In 2008, I bought a book of poetry by W.B. Yeats for two dollars. It was possibly the best two dollars I’ve ever spent. On Saturday Mar. 16, after a five year voyage of inspiration fueled by Yeats’ beautiful words, I’ll be unveiling the music of The Yeats Project in its entirety at the Music Gallery in Toronto. Click here to buy tickets.
The Story of The Yeats Project:
In September of 1999, I strapped on a backpack and hopped onto a trans-Atlantic flight whose destination was Shannon, Ireland. After spending a year rambling around that indescribably alluring country, I reluctantly returned home to Canada with an idea that I wanted to continue my post-secondary studies in jazz music. Nine years and an undergrad degree in jazz performance later, on a sunny spring day, I was wandering around a bookstore and a poem on the back of a book caught my eye. The poem was called “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by W.B Yeats. It had me at the first line and two dollars later I was all in. A short time later I had the privilege of attending the Banff International Workshop for Jazz and Creative Music under the direction of Dave Douglas. The workshop impressed upon me the importance of composing, so in my little practice cabin in the woods I found the book of poems in my bag… and began. A few years later I had the opportunity to study composition privately with Andrew Downing. I brought a few of these song shells that had been conceived in Banff to the lessons and, at his encouragement, set out to arrange them for a unique nine-piece instrumentation that I had never previously explored writing for. I ended up choosing ten poems to set the music to. And now, after a long waiting, these poems are about to be performed by an ensemble comprised of wonderful musicians that I’m honoured to share the stage with. Performing the music on St. Patrick’s Day weekend is the best I can do to honour the time I spent in Ireland and how that experience shaped my heart and my future.
I’ll sign off today with this Yeats gem:
I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.