- 09 Feb 23
The Cork musician composed his own music to accompany the words of Behan’s poignant poem about the life and death of Oscar Wilde.
Irish singer-songwriter Jack O’Rourke has released an emotional video for his new single ‘Oscar’, a folk rendition that gives new life to Irish writer Brendan Behan’s poem about the tragic death of Oscar Wilde.
The Irish folk artist composed music to Behan’s ‘Oscar’, which captures the final days of the internationally celebrated Irish writing icon. The poem was written in Irish and later translated into English by Irish writer Ulik O’Connor.
The music video for ‘Oscar’ was filmed by Bob Gallagher at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, where O’Rourke had an artistic residency in July 2022. O’Rourke’s choice to release the new single and video now was no coincidence, as this week marks the centenary of Behan’s birth on February 9, 1923.
O’Rourke found that Behan and Wilde shared many links including sexuality and finding a safe haven in a more liberated environment than Ireland during their time. “I also wished to show another side of Behan, the poet. I love his humour but beyond the wit, and roguishness, is this beautiful vulnerability,” O’Rourke said in a statement. “He must have felt a kinship with Wilde when he finished the poem with, ‘my life on you Oscar boy, yourself had it both ways’.”
The singer continued, “In a way, I can relate… I think all of us can to life’s vicissitudes, the glories and falls from grace Behan describes.”
— Jack O Rourke (@JackORourkes) February 8, 2023
The video showcases O’Rourke’s powerful vocal belts and piano skills while accompanied by Conor Caldwell’s soothing performance on the fiddle. O’Rourke is also accompanied on the track with Aisling Fitzpatrick on cello and Gallagher on vocal harmonies.
Behan, who was named by IrishCentral as one of the greatest Irish writers of all time, was a prolific poet, novelist and playwright born in Dublin, where he also died in 1964.
'Oscar' is O'Rourke's first release from a song cycle he composed during his artistic residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, and the artist is currently working on a show to bring these songs to the stage. The acclaimed musician will be performing on March 29 at the National Concert Hall, where he will perform a tribute to Irish singer Phil Lynott with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. You can purchase tickets for the show online here.
Watch the video for ‘Oscar’ below.
Words of Brendan Behan’s original poem about Oscar Wilde, translated by Ulick O’Connor:
That body once lively
Dumb in the darkness
Quiet, but for candles
Blazing beside him,
His elegant form
and firm gaze exhausted.
Exiled now from the cafes
To sanctity's desert
The young prince of Sin
Broken and withered.
Lust left behind him
Gem without lustre
No whiskey for a stiffner
But cold holy water.
The young king of Beauty
But the pure star of Mary
As a gleam on the ocean.
Sweet is the way of the sinner,
Sad, death without God's praise.
My life on you, Oscar boy,
Yourself had it both ways.
- Film & TV
- 26 Sep 23