Reading—and Singing—ULYSSES on Bloomsday!

Jun 15, 2017

Every year on Bloomsday, which falls on June 16th, the Rosenbach Museum and Library near Rittenhouse Square organizes more than 70 volunteers to read aloud James Joyce’s once-banned novel Ulysses. But, as WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston finds out, a full appreciation may require more than reading.

Joyce sang, played the guitar and piano, even composed, influencing what Edward G. Pettit calls, his richly sonic story.

Radio script:

Meridee Duddleston: More, you ask? How about singing, in a book ripe for interpreting aloud.

[Music: C.W. Murphy and Dan Lipton: “My Girl’s A Yorkshire Girl” from Music from the Works of James Joyce, Kevin McDermott, tenor; Ralph Richey, piano]

MD: Gary Galván curates the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Gary Galván: The music really infuses it with an extra bit of life. And it almost creates another character. I mean the character of Dublin, really kind of sitting in the background that pervades the entire work.

Bloomsday at the Rosenbach Museum and Library is June 16th.

MD: Pub music and snippets of songs swirl around Joyce’s protagonist Leopold Bloom on June 16, 1904, the date of all action in Ulysses.

Edward G. Pettit: Why not? (Laughing.) Why not have drinking songs in a novel. Joyce grew-up in a kind of culture where you go to the pub and sing songs.

MD: Edward G. Pettit directs the Rosenbach’s annual June 16th Bloomsday “read.” Joyce sang, played the guitar and piano, even composed, influencing what Pettit calls, his richly “sonic” story.

EGP: I mean this is the way he hears Dublin. It’s that kind of cacophony of voices, weaving in and out of each other. That’s the sound of Dublin that you get when you read this novel. And it’s also one of the reasons why you should read it out loud.

GG [reading]:

A strip of torn envelope peeped from under the dimpled pillow. In the act of going he stayed to straighten the bedspread.

—Who was the letter from? he asked.

Bold hand. Marion.

—O, Boylan, she said. He's bringing the programme.

—What are you singing?

—Là ci darem with J. C. Doyle, she said, and Love's Old Sweet Song.

[from Ulysses, Episode 4, “Calypso”]

[Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni, from Live in Tokyo 1988, Kathleen Battle, soprano; Placido Domingo, tenor]

MD: So, it follows, that singers from the Academy of Vocal Arts round out Bloomsday including Abla Hamza, soprano; Corey Bonar, tenor; and Eric Dubin, baritone. They'll be accompanied by Michele Scanlon, piano.
 

Information about Bloomsday celebration at the Rosenbach Museum and Library on June 16th.

BBC documentary about music composed by James Joyce: