Eleanor McEvoy, one of the definitive Irish voices of this generation, has released a new album to pay homage to Thomas Moore, one of Ireland’s most celebrated poets
Eleanor McEvoy, whose contribution to A Woman’s Heart celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, has produced and arranged an album to honour the 18th/19th century entertainer Thomas Moore.
Moore was a poet, singer, songwriter and entertainer, and a most colourful Georgian character, infamous for being a party to the burning of Lord Byron’s memoirs after his death.
Making his work accessible to a 21st Century audience, The Thomas Moore Project celebrates and revitalises some of the lesser and, indeed, well known material by the great man, such as Oft In The Stilly Night, The Minstrel Boy and The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls.
Moore’s interesting relationship with Lord Byron first started when he challenged editor Francis Jeffrey to a duel after a critical review of his work.
The duel was interrupted by the arrival of the police who arrested both parties, but rumours began to emerge that Jeffrey had been handed an empty pistol and it led to much mocking of Moore.
Lord Byron joined in the hearsay and referring to Moore’s ‘leadless pistol’ said that ‘on examination the balls of the pistols, like the courage of the combatants, were found to have evaporated’.
The public criticism angered Moore and he sent a letter to Byron to hint that unless the remarks were clarified Moore was prepared to fight Byron, but when the pair eventually met the dispute was settled and they became close friends.
Some years later Moore travelled Europe and briefly spent time with Byron in Venice where he was given instructions to publish his memoirs after his death.
It was to be their last meeting, and Moore was later criticised, along with Scottish publisher John Murray, for listening to Byron’s family’s wishes for the memoirs to be burnt because of its damningly honest content.
He did however later edit and publish Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, with Notices Of His Life in 1830, six years after Byron’s death in Greece.
“The Thomas Moore Project is the first significant step in my long journey to discover the wonderful songs and extraordinary life of Thomas Moore,” says Eleanor.
“I’m not sure when I began my intriguing quest but I do remember singing Thomas Moore songs in a choir when I was around nine years of age.
“My fascination is not just with his music but also with his own place in history in a fantastic artistic period with contrasting a social and political upheaval in Europe and Ireland. My journey continues. I hope you will enjoy this and join me.
“My approach is maybe different; I needed to go further than just pay homage, so my arrangements for this choice of eleven songs are, I think, contemporary.”
Eleanor performs vocals, guitars, strings and keyboards on the album and recruited an impressive backing band behind her including Damon Butcher from The Beautiful South on keyboards.
She has also drafted in Eamonn Nolan from The RTE Concert Orchestra on flugelhorn, Eoghan O‘Neill from Moving Hearts, Chris Rea and Riverdance on bass and Guy Rickerby from Riverdance, Duke Special and The RTE Concert Orchestra on drums and percussion.
Now based in Wexford, Dublin-born McEvoy’s career originally started as a session musician, which included a long stint with The Irish National Symphony Orchestra and with The Mary Black Band, McEvoy decided to develop her own career, and quickly had the title track on The Woman’s Heart compilation and a U.S. record deal with Geffen Records.
McEvoy was soon touring the world to promote her eponymous debut album for Geffen, which went on to sell 250,000 copies. At the same time, A Woman’s Heart entered the Irish charts, selling over 750,000 copies – and remains one of Ireland’s biggest selling albums of all-time..
Earlier this year Eleanor released her other project of 2017, which was a collaboration with artist Chris Gollon.
The pair first teamed up after he was commissioned to produce an album cover for her, but after seeing his depiction of ‘extraordinary’ women Eleanor was inspired by pieces of his art she had purchased for her own personal collection.
She wrote her own songs based on his works, and decided to make it a bigger project for her Naked album which featured some of her biggest hits, stripped down in an acoustic version.
“It was extraordinary really. It was an unusual thing for me to do with Naked music anyway to get a painter to do the cover. But I love his work, I had bought one of his paintings and I don’t know what it was,” she told the Irish World in April.
“I felt most women in pictures and in magazines are all perfect. They’re all models and airbrushed.
“His paintings aren’t like that, they are women who are slightly older and flawed and all have these freakishly big hands, but yet they’re very compelling and beautiful in some level.
“I have done a stripped down acoustic version of my songs before as an album, but it wasn’t decided upon. Someone just recorded me in rehearsals and sent it to the record company and that decision was made for me,” she says.
“And it was all my hits like Sophie and A Woman’s Heart that everyone knows. This time around I wanted to plan it and orchestrate it myself.
“It’s my lesser-known songs and it’s just me. Very raw, it was recorded live in a studio, but planned. I really like it.”
After a successful European tour, Eleanor is bringing her last UK performance of Naked… Live to London later this month, as she performs at the Islington Proms at St James’ Church on 23 September.