Ireland's Sean Tyrrell Brings 'Message Of Peace' To Chatham Meetinghouse

By: Debra Lawless

Sean Tyrrell. COURTESY PHOTO

Irish music with a dash of Irish history is coming to the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House in Chatham on Oct. 12 when the highly-acclaimed Irish folk singer/songwriter Sean Tyrrell performs “Message of Peace: The Life of John Boyle O’Reilly in Song and Story.”

“The show consists of a range of songs drawn from many sources—poets whose work I have set to music and songwriters,” Tyrrell said in an email last week, “ranging from Oscar Wilde, Bobby Sands, Francis Ledwidge and, of course, the hero of the piece, John Boyle O’Reilly, whose poem ‘The Message of Peace’ gives the show its title.” Tyrrell will weave in some Bob Dylan and two 19th century Irish songwriters, Samuel Lover and Charles Lever. “I found the lyrics of both of these in a poetry book called ‘1,000 Years of Irish Poetry.’ I reset them to music.”

Although Tyrrell, who lives in the Burren on the west coast of Ireland’s County Clare, has performed all over Massachusetts and in many Cape Cod towns, this will be his premier performance in Chatham. He performed twice in the home of Dinah Mellin who runs a monthly music series called Brick Hill House Concerts in her home in Orleans.

Tyrrell loves the Cape’s audiences. “From my past experience I have to say they have been wonderful and what has been most encouraging to me is that a big percentage of the audience did not have any connection with Ireland but were there for the music regardless of origin,” he says.

For a time in the late 1960s and 1970s, Tyrrell lived in California, recording his first album with his band “Apples in Winter” in 1974. In San Francisco he launched a solo career where he “rubbed shoulders with some of the greats of the folk scene.” Eventually he returned to Ireland.

“Message of Peace” is a double CD that Tyrrell launched at the Galway Arts Festival 2009 and has toured Ireland performing.

Many may be unfamiliar with Tyrrell’s inspiration, O’Reilly (1844-1890). In 1866 he was arrested as a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and sent to a penal colony in western Australia. He escaped from there and, while living in Boston, pursued a career as a journalist and poet. A friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mark Twain, he championed rights for Native Americans and African Americans and spoke against anti-Semitism. His poems seem as meaningful today as they did when he wrote them in the 19th century.

“Message of Peace” is “a wonderful story that has to do with human rights,” Mellin says. Its theme is the fight for human rights throughout history.

Tyrrell will accompany himself on a four-string mandocello, a plucked string instrument in the mandolin family.

Mellin first met Tyrrell about five years ago. “He’s an older guy, been around the world. He’s so laid back,” she says. “He emits this worldliness, this wisdom.” A PowerPoint will be shown as Tyrrell performs.

Tyrrell will perform “Message of Peace” on Thursday, Oct. 12 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, 819 Main St. A suggested donation of $20 will be collected at the door. For more information call Mellin at 508-255-3864.