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“I never could love treachery, nor act or word could salvage me”

It’s impossible to see the title of Elle O’Brien’s presentation and not be immediately interested. As she nervously strummed the chords of her guitar, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was going to burst into song. Surprisingly, Elle is a math major, yet she managed to do an exceptional job capturing the spirit of Irish music and story-telling, two of her goals in writing her presentation. Elle recently went on a trip to Ireland with Dr. Cozzens.

To mine and the audience’s great delight, Elle did indeed burst into a song, starting with one entitled “Treachery” which was inspired by Michael O’Brien and the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh. I was very much impressed with the fact that Elle wrote all of the songs in her presentation herself. Although she stopped in between songs to explain her reasoning and background, the presentation was very much a musical one. Next, she sang a song she calls “Erin, I Will Bring the Storm.” It was inspired by the Easter Rising of 1916 which was ultimately a failed rebellion, but where the execution of the martyrs was able to inspire the Irish to fight against their oppressors. Elle felt their identities had almost been lost in the cause. She wanted to write a song that gave more importance to who they were as people. This song considers the “human implications of organizing the uprising”, as a “first person reflection on the preceding night.”

The next song, “The Ring I Bore” was based on the story of Grace Plunkett who married one of the martyrs just before he was executed. Elle wanted to explore the story from the angle of someone who was fighting a cause and wondering what more she could do. She wonders how “the widow of an Easter Rising [could] martyr reclaim her life”, singing, “He never was just a man, his ring I bore.”

The final song, entitled “The Sacred Cease” was inspired by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory’s regular visits to salons at Coole Park. It reflects both the “widespread and personal implications of the Easter Rising”. Elle sings of the more personal effects on the times that the Easter Rising had on Ireland, how people began to realize that their way of life was changing. Elle manages to use her voice to change mere words into a very lonely and poignant moment. I assure you that there wasn’t a dry eye left in the room by the end.

If you’d like to hear her music, her website is ashlingobrien.wordpress.com.