Marking Seachtain na Gaeilge, this week's Lyric Feature is a collaboration between Irish poet Louis de Paor and New York-based multi-instrumentalist and composer Dana Lyn - listen to Lá dá raibh/One Day above.

Lá dá raibh/One Day combines poetry and music to tell the story of a day in the life of a small village in the west of Ireland, where the dead and the living meet historical and imagined characters.

It was first performed live (in English) at the Irish Arts Center in New York as part of the Masters in Collaboration series, and has now been adapted as a captivating audio experience for radio.

The version in English, One Day, is broadcast at 6 pm on Sunday 14th March on RTÉ lyric fm. The Irish version, Lá dá raibh, is broadcast at 6:30 pm.

Below, Louis de Paor, author and narrator of Lá dá raibh/One Day, writes about his collaboration with composer Dana Lyn...


'How do you feel about bicycle wheels’? she asked.

‘As friends, you mean?’

‘No’, she said, a little testily. ‘As musical instruments.’

‘Very open-minded on that’, I said.

From the very start it was clear that working with Dana Lyn was going to be different than any experience I had previously had with musical collaborators. When Lá dá raibh/One Day was first performed at the Irish Arts Centre in New York in Spring 2014, she played an upended bicycle wheel, a child’s music box, piano, violin, and vocal loops, alongside her own animations, images by Brian Bourke, soundscapes by Ronan Browne, and a poem of mine set in an imaginary village in the west of Ireland.

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Listen to the opening of One Day, in English

The poem is in Irish and started as a collection of fragments that didn’t seem to fit or sit easily with anything else I was writing at the time. It took the strays a while to get me to understand what they were up to and follow their lead as they created a world where the living and the dead collide, where characters from literature, history, and imagination are as real or unreal as each other in a place that could be anywhere or nowhere. Working with Kevin Anderson on the English translation, and with David Munro, Alan Kelly, and Claire Cunningham to adapt the performance for broadcast on radio, Dana and I have continued to explore the point at which poetry and music can extend and complement each other.

Louis de Paor

We have continued that exploration in Mise Gráinne/I am Gráinne, a chamber opera based on the story of Diarmuid and Gráinne which we began working on during Dana’s residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Centre in New York in late Spring 2017. Gráinne is at the centre of our version of the story as we explore her emotional response to the chaos and violence her desire for Diarmuid has unleashed. A powerful and dangerous woman, her fierce integrity and absolute desire are both frightening and compelling, making her strangely sympathetic as she remembers, reluctantly, the devastating effect of her fatal attraction. Mise Gráinne combines music, song, spoken word, and choreographed movement to explore the contradictions of the human heart as it struggles to reconcile friendship and betrayal, the need for forgiveness and the desire for revenge.

The Irish saga has been compared to the story of Tristan and Isolde for its portrayal of the lethal consequences of a doomed love affair. It is much more than that, more troubling and more human in its representation of the tension between duty and desire, between love and loyalty, men and women, the bedroom and the battlefield. ‘They knew about death, the Old Masters’, according to WH Auden. So too, the early Irish poets and storytellers who understood the dark complexities of the human heart, whose work continues to speak to us from beyond the grave.

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Listen to the opening of Lá dá raibh, as Gaeilge

We haven’t had a chance yet to audition any bicycle wheels for Mise Gráinne, but a sewing desk will certainly be involved and possibly a defunct wooden door. In the meantime, we’d be delighted if you’d take a spin with us through the world of Lá dá raibh/One Day.

For more details on new work by Dana Lyn and Louis de Paor, go here. The Lyric Feature: One Day is on RTÉ lyric fm on Sunday 14th March at 6 pm (broadcast in English), with The Lyric Feature: Lá dá raibh broadcast immediately afterward at 6:30 pm (broadcast in Irish) - listen to more from The Lyric Feature here.