1916 musical debuts on PBS

By Irish Echo Staff

“The Bloody Irish! Songs of the 1916 Rising” will have its world premiere on PBS stations this Saturday (check local listings).

The new musical stage drama was filmed exclusively for PBS in Ireland. Based on the events of the Rising, which began on Easter Monday, 1916, “The Bloody Irish! opens with a little girl hauntingly singing the melody of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" as, one by one, shots are fired and each of the seven blindfolded and condemned signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic fall to the ground.

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The program will have new compositions alongside arrangements of classic Irish rebel songs. “With drama, humor, laughter, pathos and pride,” the advance program notes say, “’The Bloody Irish’ brings to life the human story of some of the key individuals behind Ireland's most famous week in history.

“The Dublin Easter Rising of 1916 changed Ireland and the Irish forever. Led by Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, Irish men and women rose up against 300 years of British rule in an armed rebellion that found inspiring expression in the songs that fueled their desire for freedom and their need to sing and dance to their own tune,” the notes continue. “After holding out against the might of the British Army for a bloody, turbulent week, the Irish lost the battle. And though the leaders faced the firing squad, the ideas and ideals they died for lit a fire that saw Ireland win freedom within five years.”

The music is arranged and composed by David Downes, renowned for his work with Riverdance and Celtic Woman productions. In addition to "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," The Bloody Irish!” includes some of Ireland's best-known songs, such as "Or Se De Bheatha Abhaile," "Monto," "Mo Ghile Mear," "All Around My Hat," "The Minstrel Boy," "The Foggy Dew" and many more.

Written by musician and writer Barry Devlin, produced by Ned O'Hanlon and directed by Michael Barker Caven, the production has a cast of 23 Irish actors and singers including Lorcan Cranitch, Gavin O'Connor, Lisa Lambe, Ruth McGill, along with leading British actor Malcolm Sinclair, in the role of Sir John Grenfell Maxwell.

Beginning in the first quarter of 2016, “The Bloody Irish! Songs of the 1916 Rising” will launch a touring stage show in theatres and performing arts centers throughout North America to coincide with centenary celebrations of the 1916 Rising, before its journey home to Ireland later in the year.

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