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I Could Read the Sky

A Life in Music, A Life in Words

Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill Mairtin O’Connor

Karan Casey Iarla O Lionaird

Timothy O’Grady (Narration)

And the photographs of Steve Pyke

In the novel I Could Read the Sky, an old man from the West of Ireland lies in bed and remembers his life – a rapturously remembered childhood, years of wandering as a migrant in the potato fields and building sites of England, the camaraderie of bars and boxing booths, and finally the music he played and the woman he loved. This is an emigrant’s story of innocence defeated, of loss and madness and redemption through music and memory and love.

The show touring Britain from 20-31 January follows the phases of this life in music, words and photographs. It brings together some of Ireland’s most talented musicians – the violinist Martin Hayes, the accordionist Mairtin O’Connor and the singers Iarla O Lionaird and Karan Casey – with the guitarist Dennis Cahill and writer Timothy O’Grady. This is a unique and ambitious project presenting visual art, music and literature – a lament and a celebration.

January 2005

Thur 20 The Minerva Theatre, (at Chichester Festival Theatre) Oaklands Pk, Chichester. Box Office: 01243 781312 TP £14:00 DO 8:00pm

Fri 21 The Anvil, Churchill Way, Basingstoke, Hants.
Box Office 01256 844244 TP £13.50 DO 7:30pm

Sat 22 Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London N1.
Box Office: 30 TP £15:00 DO 7:30pm

(Union Chapel to close its doors to music & arts see full story this will be the very last performance at this much loved and well run venue)

Sun 23 De Montfort Hall, Granville Road, Leicester
Box Office: 0116 233 3111 TP ££12:50/Conc £10:50 £8:50 DO 7:30pm

Wed 26 Celtic Connections, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Strathclyde Suite,
2 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, Scotland.
Box Office: 0141 353 8000 TP £14:00 DO 7:30pm

Thur 27 The Sage Gateshead, Hall 2, St Mary’s Square, Gateshead Quays, Gateshead, Box Office: 0191 443 4661/0870 703 4555 TP £16 & £11DO 7:30pm

Sat 29 Southport Arts Centre, Lord Street, Southport, Merseyside. Box Office: 01704 540011 TP £12:50/Conc £10:00 DO 7:30pm

Sun 30 Hammersmith & Fulham Irish Centre, Blacks Road, Hammersmith, London, W6 Box Office: 0208 563 8232 TP.£15:00 DO:7:30pm

Mon 31 Stamford Arts Centre, 27 St Mary’s Street, Stamford, Lincolnshire.
Box Office: 01780 763203 TP £14:50/Conc £13 DO 7:30pm

The show is staged in two forty five minute sets during which Timothy O’Grady will narrate passages from “I Could Read the Sky” whilst at the same time images taken from the book will be projected onto the stage backdrop. The narrative will be interspersed with tunes and songs by some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians and singers. The show offers a great insight into the lives of the immigrant workers who left Ireland for England, and the final journey home.

Timothy O’Grady is the author of the prize winning novel Motherland and co-author with Kenneth Griffith of Curious Journey: An Oral History of Irelands Unfinished Revolution.
He was awarded the Encore Award for the best second novel of 1997 for I Could Read the Sky.

Steve Pyke’s photographic books include Philosophers and Poguetry. His work and installations are exhibited worldwide. (Permanent collection National Portrait Gallery London)

Timothy O’Grady & “I Could Read the Sky”

The Musicians

Iarla O’Lionáird
Iarla has a long relationship with the project, having performed at the premier showing of it in London in 1998. Having been inspired by it so much he went on to record the soundtrack for the film through his record label Real World. Iarla is perhaps best known for his involvement in the Afro Celts Sound System of which he is a member, as well as his solo work where he tours his own ‘multi-media’ show, backed up by projected computer-generated imagery.

Karan Casey
Karan is one of the most instantly recognizable, alluring and original voices in all of world music. Former long time vocalist with Irish supergroup Solas, the Wall Street Journal said of her “one of the true glories in Irish music today”, whilst The Associated Press said Casey has “…. A voice so beautiful, it’s almost impossible to avoid falling under her spell”. With her latest album, Distant Shore, Casey continues to chart a course between traditional Irish vocal music and modern influences, and many of her songs are about the human aspects of life in Ireland today and in the past.

Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill
Martin & Dennis reached almost cult status on the international music scene with legions of followers consistently drawn to their unspeakably beautiful and arousing music, which is pure distilled art. They draw on the slow, lyrical traditions of Hayes’ native East County Clare, the intensity of classic blues, the elastic tonalities of jazz, as well as Cahill’s innovative finger-picking style. Their unique approach to traditional Irish music is said to have re-defined the genre taking it into the wider musical field where its sheer brilliance is commanding respect across the broad spectrum and into the mainstream.

Maírtín O’Connor
A remarkable career stretching back to the late 70's has seen him as a member of leading traditional groups, including Reel Union, De Dannan and Skylark.
His versatility as a musician has seen him work on many recordings and his playing can be heard on recordings as varied as the Chieftains' Long Black Veil, the Dubliners' Thirty Years a Greying, Mark Knopfler's Golden Heart, and Townes van Zandt's Deeper Blue, to mention just a few, and in films such as Some Mother's Son (with Helen Mirren), The Twelfth Night (with Ben Kingsley), and Dancing at Lughnasa (with Meryl Streep). He was the first accordion soloist in Riverdance and has worked as a soloist in Bill Whelan's Seville Suite. He is a highly talented all round musician and his sense of humour is unrivalled!
About the show:


The Experience of Irish emigration has never been more lyrically set out than in this novel, beautiful both for its words and for its images. It tells the story of one man’s journey from the West of Ireland to the fields and boxing booths and building sites of England. Now at the century’s end he finds himself alone, looking back, struggling to make sense of a life of dislocation and loss and one of unforgotten loveliness.

“Everything was the stories my father told me about his life……it was as if he was in the room with me again…You have put down that feeling of terrible longing that I didn’t think anyone but me remembered” Eileen Gallagher, in a letter to the author

“There are not many books that seem to me written with comparable force (or) depth of feeling”
Dan Jacobson - Sunday Telegraph

“If the words tell the story of the voiceless, the bleak, lovely photographs that accompany it show their faces….Fiction really gets as close to the messy, glorious truth as do memories and photographs. This rare novel dares to use both” Charlotte Mendelson Times Literary Supplement

“What Pyke and O’Grady have done is read our imagination” Dermot Healy Sunday Tribune

“In this fine and deeply moving novel, Timothy O’Grady resists nostalgia…….. (it reads with) all the humour and intensity of a real life honestly recorded, and with the pathos mutability lends the past” Lucy Hughes-Hallett – Sunday Times

“There is a power and beauty about this novel” David Horspool - Daily Telegraph
“Richly atmospheric, the vivid and lyrical text and starkly beautiful black-and-white photographs bring feelings and images together like the act of memory itself! Irish Post

“This isn’t just another Irish exploration of exile but a little masterpiece in which O’Grady has gathered true experiences, and then meshed them into one delicate narration!
Anne Simpson – Glasgow Herald

“’I Could Read the Sky’ is more than a concert, more than a show, and more than an experience, it is the truth, and all human life is here.” Irish Music Magazine

For further information or to interview Timothy O'Grady contact Pat Tynan Media 01895 636935 Mobile 07985 400297

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