Stars align in New York to celebrate WB Yeats

Things fall apart, wrote Yeats, but they also come together, as they did in Manhattan on Monday night, when a thousand guests attended a celebration of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Stars align in New York to celebrate WB Yeats

Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City fame, and actor husband Matthew Broderick took to the stage at New York’s Town Hall to host the first international celebrations as part of Yeats 2015. The gala was also a fundraiser for the Irish Repertory Theatre, now in its 27th year.

WB Yeats

“We’re always so impressed by this tiny theatre producing such big story-telling,” Parker said.

The couple have a house in Donegal and love spending time there, travelling over most summers. “It always feels like a place that is private to us,” she said.

Yeats wanted his poetry to be “spoken on a stage or sung”, and Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly of the Irish Repertory Theatre paid heed. Other performers partaking in the evening of poetry, song, and dance included Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis, who performed Come Gather Round Me, Parnellites, which she called “a very rousing poem”.

John Slattery of Mad Men and actor Peter Gallagher also performed, proclaiming their Irish heritage on the red carpet beforehand.

“It’s always good to be at an Irish gathering,” said Gallagher. Broadway stars Ciarán Sheehan and Melissa Errico also sang poems set to music.

The award-winning Irish author Colum McCann was attempting to recite An Irish Airman Foresees His Death by heart.

“Culture is such a force for us,” he said. “It’s what binds us together, in Australia or London or wherever. We have this ability to access these great poems and songs, many of which come from Yeats.”

McCann also made reference to Ireland’s marriage equality referendum.

“As a senator in the 1920s, Yeats said that a specifically Catholic Ireland would be dangerous, knocking the country back by 50 years, and he was right. Imagine him coming forward to this day and looking at what we did last month; I think he’d be quite happy.”

The evening ended with a recitation of The Lake Isle of Innisfree by Yeats’ granddaughter Caitríona Yeats, a concert harpist, who had come from Denmark via Dublin, returning to Sligo for more festivities this weekend.

More than a few audience members joined in, dreaming of lake water lapping as they emerged to grey pavements. An after-party at New York’s Bryant Park Grill offered consolation, spiritual or otherwise.

READ MORE: Great music in great houses for the great WB Yeats

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