By Dr. William Abbott
On Sunday June 16th the acclaimed author and filmmaker Mary Pat Kelly joined Fairfield University professors Nels Pearson (English), Marice Rose (Visual and Performing Arts), Marion White (English), and Bill Abbott (History) in presenting Irish literature and music at the 25th annual Fairfield County Irish Festival, held on the Fairfield University campus. All five have been active in the University’s Irish Studies Program; Dr. Pearson is the Director of that program, and he, together with Dr. Rose, Dr. Abbott, and Professor White, teach courses in it, while Mary Pat Kelly has given a number of academic presentations at Fairfield. Their performance took place at the Festival’s Cultural pavilion, which featured many outstanding music and dance ensembles.
Dr. Pearson led off the presentation with W.B. Yeats’ poem “September 1913.” One of Yeats’ greatest works, it commemorates earlier Irish revolutionary heroes Robert Emmet, Theobald Wolfe Tone, Edward Fitzgerald, and John O’Leary. Dr. Abbott then sang the Irish favorite, “The Minstrel Boy.” Dr. Rose followed with Ireland’s greatest contemporary poet Seamus Heaney, as she read his “Postscript”, a beautiful and haunting description of Ireland’s western coast.
Mary Pat Kelly then read, from her 2009 book Galway Bay, the moving letter written by her great-great-grandmother Honora, who with her husband had survived the Great Hunger and come to America in the middle of the 19th century. Professor White finished up the poetry with two 1980 works by the Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Muldoon: the mysterious “Why Brownlee Left” and the wry “Come into My Parlour,” each of which vividly portray different realities of late 20th-century Northern Ireland. Mr. Muldoon will be coming to Fairfield University on November 13 to give an evening presentation in the Dolan School of Business Dining Room.
Dr. Abbott finished off the presentation by singing the 1798 rebel song “The Rising of the Moon”, with the other presenters and the audience joining in.
Later that afternoon Professors Pearson and Abbott joined Ms. Kelly to compete against two other local teams in a good-natured round of “Irish Jeopardy.” Largely because the game’s organizers had this year omitted the categories in history and literature, the Fairfield faculty team could not repeat last year’s win, but did well in taking second place, as Ms. Kelly showed herself a whiz at Irish-American culture.
The sponsors of the Festival were delighted with the presence and participation of the Fairfield University Irish Studies faculty and Mary Pat Kelly, and look forward to our presentation next year.
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