Back in 1937, when both were students at Clare College in Cambridge, the Irish composer Brian Boydell and the American poet John Berryman met and struck up a friendship.
In A Cradle Song, in the Lyric Feature on Sunday 22nd March 2020, at 6 pm on RTÉ lyric fm, Claire Cunningham tells the story of the relationship between these two very different men, and we hear a performance of their only collaboration, broadcast here for the first time.
Listen to The Lyric Feature: A Cradle Song
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Boydell and Berryman bonded over their love of music and for the poetry of Yeats. After an extraordinary evening on 22nd February 1937, later known as 'The Curlew Party', when they listened in the dark to the unsettling music of Peter Warlock, they decided to work together.
Berryman wrote a poem called A Cradle Song and Boydell set it to music. As far as we know, this is their one and only collaboration.
The contributors to the programme include Barra Boydell, musicologist and son of the composer Brian Boydell, who has edited his father’s memoir, Rebellious Ferment, published by Cork University Press. We hear more about John Berryman, and the fateful meeting between him and Boydell, from Dr Eve Cobain, who wrote her PhD thesis on music and movement in the poetry of John Berryman, and Dr Philip Coleman of the School of English, Trinity College Dublin, editor of a volume of essays on John Berryman and of a forthcoming volume of John Berryman’s literary correspondence.
The programme ends with a performance of A Cradle Song by tenor and RTÉ lyric fm presenter Vlad Smishkewych and Dr Yonit Kosovske, lecturer in music at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.
The producers wish to thank Barra Boydell, Martha Berryman Mayou and the Estate of John Berryman, and publishers Faber & Faber for their assistance in making this programme.
Listen to The Lyric Feature, A Cradle Song, presented and produced by Claire Cunningham, on Sunday 22nd March at 6 pm on RTÉ lyric fm - listen back to more from The Lyric Feature here.