Bloomsday on Saint Stephen's Day
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
As 2018 came to a close, the Bloomsday Society in Madrid saved the best till last with some fantastic readings on the night in both Spanish and English.
It was St Stephen's Day but there was no sign of Mr Dedalus on the night with neither readings from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man nor Ulysses.
The Saint Stephen's Day readings focused on The Dead and mixed beautifully between the two languages with Damian Gallagher reading texts in both languages and Bill Dixon entertaining us in song between his long eloquent readings which I imagine is a very difficult thing to do.
Squeezing from one reading to the next, he barely had time to catch his breath before picking up an accordion which according to him, is something he hasn't played much of in a while.
Joining him singing and performing, Chris Dove had a tin whistle and explained beautifully in Spanish the background to the type of music being played to accompany the texts.
In the text that I was reading, I knew I had difficulty pronouncing the word Quadrilles which is an alien word to me and difficult to pronounce especially in Spain where you might expect the double l to give a j sound like Quadrijes.
Hoping that no one would pick up on my poor pronunciation of the word, both Bill Dixon and Chris explained what a quadrille is and played music that would have gone with a quadrille. Ooops.
A quadrille is a type of dance usually with four couples hence the Quad in quadrille which was popular in the past in the late 18th- and 19th-century and is related to square dancing in America.
There was no room in the inn, well almost but the beautiful El Ateneo theatre was fortunately able to accommodate us upstairs when they realised the numbers coming on the night.
40 to 50 people took to their seats for the Spanish/Irish performance which started punctually considering the change of room and for once I followed the readings as well in Spanish as I did in English.
It is after all a difficult text to follow in English and some advice that I have heard given about understanding Joyce is not so much to read it but to read it out loud and listen to the music.
Of course, with the Bloomsday Society in Madrid, there is always music and the difficulty for Bill Dixon was remembering to jump up and pick up his accordion as the large group clapped continuously for his wonderful readings that brought life to The Dead.
Feliz Navidad a todos y un Prospero Año Nuevo,
Happy Christmas Everyone and a Happy New Year
UNESCO City of Literature