20, 28 October
‘The poet of all circles and the idol of his own’ – the words are Lord Byron’s, inscribed on the tall Celtic cross erected above Thomas Moore’s grave one hundred years ago. Byron adored the Irish Melodies: he told Moore ‘I have them by heart ... they are my matins and my vespers’; Ireland’s national song writer was similarly revered in the land of his birth. He moved easily in the privileged circles of London’s salons where he was celebrated for singing and accompanying songs such as The minstrel boy’, Believe me, if all those endearing young charms, The meeting of the waters, The harp that once through Tara's halls, and particularly, The last rose of summer which quickly became the anthem of every great soprano of the day. As a result of their popularity, the Irish Melodies were continually updated; some, such as Frank Lambert's She is far from the land became even more famous than the original.
Less well known, perhaps, is the fact that Moore’s Irish Melodies were translated into almost every language and, with their strongly nationalistic fervour, the songs became revolutionary rallying calls in Poland, Russia, Hungary and Cuba. Moore was also incredibly popular in the Parisian salons of the 1820s and ’30s where Berlioz must first have heard his songs and from whence, the French Mélodie was born. And another example of Moore’s endlessly surprising reach: Robert Schumann believed Moore's poetry had been made for music, even in its German translation, and used part of his long oriental poem Lalla Rookh for the cantata, Das Paradies und die Peri. In this programme, the Thomas Moore Songbook charts the path of Moore’s star, its influences and its transformation throughout a two-hundred-year history of national song.