Force to be reckoned with Declan O’Rourke returns to New York

Declan O'Rourke at St. Werbough's Cathedral in Dublin.
Declan O'Rourke at St. Werbough's Cathedral in Dublin.


When all the cylinders are clicking and you are at your most creative, it seems like good ideas keep regenerating, looking for opportunities to unfold. 

In this vein, when New York’s Irish Arts Center launched another novel series last year introducing us to a whole generation of brilliant contemporary singer songwriters from Ireland and America in a series aptly named “SongLives” it tapped into an appetite for more programming like this that they were only too willing to supply. 

One of the more impressive artists to turn up in the first series last spring was a Dublin native, Declan O’Rourke, who was relatively unknown to New York audiences but was already a force to be reckoned with abroad, especially in his native Ireland for a number of years.

Paired with the series curator, Susan McKeown, O’Rourke’s own one hour set was a tour de force that not only showcased his versatile talent but begged for greater stage time.

It would take almost a year to come to fruition, but not only is the Irish Arts Center presenting O’Rourke’s first full-fledged New York City show, but it has designated it “residency status” meaning that the curly-haired performer will appear for eight shows at the Donaghy Theater from April 20-28.

Performing with the very original entertainer who cut his teeth as a Dublin busker like Glen Hansard and Damien Dempsey will be a string quartet featuring Chris Herzberger (violin) and Eimear O’Grady (cello) who perform regularly with O’Rourke in Ireland, and two New York-based violinists, Curtis Stewart and Nora Krohn, added to the cast for the run.

O’Rourke’s accomplishments have been significant already with three well received CDs to his credit, with one of his compositions, “Galileo,” well covered by the likes of Josh Groban and Eddi Reader among others.

While O’Rourke’s notoriety may proceed him, the residency will provide ample opportunity for him to familiarize an American audience with his work as he has been concentrating the past couple of years in “trying to get my big-toe into the American door” as an entertainer.

He has a couple of new CD projects in the works as well, and his upcoming work with the string quartet will help ready some new arrangements with new songs for an album with the RTE Concert Orchestra in the near future.

The other involves a recording he plans of original songs dealing with many facets of the Greater Hunger, a personal mission of O’Rourke’s since discovering that his grandfather was born in a workhouse that came out the Famine years down in Kinvara which is an area he now calls home.

In January he previewed that ambitious and worthwhile Famine project in an intriguing performance at the prestigious Temple Bar Trad Festival which he hopes will help “lift the cloak of silence” about the sad history of Irish Famine and the workhouses it created. 

St. Werbough’s Cathedral was filled with a multi-generational audience on cold January evening held spell-bound by the gifted storyteller who lifted real life and death off history’s pages into his imaginative songcraft for over two hours.

This is a great chance to be up close and personal with an artist who will leave his mark on New York and the world of folk music in general.

Call 212-757-3318 or visit www.irishartscenter.org.

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