A Soldiers’ Song

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Theatre Royal, Wexford

The first time I came to Wexford was in 2005, the last season in the Theatre Royal before the new opera house was built. The Theatre Royal had been a cinema. It had a narrow auditorium with a balcony reached by a narrow staircase.

We ordered interval drinks and the volunteer staff were diligent in asking if we were sitting up or down so that the drinks would be in the right place. Through some malignant quirk of fate all the drinks were transposed so that everyone in the stalls had to make their way up to the balcony and vice versa. It was a splendid introduction to Wexford’s special charm.

Bernard Levin’s impressions written in 1979 are very well worth reading – in fact you must – and they are HERE.

In the old theatre the stage was tiny and the orchestra had to take their places before the audience were seated. The conductor arrived down the stalls aisle. Before every performance the orchestra play the National Anthem and the audience accompany them in Gaelic. Befitting a nation that had to fight for independence, its English title is A Soldiers’ Song. If you’d like to say it in Irish, have a go – Amhrán na bhFiann”.

Soldiers are we,
whose lives are pledged to Ireland,
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave,
Sworn to be free,
no more our ancient sireland,
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the “bearna baoil”,
In Erin’s cause, come woe or weal,
’Mid cannon’s roar and rifles’ peal,
We’ll chant a soldier’s song
.

(“Bearna baoil” is Irish for “gap of danger”.)

This evening (Sunday) we are seeing Maria de Rudenz by Donizetti. It is a macabre melodrama with an implausible plot which I plan to ignore. I shall be concentrating on enjoying the music. But let’s have luncheon first.

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The Lobster Pot is only a step south of Wexford by car and is deservedly popular. The intimate dining room, painted dark green and with many pictures, reminded me of Cobby Knight’s  basement restaurant at Mullaghfin in Co Meath. There is one significant difference – the waiting staff at The Lobster Pot are a lot more competent than the Mullaghfin waiter (me).

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