On this day…22 August

On 22 August 1904 Joyce sang at a concert.

On the afternoon of Monday 22 August 1904 Joyce sang two songs, ‘My love she was born in the North Countree’ and ‘The Coulin,’ at a concert.

During 1904 Joyce tried to earn money by singing in concerts. When he moved to 60 Shelbourne Road in April it was partly to practice his singing for the Feis Ceoil competition in mid-May when he won the bronze medal in the tenor singing competition.

On 16 June 1904 Joyce wrote to Arnold Dolmetsch, who had recently made a psaltery for WB Yeats, to ask if he would make a lute for him. Dolmetsch wrote to say that a lute was out of the question but offered a harpsichord for thirty to sixty pounds if Joyce wanted one!

As Joyce informed Gogarty early in June, his plan was to go on tour with this lute in the south of England in July and August, singing old English songs. While he was in Oxford, Gogarty had copied out Elizabethan lyrics and sent them on to Joyce. Joyce included the lyrics of a song for the lute by Henry VIII to Nora at the end of July, but his plan for a lute-playing tour came to nothing, and he continued looking for singing engagements in Dublin.

Joyce refers to ‘My love she was born in the North Countree’ in Stephen Hero where Emma Cleary asks Stephen to sing. First he sings a song by Dowland and, when she asks him to sing an Irish song, Stephen sings ‘My love she was born in the North Countree.’ Emma tells Stephen she likes the Irish music because it’s so soul-stirring.

Zack Bowen, writing on musical allusions in Joyce, said he wasn’t able to find this song, though the song ‘My love she was born in the North country wide’ appears in Petrie’s Collection of Irish Music. There are several versions of melodies and songs called ‘The Coolin’ or ‘The Coulin’ any one of which might have been the one Joyce sang at the concert on 22 August 1904.


Sources & Further Reading:

Bowen, Zack: Musical Allusions in the Works of James Joyce – Early Poetry Through Ulysses, Albany: State University of New York Press & Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1975.

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Joyce, James: Stephen Hero, edited by Theodore Spencer, John J Slocum, & Herbert Cahoon, New York: New Directions Publishing, 1963.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.