The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin – “Goldenhair”

Jocelyn is delighted to be one of 36 composers from around the world to be commissioned by The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin to compose musical settings of the “Chamber Music” poems by James Joyce, celebrating the unique connection between the University and James Joyce. “Goldenhair” was recently composed for SATB choir, violin, and cello, with a world premiere date to be determined in Dublin.


James Joyce is still the greatest dead white male who ever lived



Lean out of the window,


I hear you singing

A merry air.

My book was closed,

I read no more,

Watching the fire dance

On the floor.

I have left my book,

I have left my room,

For I heard you singing

Through the gloom.

Singing and singing

A merry air,

Lean out of the window,



James Joyce, a graduate of University College Dublin, is considered one of the fathers of modern literature for his creative brilliance. Joyce was also an accomplished tenor, having won a bronze medal for solo singing in 1904 at the Dublin Feis Ceoil competition. According to a review of the competition in the Irish Daily Independent on 17 May 1904, ‘Mr. Joyce showed himself possessed of the finest quality voice of any of those competing’. 


Joyce wrote a letter to his brother expressing the hope that his collection, Chamber Music (1907) would one day be set to music: ‘The book is in fact a suite of songs and if I were a musician I suppose I should have set them to music myself’. Joyce also expressed the hope to his brother that ‘someone will do so, someone that knows old English music, as I like’, and as a singer, perhaps he even had a choral ensemble in mind.


To mark the twentieth season of Choral Scholars in 2018-2019, the Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds set the Joyce poem “My Love is in a Light Attire” for choir and violoncello, funded by matched-funding donations provided by private supporters of the choir and the university. Esenvalds often divides his choir into multiple parts allowing for deliciously rich textures that almost overwhelm the audience. In setting poem VII from ‘Chamber Music’ he chooses a less complex approach which allows him to reflects the innocence of the imagery presented by Joyce: ‘My love goes slowly, bending to/Her shadow on the grass.’ The result is essentially a love-song filled with nostalgic longing. 


Posted on

July 10, 2022

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