Belknap Teaching Fellow Iarla Ó Lionáird and Assistant Professor of Music Donnacha Dennehy, two faculty members at Princeton University, will discuss and perform excerpts of Dennehy’s new opera, Hunger, on Friday, November 18. The discussion and performance will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Lewis Center for the Arts’ James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street. Part of the 2016-17 Fund for Irish Studies series at Princeton University, this event is free and open to the public.

Hunger, which premiered earlier this year starring O’Lionáird and recently completed a run at the BAM Next Wave Festival, is based on diaries and personal accounts from the period of the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-52). A departure from conventions in which the ensemble is concealed in the orchestra pit, the work integrates the players with the action and storytelling taking place on stage. The production includes video of present-day thinkers who consider the conditions that led to the famine and their implications for inequality in our own time.

The Great Famine was a time of major upheaval, the historical significance of which is well documented. At least one million people died and yet another million emigrated. Less well-recorded are accounts of those who directly witnessed and suffered through the famine. At the heart of Dennehy’s Hunger are personal, contemporaneous stories that introduce new dimensions in the tragedy of the famine. The opera also addresses the complex issues of governance and economic policy by complementing these personal, historical voices with video interviews of contemporary economists and political philosophers, such as Noam Chomsky and Paul Krugman. The opera not only recounts history as it happened, but also addresses the current socioeconomic problems of the recent global economic crisis.

Donnacha Dennehy

Assistant Professor of Music Donnacha Dennehy. Photo courtesy of the artist

Dennehy is an assistant professor of music at Princeton. He has received commissions from Dawn Upshaw, the Kronos Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Bang On A Can, Joanna MacGregor, the Percussion Group of the Hague, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. His recent opera, The Last Hotel (2015), met with critical acclaim in the U.K. when it premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival and has had runs at St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York, the Dublin Theatre Festival, and the Royal Opera in London. His new piece for Nadia Sirota and viol consort will premiere at Symphony Space in 2016 and is being recorded for future release by Bedroom Community. Dennehy’s collaborations include pieces with the writer Enda Walsh, the choreographers Yoshiko Chuma and Shobana Jeyasingh, and the visual artist John Gerrard. In 2010, his single-movement orchestral piece Crane was recommended by the International Rostrum of Composers. Dennehy is the founder of Ireland’s renowned music group Crash Ensemble. Alongside the singers Upshaw and O’Lionáird, Crash Ensemble is featured on the 2011 Nonesuch release of Dennehy’s music, entitled Grá agus Bás. Releases of Dennehy’s music include a RTE Lyric FM portrait CD of his orchestral music and a number of works by NMC Records in London and Cantaloupe in New York. Previously a tenured lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, Dennehy was appointed a Global Scholar at Princeton University in 2012. He was has also served as composer-in-residence for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in Texas (2013-14). He joined the music faculty at Princeton University in 2014.

Iarla Ó Lionáird

Belknap Teaching Fellow Iarla Ó Lionáird. Photo courtesy of the artist

Ó Lionáird is a Belknap Teaching Fellow in the Council of the Humanities and in Music and Irish Studies at Princeton. An Irish musician with a focus on traditional sean-nós style, he has carved a long and unique career in music in Ireland and internationally. From his iconic early recording of the vision song “Aisling Gheal” as a young boy to his groundbreaking recordings with Dublin’s Crash Ensemble, he has been widely recognized for his artistic ambition within the Irish music fraternity. Ó Lionáird has worked internationally with renowned composers Nico Muhly, Gavin Bryars, Dan Trueman, and David Lang. He has also performed and recorded with artists such as Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, Nick Cave, and Sinead O’ Connor. Ó Lionáird’s unique singing style has carried him to stages and concert halls all over the world, from New York’s Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House. His film credits include The Gangs of New York, Hotel Rwanda, and most recently as a featured vocalist in the films Calvary and Brooklyn. He is also the vocalist of the critically acclaimed Irish/American band The Gloaming. At Princeton, Ó Lionáird is teaching the fall 2016 course, “Sound and Place,” and plans are underway for him to co-teach a spring 2017 course entitled “Introduction to Irish Studies.”

The Fund for Irish Studies, chaired by Princeton Professor Clair Wills, provides all Princeton students, and the community at large, with a wider and deeper sense of the languages, literatures, drama, visual arts, history, politics, and economics not only of Ireland but of “Ireland in the world.”

Information about the Fund for Irish Studies series events can be found at fis.princeton.edu. Other events scheduled in the 2016-2017 series include:

  • Philosopher Richard Kearney and artist/curator Sheila Gallagher presenting a multimedia talk, “Twinsome Minds: Recovering 1916 in Images and Stories” on December 9
  • Theater critic and scholar Fintan O’Toole gives the Robert Fagles Memorial Lecture on February 17
  • A day-long symposium on Irish lyric and song, “Words for Music, Perhaps,” features musical performances by Irish artists and panels of renowned scholars such as John Burkhalter, Matt Campbell, Aideen Dillane, David Kellett, Barry McCrea, Maureen McLane, Paul Muldoon, Iarla Ó Lionáird, and Dan Trueman on March 31
  • Mary Daly, Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin on April 14
  • Writer Kevin Barry returns to Princeton for a reading on April 28