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Dublin: 2 °C Thursday 17 January, 2019

'He was the One Direction of his day': These musicians want to resurrect the almost-forgotten Thomas Moore

Thanks to Moore, we have Irish songs and music that would have died with end of oral history.

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THOMAS MOORE MIGHT no longer be a household name in Ireland, but a group of Irish musicians wants to change that.

Once upon a time (well, just a few decades ago), Moore’s influence was more remembered than it is in some quarters today. A singer, poet, and songwriter, he also played a role in making sure many Irish traditional Irish songs were not forgotten.

And on top of that, the Aungier Street-born Moore  lived a pretty fascinating life – he spoke with an English accent (which he learned at school), and was one of the men responsible for burning Lord Byron’s memoirs. To mark his impact on Irish music, a bust of his likeness was erected on College Green.

Between 1808 and 1834, he published his series of Moore’s Memories, which included his Irish Melodies, like The Minstrel Boy, The Last Rose of Summer, and Oft in the Stilly Night.

Source: European American Vanguard/YouTube


Now a group calling themselves The Moorings – acclaimed musicians Simon Morgan, Karl Nesbitt, and Drazen Derek – have decided to pay tribute to Moore’s work, by resurrecting and reimagining it with the help of Eddi Reader, Martin Tourish, Lisa Lambe, Dave Fleming, Nigel Linden and The Key Notes.

They say they are treating their reimagining of his melodies with “beautiful simple arrangements interspersed with Salsa, Jazz, and Eastern European influences, reflecting a modern international Ireland”.

Simon Morgan explained more to

He’s not a household name and 30 years ago there was no question that he was,” says Morgan of Moore. “So it’s about resurrecting that.

He went on: “As a kid we’d all hear some songs but what tends to happen over the last 30 years is because it was always present, it was ubiquitous – people were almost sick of it. But actually he had 100 songs and was ever-present throughout our Irish folk history.”

“And also it’s very important that himself and a few other collectors at the end of the 18th and beginning of 19th century, they are the reason we have all these Irish traditional tunes,” he explained. “They wrote them down and popularised them. We do owe them a debt. We have thousands of tunes and a lot of it is thanks to these guys. It’s an oral tradition, and Moore was smart because he popularised them by putting words to them and making them songs – he was the One Direction of his day so to speak.”

He was a hero here and in England he was friends with Lord Byron and he used to hobnob with the top of society, and not in any patronising way – he was really respected. He was an amazing figure.

When Morgan was a child, he used to sing some of Moore’s songs. “But there were only 10 of them really known that were done in a classical way,” he says. “The likes of John McCormack recorded them in a particular way. Whereas actually he was originally a folk singer so they were much more songs of the people. He has these books, Moore’s Melodies, books with 2/300 songs in them. They really great songs with great lyrics – a lot of them aren’t recorded.”

Source: Ireland Calling/YouTube

What the team behind The Moorings didn’t want to do was treat Moore’s work like a museum exhibit. “You have to make it relevant to today,” says Morgan.

“Things tend to be treated a little like museum pieces but actually there was a reason why [his songs] were so successful at the time – because they were really good.”

He says the work is “not supposed to be too academic – it’s supposed to be entertaining, good songs that give emotion and bring you on a bit of a journey and that’s what we’re doing.”

It’s not going to be a fussy, stuffy kind of thing.

He points to Moore’s lyrics as a sign that his work wasn’t staid or boring – a song called Tis Sweet To Think is about how “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”, says Morgan. Moore was “much more down to earth” than you might think, he says.

The Moorings made that song into a “dirty jazz tune”, but at the gig they will keep a number of the songs stripped down, just with piano, as was intended.

“I have played a few to various people and that’s how I got the likes of Eddie Reader involved, says Morgan of the arrangements. “They see the merit in it and see how it’s relevant.”

There will be moments where they start a song and see where it brings them, but it won’t be a full-on jam – until the end of the night, when all of the musicians involved gather on stage to end the night’s performances together.

The Moorings are planning a series of gigs around the country, and release an album of Moore’s music.

“Anyone I play it to they are excited about it, and I guess for me because it’s been a labour of love about 10 years in the coming I’m just delighted it works,” says Morgan of the album.

“Whatever about the concept of modernisation something, it can sound like you’re trying too hard, but it’s really works naturally.”

Thomas Moore Reawakened will take place at the National Concert Hall, Dublin on 21 February 2018. For more details, visit the NCH website.

Read: Head shavings at gunpoint and sexual assaults – Violence against women during the Irish Revolution>

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