A glimpse of her inner world


This recording of Ina Boyle’s songs is the final step in the ongoing reassessment of one of the most important Irish composers of the twentieth century. It brings together three well-known Irish singers – mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy, tenor Robin Tritschler, baritone Ben McAteer – and Scottish pianist Iain Burnside in a recording that covers songs from his entire career and is just under half of its total production in this genre.

If Boyle may have been the first Irish woman to compose in several major genres (ballet, symphony, concerto), her importance lies as much in the quality of her work as in her status as a pioneer. Glencree’s Symphony – perhaps his best-known piece – stands out as one of the finest orchestral works of all Irish composers. While the researchers suggested a number of factors that may have constrained what could have been a highly successful career – her gender, lack of musical infrastructure, her duties of caring for her mother and sister – the image of Boyle as a composer working in rural isolation in the Wicklow countryside, against which fate conspired not to grant success or recognition, fits a certain romantic stereotype. Therefore, it invites compelling speculation about the emotional personality of this intensely private artist who remained cut off from the outside world for most of her life. Given the domestic nature of the song’s genre, which tends to favor a certain type of “interiority,” combine it with what we already know about Boyle’s outward character – self-effacing and overly modest – and there is has more than enough here to convince us that we could, by listening to him, gain a glimpse of his inner world.

Although the range of songs on the CD is broad – lively numbers imbued with hauntingly thinking folk – it’s the latter that most listeners are likely to be drawn to. One of Boyle’s undeniable talents was his ability to evoke a particular type of melancholy stillness, which never quite reaches the depths of despair, yet touches sadness or longing in a very touching way though. slightly distant. There are several examples of this, but the one that stood out to me was his setting to music of “A Mountain Woman Asks for Quiet that her Child May Sleep” by Pádraig Pearse. The beautifully formed and rhythmically smooth vocal line majestically drifts over the spare piano accompaniment, intensifying the lonely imagery of the text while Murrihy’s moving rendering of the final line – “Stir tonight until the sun whiten on you “- is a magical moment.

Another example is her arrangement of Frances Cornford’s “All Souls’ Night”, which begins with the vocal line circling around a fixed pitch in the lower register of the mezzo-soprano as the scene unfolds (“My love came back to me / Under November tree “) but soon goes up into the stratosphere (” He put his hand on my shoulder / He didn’t think I was strange or older “) and we have a powerful idea of ​​the woman’s feelings for her. deceased lover. The appeal of Boyle’s melodies is not so much in their form as such – they are usually too long and curvy to be instantly remembered – but rather in the way their wavy course combines with harmony and harmony. texture of the piano to produce a distinct sound, general color that brings out the emotional qualities of the poem.

Even in his more upbeat, folkloric arrangements – for all their quirk and inventiveness – Boyle can’t quite resist the temptation to suddenly change gears on the appropriate line and blend into a more dreamlike state. The last stanza of the rustic “The pigs and the charcoal” by Walter de la Mare seems to blend in with the evocation of the night and the stars. Likewise, while the folkloric imitation melody of the first two stanzas of EL Twiss’s ‘Himself and His Violin’ can be very convincing, it is the last two stanzas – when the poem alludes to the lonely inner world of the poem’s narrator rather than the jovial violinist – that Boyle’s elegiac style comes to the fore. foreground.

All three singers approach these songs with a deep sense of care, and Burnside’s beautifully weighted accompaniments ensure that every ounce of expression is extracted from these parameters. For anyone interested in getting a more intimate portrait of Boyle’s musical imagination, this CD is an absolute must.

Ina Boyle: Songs, which includes an essay by Orla Shannon and full song lyrics, can be purchased from Delphian Records. Visit www.delphianrecords.com/products/ina-boyle-songs

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