I found history to be boring while I was in school. I learnt about the Rising as an important historical event that happened way before my time and secured Irish independence. The details were unclear, but we got the result we wanted in the end. That was all that mattered to me then.
Since Dolce’s participation in the Mass in Clontarf in January 2016 all has changed, changed utterly as Yeat’s said. Declan Kiberd’s wonderful talk that day drew in strands of modern day life and tied them all together in a celebration of the significance of the Rising. I was blown away by that and by the exhibition in the hall afterwards which showed cold letters from civil servants confirming the death by execution of those heroes of the Rising. Suddenly it became real for me.
In choosing music for Easter Monday’s performance as part of Reflecting the Rising, suddenly everything took on a new meaning. Hymn before Action, as part of Karl Jenkin’s Armed Man Mass for peace, essentially an anti-war piece, reflects the words of soldiers who go out to face their death in the hope that it will bring about a change for their people. They finish with the words “Lord grant us strength to die”. Not so far from Pádraig Pearse’s words in Fornocht do Chonac Thú, where he wishes he could live to see the new Ireland which he knew could only happen as a consequence of his death.
The Long Day Closes by Arthur Sullivan is a song about death, and equally could reflect the dying of the old Ireland, and the end of her pain. Standford’s The Bluebird, a song written well before the Rising, describes the flight of a bird which sees an image of itself as it flies into the blue sky. When we stand back and look at our nation do we see its beauty and feel its pride?
Moving in a completely different way is Ireland’s Call, and although written for the rugby team, it could be sung by the men and women who went out to fight 100 years ago. Side by side we stand like brothers, one for all and all together… We will fight until we can fight no more, ‘til our final requiem is spoken.
The Easter Rising has become for me something deeply moving, the sacrifices and emotions of those who were willing to give their lives for the freedom of our nation profoundly humbling, and the reality of life for them at the time has become real for me too. It is an honour to be able to commemorate an event that became such a powerful symbol of the weak standing up against the strong for the right to freedom.