Featuring a collaboration of Ireland’s finest contemporary artists and musicians, Pomes Penyeach is an electrifying new double album, breathing a vibrant new life into Joyce’s 1927 publication of thirteen short poems. It is described by Dublin-based composer, curator and academic Matthew Nolan, who spearheaded the project, as ‘James Joyce set to song’.
The title, Pomes Penyeach, is a typical Joycean play on words; its literal meaning being poems for a penny each as the collection was published for the price of one shilling, or twelve pennies. The thirteenth poem was a bonus ‘tilly’ (tuilleadh in Irish); a custom of Irish tradespeople at the time to offer an extra serving, similar to the ‘baker’s dozen’, which offered 13 loaves instead of twelve.
The project to set poetry to song was spearheaded by Matthew Nolan, who discovered Joyce’s book thirty years ago and has been “trying to find a means of expressing that world ever since”. Nolan enlisted the help of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and composer Adrian Crowley to decipher this elegiac collection and an ‘astonishing musical world began to unfurl’.
The album features Adrian Crowley (vocals, piano, acoustic guitar & mellotron), the luminous Lisa Hannigan (vocals), Matthew Nolan (electric guitar), Sean Mac Erlaine (reeds & electronics), Cora Venus Lunny (violin & viola) and Kevin Murphy (cello).
The result of this breathtaking meeting of music and words results in the vinyl version of Pomes Penyeach, a staggering and panoramic piece of work that not only stands up as a transportive musical journey but is a testament to the timelessness of Joyce's verse.