“The Parting Glass” is a song traditionally sung by the Irish at the end of a gathering of close friends. Scottish and Irish in its origins, its provenance stretches back to the early 1600s and it’s still immensely popular worldwide.
The Parting Glass is also the brilliantly evocative name of a series of special one-nigh-only events celebrating Irish arts and culture at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York this summer.
Traditional Irish dance, music, poetry and storytelling will all be a part of the exciting new concert series, which will unfold on the main stage of the Rep itself.
First up on Thursday, July 17 is "In Shorts," a delightful and intimate performance by the charismatic Belfast actress (and now storyteller) Geraldine Hughes and northern playwright Jimmy Kerr.
Spinning yarns from their lively childhoods, the pair could hardly be more different, although they grew up only miles apart in the city and the country.
Told through a series of short stories, "In Shorts" presents their coming of age tales that give a rare glimpse of both artists’ very different yet parallel experiences of growing up in Northern Ireland during the same period.
Hughes hails from Belfast’s inner city, and as her stories make clear, her young life was in part shaped by the legacy of the Troubles. Punishment shootings, army foot patrols, raids and snipers all make frequent appearances and all are treated with the same delightful casualness that only people grown used to truly ghastly circumstances can demonstrate.
Kerr grew up 30 miles from Belfast and his experience was a tranquil as Hughes’ was fraught. Instead of bombs and shootings he recalls days spent turf-cutting and butter-churning, and his stories are vivid portraits of the red letter days in a young persons life – and beneath that touching meditations on the fate of love.
Next up on July 29 is an Irish Summer Ceile, a celebration of traditional Irish music, step dancing, and storytelling featuring Donie Carroll as master of ceremonies.
The evening will also feature Dan Larkin spinning Irish tales in the tradition of the great Irish shanachai (storyteller) Eamon Kelly, and well as music by vocalist Marian Makins, backed by Margie Mulvihill on flute, John Reynolds on fiddle, Don Meade on banjo, John Nolan on button accordion, and Gabriel Donohue on piano and guitar. Surprise guests will also attend so expect a night to remember that tilts toward the wee hours and sends you home smiling.
On Thursday, July 31 you’ll have a rare opportunity to catch Irish soprano Mary Deady in "The Return of the Lark." The gifted Irish singer’s show charts her emigrant's journey from her origins in a small village in Co. Kerry (the famed home of gifted singers) to the at times hesitant and at times ardent embrace of New York City in a show that is as a heartfelt and absorbing as that sounds.
Onstage Deady will be accompanied by pianist and songwriter Jeff Cubeta, an equally electrifying talent, in a two-part show that exemplifies the best of both the Irish and American songbooks from Stephen Sondheim to "Molly Malone." A lifetime in the making, the show is both as sophisticated as Manhattan and as much craic as life in her happy Kerry home. Do not miss it.
Finally "I Will Arise and Go Now," as its name suggests, will be a blend of well loved poems, songs, stories and music by Irish Nobel Prize-winning poet William Butler Yeats, read by a roster of the Irish Rep actors and guests who have enchanted audiences for the past 25 years.
The Yeats canon, accompanied by a chronology of notes and letters written by the master himself, will bring his life into brilliant focus while musical accompaniment on the night enriches his written words.
Featuring Rufus Collins, Terry Donnelly, Patrick Fitzgerald, Ciaran O'Reilly, Kitty Sullivan and John Douglas Thompson, it will be one of the most unmissable highlights of the summer at the Rep.
Tickets to the events in the Parting Glass series are all priced at $25 and are available now via the Irish Rep box office by calling 212-727-2737 or online at www.irishrep.org.