A Lovely Evening of Music and Poetry: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SEAMUS HEANEY

The Queen went on vacation. This was one of the shows she saw in NYC.

Happy Birthday, Seamus Heaney image

Heaney was fancy.

Seamus Heaney Birthday Celebration: A celebration of Heaney’s works with songs by Ellen Mandel to his poems.

May 12, 2014 at 6 PM
Cornelia St Cafe
New York City, New York

Kim Sykes,Paul Hecht, Lizbeth Mackay, actors
Eleanor Taylor, vocals
Ellen Mandel, composer/piano

Review by Kitty Drexel

(New York, NY) Upstairs at the Cornelia St. Cafe is a posh restaurant with food that looks as delicious as it tastes. Downstairs is a performance nook with just enough space for a piano and a few actors to huddle together in performance. It isn’t glamorous but there is a full bar. This was a cozy setting to belatedly celebrate the birthday of Irish poet and scholar Seamus Heaney through song and poetry.

Actors Kim Sykes,Paul Hecht, Lizbeth Mackay read selections from Heaney’s catalogue of work (including an excerpt from Heaney’s Nobel acceptance speech from 1995) with such vigor that it elicited in this reviewer nostalgia for childhood days spent running through the fields and forests of New England. In particular, a reading of “Blackberry Picking” reminded me fondly of the large berry bushes my late grandparents kept outside their home in New Hampshire. These are memories I don’t recall frequently. It is a testament to the sincerity and dramatic acuity of the actors that these memories were brought to mind.

The poetry was paired with song selections composed by Ellen Mandel and sung by Eleanor Taylor. Taylor has a clear soprano that communicated the poetry of Heaney as if she were chatting with the audience rather than singing. This was literally underscored by Mandel’s music which nurtured the natural rhythms within Heaney’s poetry.

While the black box stage in Cornelia St. Cafe isn’t the most comfortable of venues, the artists embraced the space and their materials with apt latitude. The compilation of song and poetry was a joyful yet wistful tribute to Seamus Heaney. It was a lovely evening.

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