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James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’ has been interpreted in song by Irish folk music act ‘Hibsen’

Unique Dublin concert promises to be a highlight of this year’s Bloomsday Festival

Gráinne Hunt and Jim Murphy of Irish folk music act Hibsen. The duo have created a new album called ‘The Stern Task of Living’ inspired by the 15 short stories from James Joyce’s Dubliners. Image: Marc O'Sullivan

Immerse yourself in a vibrant evening of music, literature and song in homage to Irish writer, James Joyce, at the ‘Hibsen’ concert in Dublin this June, during the annual Bloomsday Festival.

This unique 15-song show based on Joyce's iconic short story collection, Dubliners, is an original artistic collaboration between Irish folk music artists, Gráinne Hunt and Jim Murphy.

Presented in Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre on the banks of the river Liffey for two nights only, June 9th & 10th, audiences are invited to immerse themselves in these captivating, original songs inspired by the 15 short stories of Joyce’s seminal novel.

Performed by an ensemble of 10 musicians, including string quartet Musici, with guided readings from renowned Irish Times journalist Frank McNally, this Bloomsday Festival show premieres Hibsen’s album, ‘The Stern Task of Living’, due for release on May 26th 2023. Each song on the album, which follows the sequence of stories in Joyce’s Dubliners, is named after the story upon which it is based.

Hibsen are named in reference to the lasting influence Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen had on Joyce. The artistic folk duo formed during the Covid-19 pandemic after musicians Gráinne Hunt and Jim Murphy were paired together at an online song-writing workshop in November 2020. Despite the challenges of not having met before and of collaborating remotely, Gráinne and Jim clicked immediately and within a couple of days they had written Araby.

Irish folk music act Hibsen. Image: Marc O'Sullivan

Speaking ahead of their Smock Alley concert, roots musician, Jim, (who was born in Zambia and grew up in Limerick and Cork before moving to Dublin to work in actuary) has been focusing on music full time since 2014. He commented on how this creative project has been two years in the making:

“Out of the challenges posed by lockdown restrictions, an inspiring collaboration was born. I connected with Grainne, who is a renowned Irish folk singer, in November 2020, and we wrote our first song Araby over a Zoom session. We realised that this project had wider potential to turn James Joyce's 15 short stories into an extraordinary show! Our idea received support from The Arts Council which provided us funding for its further development.”

Grainne, who is originally from Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan but now lives in Kilcock, Co. Kildare, is a rising figure in the Irish folk scene who has shared stages with artists including U2 and Glen Hansard. She performs lead vocals on the album she co-wrote with Jim and said the upcoming concert offers a wonderful introduction to those who may not be familiar with Joyce’s work:

“After months of preparation and anticipation we’re delighted to present this performance to Irish audiences - a show that promises something for everyone – from Joyce fans to folk-lovers. Even if you're not familiar with the novel 'Dubliners', Frank McNally will be on hand throughout the evening - reciting selected passages at various points during the performance. Each song is named after the story upon which it is based. To top it off, some incredible musicians join us as accompaniment, ensuring an inspiring evening all round.”

‘Dubliners’ is a collection of fifteen short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. It presents a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century.

Hibsen will perform at Smock Alley Theatre, Friday, June 9th and Saturday June 10th. Tickets are €20 (concession €18) and are available here. The accompanying album ‘The Stern Task of Living’ will be available on all streaming platforms from 26th May.

This Hibsen concert has been kindly sponsored by Irish Life and Aviva Ireland.

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