Choice cultural picks from the Editor of Arts, Factual and Drama for RTÉ Radio 1...

This weekend sees Lorelei Harris, Editor of Arts, Factual and Drama for RTÉ Radio 1, bid farewell to the station after three decades spent acting as a passionate champion for all things cultural on RTÉ. Originally from South Africa, Lorelei has lived in Ireland since 1979. Previously Lorelei has worked as Commissioning Editor of Documentaries for RTÉ Radio 1 and during the course of her career in RTÉ has established a number of important programme strands such as the internationally acclaimed Documentary on One, the award-winning Drama on One as well as the annual Michael Littleton Memorial Lecture. Recently, Lorelei has been responsible for major projects such as RTÉ’s Culture Night activities and Cruinniú na Cásca and has served as Head of Arts and Cultural Strategy for the station.

By way of a fond adieu, we asked Lorelei to share her choice cultural picks.

Film

The most recent film I’ve seen is Chan-wook Park’s wonderful period piece, The Handmaiden. I was curious to see how he would transpose Sarah Waters’s novel Fingersmith to early twentieth century Japan and was completely satisfied and surprised with the outcome. It is visually exquisite and utterly delightful (if one may call high intrigue that) in the twists and turns of the plot, with the final sting somehow being a vindication of women everywhere.

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Music

I have the intensely irritating habit of bingeing on specific pieces of music, and listening to them over and over again until they become lodged in my brain. At the moment, I’m doing this with Purcell’s opera, Dido and Aeneas which tells the story of the abandonment of Dido, Queen of Carthage by the Trojan hero, Aeneas. I have a wonderful recording with Ian Bostridge and Susan Graham and there is an almost visual quality to the music and the performances which never ceases to amaze me. Needless to say, however many times I hear it,  I’m endlessly moved to tears by Dido’s Lament which starts with the words "When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create/ No trouble, no trouble in thy breast…".

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Book

I grew up in a country without television and, as a consequence, have a life-long reading habit without which I think I’d cease being. Every year at this time, I plug holes in my reading by picking up on writers I don’t know or haven’t read from the International Dublin Literary Award shortlist. At the moment, I’m immersed in The Prophets of  Eternal Fjord by Danish-Norwegian writer, Kim Leine. It’s an extraordinary literary feat set in Copenhagen and Greenland in the eighteenth century. It tells the tale of Morten Falck, from his time as a divinity student in Denmark through to his work as a missionary in Greenland. I’m a couple of hundred pages into the novel and am riveted by its language, the sheer scale of the imagination at work and the unfolding of the plot lines. I’m not yet clear where it’s going but one thing is for sure: it’s going to end in tears. A fantastic meditation on colonialism and cultural encounters.

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Theatre

A few weeks ago, I went to see the Druid production of Waiting For Godot at The Abbey Theatre, and am still swooning over it. I’m not the most stalwart Beckett fan but this production is not to be missed, if at all possible. It is visually breathtaking in its set design and use of The Abbey stage and the performances are simply sublime with Marty Rea (who can do no wrong as an actor) and Aaron Monaghan leading the charge. I came out feeling that the world had shifted a bit and that I perhaps understood a bit more about the mystery that is Beckett. Who could ask for more?

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TV

My guilty secret is that I am a complete sap for medical dramas. In fact, because I’ve watched so many over the years, I believe I’m really a doctor. Grey’s Anatomy by the talented Shonda Rhimes is very close to my heart and I have followed Dr Meredith Grey and her dysfunctional colleagues from the first episode for an alarmingly long time now. While lesser mortals would have thrown in the towel, I persevere from one crisis to another, marvelling at how any of them have remained in gainful employment, let alone been permitted near sick people whose chests they crack with gay abandon while bickering across the operating table. This could’ve been me!

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Concert

This Good Friday past, I went to the National Concert Hall to hear Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion performed by the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Matthew Halls with the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir and RTÉ Cór na nÓg. This is only the second time I’ve heard it live and I felt then as I’d felt many years ago: as if I’d been physically hit by the scale and the beauty of the work. Quite extraordinary!

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Art

I was in London recently and went to the Royal Academy of Arts to see an exhibition entitled America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s which the RIA organised in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago. There are 45 works on show, including paintings by Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alice Neel but, for me, the centrepiece was without doubt Grant Wood’s iconic masterpiece, American Gothic. As a whole, the show pulls together a view of American society with which we are strangely unfamiliar these days. Taking the post Wall Street economic crisis as its starting point, these paintings from around the period of The Great Depression and its aftermath show no signs of the jingoism and social extremes with which we are now all too familiar. It’s on till June. Go and see it if you’re on the other side of the water.

Radio

I listen to radio all the time and am constantly amazed by the precision and talent with which all of my colleagues produce audio content on a never-ceasing daily basis.The love of my former life as a radio producer was and remains RTÉ Radio 1’s Documentary on One. I adore radio documentaries, both making and listening to them. If you don’t know this slot, check out the RTÉ Radio 1 schedule and tune in, or alternatively, go to www.rte.ie/documentaryonone where you’ll find a fabulous archive of several thousand documentaries for your listening delight.

Technology 

I’m sorry but Parking Tag has transformed my life. No longer am I that woman scrabbling around in the bottom of her handbag for change to feed into a machine. I reached the end of that particular road one very wet day when, drenched, a voice at the end of a phone explained that the machine doesn’t print properly in wet weather. That moment was the nearest I’ve ever come to vandalism. It was touch and go, but the Parking Tag app has kept me on the straight and narrow.

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The Next Big Thing...

For me, the next big thing is the Kilkenny Arts Festival (11-20 August 2017). Under the artistic directorship of Eugene Downes, this festival is an unmissable annual fixture for me. There’s endless gorgeous music of various genres, theatre, family events and so on, all in beautiful Kilkenny city. This year, I will luxuriate in Schubert’s late masterpieces with some Handel thrown in for good measure. I’ll hear Christian Blackshaw play Schubert’s late piano sonatas and, for good measure, listen to Alfred Brendel talking about these works. If classical music is not to your taste however, there’ll be loads of other attractions. Don’t miss Stephen Rea’s performance of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis with music by Neil Martin. The full programme will be out in June, so get booking.