Motherland: Songs of 20th century Women
Edel Murphy

Motherland: Songs of 20th century Women

Songs and poems chronicling the  experiences of women in the 20th century will take centre stage at ‘Motherland – Songs of 20th Century Women’ in The Civic Theatre tomorrow, Friday, September 23.

The show will feature a variety of songs from legendary musicians, including Joan Baez, Nina Simone and Kate Bush, performed by Lucan singer Edel Murphy and Knocklyon musician and producer Ewan Cowley.

Edel, who is a past pupil of St Joseph’s College, has previously performed as part of Celtic Woman and Riverdance, while Ewan’s live and studio credits include Kodaline, Imelda May and Moya Brennan.

The two musicians met when they were touring the US as part of Celtic Woman, and they have gone on to form a musical partnership that has seen them release an EP and devise ‘Motherland’.

Edel told The Echo about how she has always been a singer for as long as she can remember, why she draws so much inspiration from the songs of 20th century women, and what the audience can expect from her performance.

Did you always want to be a musician?

It’s a funny one, because music is something I always enjoyed but it wasn’t something I thought I’d do professionally.

But I trained as an actor in DIT, and after that a lot of the shows I got ended up with me singing.

I was also teaching music and I was in choirs, and then I got the job with Celtic Woman, so it all fell into place.

Can you remember what your first performance as a singer was like?

It’s hard to pinpoint, because singing is something I’ve always done.

But the first time being a singer felt really real to me was the first time I stepped on stage with Celtic Woman. And then after that, I moved on to being a soloist in Riverdance.

How did your musical partnership with Ewan Cowley come about?

I met Ewan when we were in Celtic Woman, and we started working together when we realised we loved a lot of the same singers.

We basically lived on a tour bus in the States for a few months when we were touring with Celtic Woman, so we’d sit and talk and that was when we realised we loved a lot of the same singers, like Nanci Griffith and Leonard Cohen.

We also discovered that our voices blended well together, so we did an EP when we were on the road.

Where did the idea for ‘Motherland’ come from?

We came up with it in 2018, I think.

We met in a coffee shop in Dublin, and came up with this idea of performing female stories and songs from female musicians, because we had a personal interest in it. I’ve always been quite passionate about women’s issues, so telling these women’s stories was a really exciting concept.

We did our first performance of ‘Motherland’ in Bewley’s in 2019, and the rest is history.

Now we’ve just been working away on it, introducing new pieces and imagery.

What do you find so inspiring about songs written by women in the 20th century?

The songs are about the journey of women from the Dust Bowl to the 20th century.

We hear so much in history about men during that time, about what they did during the war, but you don’t hear about the experiences of women during that time as much.

I think it’s interesting to look at history through the eyes of women, through these songs and poems.

These are stories that everyone can relate to, that are about love, loss, heartbreak and loneliness.

‘Motherland’ switches between spoken word pieces and songs, do you find that this creates a sense of intimacy at your shows?

There’s a balance to be struck. It’s less about creating a sense of intimacy, and more about giving the audience space to breathe.

It’s more of a theatrical experience with the spoken word and poetry pieces.

The poetry is very well chosen to highlight the songs that follow it.

Your performance at the Civic will be your first time in front of an audience since the pandemic began. How do you feel about it?

It’s very exciting. Things like livestreams are a totally different kettle of fish. But when you’re in a room with an audience, there’s a buzz there and you feed off it.

I’m going to really enjoy seeing people again and seeing people engage with us again.

And you can tell if something does or doesn’t work straight away – but we’ve gotten really positive feedback.

Having an audience there gives you the energy to keep going.

What can the audience expect from ‘Motherland’?

Hopefully we’ll entertain them! The arrangements that have been made by Ewan are phenomenal. There’s a huge variety of music – it’s colorful, it’s happy, but it’s also sad at times. We want to take the audience on a journey with us and we hope that they’ll connect to the songs the same way we do.

‘Motherland – Songs of 20th Century Women’ performed by Edel Murphy and a live band will take place in the Civic Theatre tomorrow, Friday, September 24, at 8pm.

Tickets are available at for €22, or concession tickets are available for €19.

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