early 2012, he played Vladimir in the celebrated production of Waiting for Godot at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, which won him the Ovation Award Lead Actor nomination.

In McGovern’s early career he was a member of the RTÉ Players and the Abbey Theatre Company. His stage appearances include those in Brian Friel’s Faith Healer, Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, and Arthur Miller’s The Price (the latter two for the Gate Theatre).

McGovern’s extensive film catalogue includes Riders to the Sea, Joe Versus the Volcano, Billy Bathgate, Braveheart, Far and Away, The General, Journey of the Magi, Waiting for Godot, and most recently the Irish-language film Fidil Ghorm. In 2022, McGovern read the complete Ulysses in Dublin’s Peacock Theatre over seven days; and his recording of the complete Finnegans Wake was recently released by Naxos. He has lectured on Joyce and Beckett at Notre Dame University, Indiana.

McGovern’s honours include the Harvey’s Award for best actor in Go On, the Edinburgh Festival Angel Award for Krapp’s Last Tape, the International Radio Festival of New York Gold Medal for Embers, and Best Performance for The Silent Passenger. In 1998, McGovern was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Letters from Trinity College Dublin.

About Benjamin Dwyer

Benjamin Dwyer is an internationally renowned composer, classical guitarist and musicologist. Following his concerto debut with the Neubrandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra in Germany, he has given concerts worldwide with leading ensembles and musicians including all the Irish orchestras, the Santos Symphony Orchestra (Brazil), Ensemble VOX21, the Vogler String Quartet (Germany), the Callino String Quartet (UK), tenor John Elwes, and Riverdance saxophonist Kenneth Edge. Dwyer is also recognized as a leading exponent of contemporary music and free improvisation. He is the guitarist in Barry Guy’s renowned Blue Shroud Band, which headed the bill at the Krakow Autumn Jazz Festival in 2014, 2016 and 2022, and at the Queen Elizabeth Centre for the London Jazz Festival 2019.

Dwyer’s compositions are regularly performed internationally, and he has been the featured composer at the Musica Nova Festival (São Paulo), the Bienal de Riberão Preto (Brazil), the Irish National Concert Hall’s Composers’ Choice, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s Horizons, MUSIC21 (Dublin), London’s King’s Place Chamber Music series, and most recently at the New Music Dublin festival in 2022 where his orchestral work In Memoriam Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was performed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. In December 2013, the renowned Brazilian guitarist Fabio Zanon and the Orchestra of Experimental Repertory performed his Guitar Concerto No 2 to a packed São Paulo Opera House. Dwyer’s extensive CD catalogue includes Twelve Études for Guitar (Gamelan Records), Irish Guitar Works (El Cortijo), Scenes from Crow and Umbilical (Diatribe Records), The Alchemia Sessions Live (Notwo Records), The Blue Shroud (Intakt Records) and KnowingUnknowing (Farpoint Records). His latest CD, Secret Space, with American, Paris-based poet Alison Grace Koehler has just been released on Farpoint Recordings.

Dwyer has given talks on Joyce and music at the Irish Film Institute, the Lexlcon Library (for One Dublin One Book), Belfast’s Sonic Arts Research Centre, the Budapest Centre of Architecture, and the Centre Irlandais Culturel, Paris. He is an elected member of Aosdána (the Irish State’s affiliation of creative artists, limited to 250) and an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music London. He was Professor of Music at Middlesex University London from 2012 to 2024.

Dwyer was last seen performing at the ICC in 2022, when he brought to the stage his enigmatic work SacrumProfanum—a major composition exploring the mysterious stone carvings known as Sheela-na-gigs. Look out for SacrumProfanum when it returns to the ICC stage in February 2025 to celebrate St Brigid’s day.