U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Ireland's Taoiseach Enda Kenny are scheduled to attend The Kennedy Center’s “Ireland 100: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts and Culture” festival, part of the global celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Biden and Kenny will attend the opening performance of the festival held at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Tuesday, May 17, and will offer remarks as part of the meeting, which will be audio live-streamed at whitehouse.gov.
Festival Artist-in-Residence Fiona Shaw directs this performance, which will feature artists from Ireland and the U.S., joined on stage by the National Symphony Orchestra.
The festival, which is being held from May 17 - June 5, will include performances from Ireland’s best musicians, dancers and theater companies, as well as a literature series, documentary screening, installations and more.
Among the festival’s offerings is the premiere of a new multimedia opera about the Irish Potato Famine by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy called “The Hunger.”
The 75-minute piece will feature traditional Irish singer Iarla O Lionaird, soprano Kate Manley and the modern classical ensemble Alarm Will Sound. Video clips of interviews with Noam Chomsky and other academics will play on large screens on the stage.
The words Manly sings in the piece were written by Asenath Nicholson, an American woman who traveled around Ireland during the famine, providing relief and recording the plight of the starving peasants.
“It’s one of the most interesting accounts because it’s written from an outsider’s perspective, and she’s very sympathetic to the people that she encounters,” Dennehy told the Washington Post. “She tells this one story about a starving man who was barely able to walk, whose family was dying at home. Somehow he dragged himself to a government aid office, and all he encountered was heartless bureaucracy.”
Interwoven with the singing are videos of commentary from economists discussing whether British colonial policies led to the Great Hunger.
“They’re looking at questions — of charity, inequality, government intervention versus laissez faire economics — that were really important at the time of the famine and are still important today,” said Dennehy.
Other highlights of the festival include The Earth Harp, from “America’s Got Talent” finalist and installation artist William Close, who will play the world’s largest harp; the Celtic rock band, the Screaming Orphans, consisting of four sisters from Co Donegal; and Abbey Theatre’s The Plough and the Stars. The Dublin theatre company’s restaging of the classic Sean O’Casey play moves the setting from the time of the Easter Rising to modern-day Dublin.
More information on the festival can be found here.