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Chamber Music - James Joyce

James Joyce, a graduate of University College Dublin, is considered one of
the fathers of modern literature for his creative brilliance. Joyce was also an accomplished tenor, having won a bronze medal for solo singing in 1904 at the Dublin Feis Ceoil competition. According to a review of the competition in the Irish Daily Independent on 17 May 1904, ‘Mr. Joyce showed himself possessed of the finest quality voice of any of those competing’.

Joyce wrote a letter to his brother expressing the hope that his collection, Chamber Music (1907) would one day be set to music: ‘The book is in fact a suite of songs and if I were a musician I suppose I should have set them to music myself’. Joyce also expressed the hope to his brother that ‘someone will do so, someone that knows old English music, as I like’, and as a singer, perhaps he even had a choral ensemble in mind.

To mark the twentieth season of Choral Scholars in 2018-2019, the Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds set the Joyce poem My Love is in a Light Attire for choir and violoncello, funded by matched-funding donations provided by private supporters of the choir and the university. Esenvalds often divides his choir into multiple parts allowing for deliciously rich textures that almost overwhelm the audience. In setting poem VII from ‘Chamber Music’ he chooses a less complex approach which allows him to reflects the innocence of the imagery presented by Joyce: ‘My love goes slowly, bending to/Her shadow on the grass.’ The result is essentially a love-song filled with nostalgic longing.

To celebrate the unique connection that University College Dublin has with James Joyce, the Artistic Director of Choral Scholars, Desmond Earley, wishes to curate and commission the setting for choir of the entire collection of thirty-six poems comprising Chamber Music, each by a different composer from around the world.

If you share our passion for excellence and wish to be part of our journey through the poetry of James Joyce, and bring new choral music to life, contact Desmond Earley, Artistic Director at


Chamber Music

O, it was out by Donnycarney
When the bat flew from tree to tree

My love and I did walk together;
And sweet were the words she said to me.

Along with us the summer wind    Went murmuring—O, happily!—

But softer than the breath of summer Was the kiss she gave to me.

                                   James Joyce

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