As a student of Anglo-Irish literature at Trinity College, Dublin, Claire found she had problems memorizing and learning the words of the poems written by W.B Yeats. Claire wondered if transforming them into songs would help her.
Later, Claire met the son of W.B. Yeats, who listened to samples of what she had arranged. He gave her permission to set more of his father's poetry to songs and music and record them.
Since then this CD of this work has sold many thousands of copies around the world, to many more people than fans of W.B. Yeats. It fact, this project and CD has brought more interest and more followers to the poems of W.B. Yeats
Describing this music project Claire explains, "My study was in literature more than music so I am out of the 'network' of classical or traditional harpists. I am not entirely 'folk' at all, and I am not 'pop' so I duck and dive between many styles."
Here are what others have said ...
Courtyard Concerts, Queensland, Australia, Nov 3rd 2004
by John Colville. Australian folk music artist and promoter
- so there we were all huddled up and slightly damp and bedraggled with the thunder and lightning going for it outside and Claire going for it inside.
It may not sound like the best circumstances for a concert but in fact it was a wonderful evening. It was a situation you just had to experience. Claire's attitude throughout was an inspiration and the raging storm was a perfect backdrop for her presentation, which everyone enjoyed immensely.
Claire, a true professional, rose to the occasion and rewarded those braving the elements with a moving, passionate and intimate performance.
National Concert Hall, Dublin,
by John Willmott, Celtic Ways.
As I write, here in Dublin, I have just left the most wonderful talented spellcasting concert I have ever witnessed.
It was a lunchtime concert, but unique. About 100 people were there plus a class of school children that popped in and thoroughly enjoyed it. With all those people and a large hall, Claire was totally acoustic, no PA, no mikes, no electrics but every note from her harps and voice were crystal clear, precise and very moving. The volume was perfect.
There were other professional harpists and other musicians in the audience and they were amazed at Claire's unplugged presentation and boldness in choice of music. There were also, young folk, elderly people who were brought to tears by the emotion of the music - and a rambler's club of very sturdy smiling seniors.
Claire's entrance was stunning. Wearing her beautiful signature red velvet vintage dress she floated down a period stairway and onto the stage where her two harps were waiting. She had her dramatic antique Erard peddle harp and traditional smaller Irish made Celtic Harp, which is what she plays on most of her recordings.
Her set started with Brian Boru's March, a popular favourite which Claire announced as the first music she ever played on harp. This was followed by the popular and beautiful Siuil, A Ruin that Claire sings with a unique vocal arrangement.
Continuing with tracks from her "The Lilt Of The Banshee" CD, Claire moved into "The Flower Of Maherally O" which she performed with more gentleness than on the CD - and it was wonderful to see the audience light up in response. A very beautiful version of "The Salley Gardens" followed.
On "Dancing In The Wind" Salley Gardens is instrumental, but the tenderness of Claire's vocal version for this concert brought a smile to every face. Also from "Dancing In The Wind", Claire followed with "He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven which caught the attention of many of the ladies in the audience.
The MP3 hit, Bi Iosa Im Chroise, Oh Jesus every moment, was an instant huge hit with this live audience too as it grabbed the second loudest applause.
Then Claire surprised me by performing my personal request, a song she rarely performs in public "Fields Of Fassaroe" which really came alive and caused the elder ladies of the audience to come and talk to me about it, after the concert, rather than Claire :-) They were astounded by the song's uniqueness, intimacy and originality, and by their own shock of enjoying this song that's outside their regular listening boundaries.
Another surprise followed that entertained the audience and showed Claire's dexterity. It caught me with my mouth open and forgetting to take pictures. Claire played both harps together with a melody of Claire's own "The Robin's Jaunt" tune with "The Lilting Banshee"
A moving "Planter's Daughter", also on "The Lilt Of The Banshee", was followed by "She Moved Through The Fair" which was performed without introduction.
Going back to "Planter's Daughter", Claire dedicated it to the poet Austin Clarke who wrote the words. With most songs, Claire told wonderful relaxing little stories that also included a dedication to each of the people who inspired and motivated her musical career along. The whole concert was like a biography, not of many words, but enough and very interesting.
Her words were part of Claire's very well spaced, well times, and very balanced performance.
Then its was onto another surprise, another track from Claire's very personal but very beautiful "Out Of The Ordinary" album called "Symbolic". This is a very erotic, slightly chilling, gothic song that many of us can relate to with many events in our lives. The audience loved it !!!!
A short tune, "The Clergy's Lamentation", also played with Claire's dual harps trickery, was followed with a heartfelt beautiful version of Danny Boy. I've said this before, but Claire sings this as if it is a new song that nobody has ever heard, with incredible passion and she hits those high notes with precision and without strain like nobody else I have heard
- also on "The Lilt of The Banshee".
...... and then she floated back up the stairs that she had floated down earlier to an endless applause, with no encore as Claire realized some folks were already late back to work.
Claire did return to mix with her audience and sign CDs. The way she handled her fans after the show, I wish every artist could have witnessed it. Claire creates very real lifelong fans from people of all ages. She shares more stories, listens to the stories of the fans and moves into an informal relaxing ceilidh - and those people will remember those moments for the rest of their life too.
I'll always remember the look on a young Japanese girl's face after she left Claire with her signed CD and her memory of her chat with her. Her beam of happiness will be unforgettable.
Her name was Yoko :-)
First Coast Entertainer, March 17th 1990
by Rick Grant, Rick At Night
"I was writing a cynical movie review one day last week when my fourteen ninety five transistor radio suddenly came alive with an ethereal sound that grabbed me like an inexplicable force. Intrigued, I turned up the volume and was immediately captivated by a woman's unique voice - so pure and penetrating - accompanied by what sounded like a harp.
Indeed it was a Metro show coup. The lady's name is Claire Roche and she was appearing live on the air with her concert harp. Amazingly, stoic Landon Walker seemed moved by Claire Roche's artistry. Quickly, I jotted down the time and place of one of her local appearances in the area as part of the Irish Cultural Association's week of events prior to St. Patrick's Day.
The Holy Family Parish Center was an unlikely place to hear this special lady, amid the clamor of a bawdy Irish celebration. However, I was smitten, and was on a 'holy' mission to experience this lady's music live. Frankly, I'm not moved by most music I hear - except Wolfy, or Ludwig Van, of course! So when I get emotionally excited by an artist it is indeed a special event to behold.
While the attendees prepared to party in the green tradition, I met with Claire in a side room for a charming tête-à-tête. Claire is a classy lady with sparkling eyes registering the savvy of someone who is devoted to her art. She was wearing a hand made antique dress of the early nineteenth hundreds vintage, creating a strange out-of-time deja vu during our conversation.
"I learned to play the harp in a convent school in Dublin. I was twelve at the time and it was an Irish harp, which is smaller than a concert harp. I was encouraged by my teachers to pursue a career in music. However, I was more fascinated by poetry, and music was a sideline for my own enjoyment. Later, I attended Trinity College in Dublin and met W.B. Yeats' son who heard my music and gave me permission to put his late father's poetry to music. I started performing small concerts and recitals and the offers to continue started pouring in until eventually I was performing as a full time profession."
"Although I perform all over the world, I'm insulated from the formal musical world and other harp virtuosos. My act is unique in the business. But I have sought the counsel of classical harpists who encourage me not to change. My voice is my strength as an artist and people seem to react very favorably to it. In the entertainment business, there is room for everyone, and I do this because I'm dedicated to expressing my artistic commitment to poetry and music. I am very happy to be performing where ever I can find audiences."
"However, I do have an agent in Boston and I book quite a few of my own gigs. My schedule is hectic, especially around St. Patrick's Day. And I've performed concerts all over Ireland, Germany, and the United States." Claire said.
Obviously, Claire is a lady who has found peace with herself and is emotionally bonded to her art. It is that rare emotional commitment that I look for when I review a music artist or an actor's performance in live theatre or films. It is the X-factor that separates them from the other competent artists. But, individually, Claire exceeds that factor. Indeed, she is in touch with universal forces - a receptor, as it were - to receiving and transmitting an inexplicable force to her audience through her remarkable voice and harp playing. Overall the whole experience is mystical - haunting, and very moving.
The scene under the cafeteria-like glare of the church hall lights was loud and noisy, but good natured. Wisely, the ICA had provided a decent sound system managed by a legitimate company. Alas, the company was having problems with the set up. Fortunately they got it straightened out for Claire's two sets.
After the Irish musicians performed and the Irish dancers adroitly danced the traditional dances, Claire went on despite the lack of proper atmosphere for her sensitive artistry. Of course, she's a pro and handled the Spartan milieu with finesse and style. Judging by her cool poise amid the confusion, Claire has played many of these Irish church hall soirees. Claire's two sets were a blend of traditional ballads mixed with her inspirational Yeats adaptations that soar on the wings of mystical imagery. "I have spread my dreams under your feet..., Yeats wrote not realizing that years later his richly imaginative poetry would be interpreted by this lady with the voice of the angels who possess the power of the force of love. Claire Roche truly "dances on the wind".