The Cap and Bells: William Butler Yeats in Estonian music

Still from "The Cap and Bells" by director Carlos Lesmes. (Avarus Music)
10/14/2016 3:50 PM
Category: Culture

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Eastern Rising in Ireland, a group of Estonian artists decided to make a piece of Irish culture the centre of their efforts this year. Their project, "The Cap and Bells", is the third great effort to bring the work of W. B. Yeats closer to an Estonian audience, and a voyage through Yeats' poetry as well as contemporary music, dance, and film.

Over the time of the project, Irish, Colombian, and Finnish artists joined up. Their work has produced seven new pieces of music so far, as well as a short film of music and dance by director Carlos Lesmes.

At the center: The Cap and Bells by W. B. Yeats

Composer Mingo Rajandi has been working on the musical setting of William Butler Yeats’ “The Cap and Bells” since the commission of an initial piece for the 2015 Nargen Festival. Rajandi is an acclaimed contemporary musician and composer, and has been working on the project in cooperation with Irish colleagues. All the music that the project now involves is brand new, with compositions by Rajandi, Irish composer Séan Mac Erlaine, and Estonian contemporary composers Margo Kõlar and Kirke Karja.

Both the Irish and Estonian culture have an extraordinarily rich musical heritage. The unique trait they have in common is that this heritage has never left everyday life, but stayed with the people, where it is still felt and celebrated today. This point that the two countries have in common is where the project is building a bridge: Yeats speaks to Estonians. There is a common theme, a common emotion.

Featured: Shane O'Reilly of Dublin's Abbey Theatre

Irish and Estonian artists are collaborating for “The Cap and Bells”, and their efforts have been supported by both Irish and Estonian cultural programs. Now they are working on getting the project ready for its initial performance.

The project involves a number of Irish and Estonian artists. On the Irish side, composer Séan Mac Erlaine and actor Shane O’Reilly of Dublin’s world-famous Abbey Theatre are taking part. They will also participate in the film premiere and concert, taking place on November 3, 19:00 in Hopner House, Tallinn.

Performing at the concert is also the Avarus Ensemble, with composer and bassist Mingo Rajandi and guitarist Virgo Sillamaa working on the Estonian end, along with singer Kadri Voorand, Mari-Liis Vihermäe (flute), Meelis Vind (bass clarinet), Raun Juurikas (keyboards and piano), Egert Leinsaar (violin), and Villu Vihermäe (cello).

The project has involved both Irish and Estonian cultural endowments, and has been supported by the Embassy of Ireland in Tallinn as well, who are also contributing to the premiere event. “The Cap and Bells” is the third major effort surrounding the work of William Butler Yeats in Estonia, after the publication of his poems in 1991 in the now famous White Book, and an international cooperation on the Yeats Calendar in more recent years.

With its bringing together music, poetry, dance, and film, the project is a unique bridge between two cultures, in its making involving artists from Estonia, Ireland, Colombia, and Finland. But it is also extraordinary for its attempt to transcend stereotypes.

Culture beyond national stereotypes

As composer Séan Mac Erlaine puts it, “The Cap and Bells” goes beyond the way Irish culture is typically presented around the world, offering a chance for the artists involved to communicate these themes in a personal way, honest to their own experiences, and avoid directly conveying ideals of a nation, whether Estonian or Irish.

Behind the project is Avarus, a boutique agency based in Tallinn. The exchange taking place with “The Cap and Bells” is only the beginning, Avarus will arrange similar exchanges and events in the future. Up next, Carlos Lesmes’ short film will figure as an entry in short film as well as music and dance film festivals around Europe.

Watch the teaser here:

The Cap and Bells - teaser from Virgo Sillamaa on Vimeo.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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