Meet the Irish protagonists of “The Cap and Bells” – Seán Mac Erlaine and Shane O’Reilly!

Seán Mac Erlaine and Shane O’Really in “Care”

It is an absolute privilege and pleasure to welcome to Estonia two guest artists that will bring an authentic Irish identity to “The Cap and Bells” concert evening! It all began with Evonne Ferguson (thank you!) from Contemporary Music Center Ireland who supplied us with a comprehensive list of Irish composers who could in principle be interested in working with Avarus Ensemble on the Yeats project. Thus Mingo found Seán. And through Seán we found Shane. The rest will be written into history on Thursday..

Seán Mac Erlaine

“Consistently one of the most interesting and adventurous musicians of his generation.” – The Irish Times

Listen to this while reading ahead:

Seán Mac Erlaine is a Dublin based multi-instrumentalist and composer working in a variety of settings including free improvisation, jazz, folk music, theatre and radio. An accomplished saxophonist and clarinettist, Seán holds a PhD in music (practice-led research around live electronics in solo woodwind performance), a first degree honours Masters of Music (Jazz Performance) and a Diploma in Jazz Performance awarded by The Guildhall School of Music, London.


Seán maintains a busy performance schedule in Ireland and internationally working with a hugely diverse range of musicians and artists reflecting his own versatility and interest in cross-platform work. He has performed with leading musical figures including Bill Frisell, David Toop, Ernst Reijseger, Eivind Aarset, The Smith Quartet, Hayden Chisholm, Lisa Hannigan, Frank Gratkowski, Ronan Guilfoyle, Iarla O’Lionaird, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Damo Suzuki and many more. He has also performed as a special guest with Detroit techno legends Underground Resistance and The Gloaming.

Although involved in a myriad of collaborative projects, solo performance remains at the core of Seán’s practice. Seán started to play as a solo artist in 2006. His solo work since then has seen him take this research to PhD level combining custom designed software built in Max/MSP with woodwinds. He has released two critically acclaimed solo albums Long After The Music Is Gone (2012) and A Slender Song (2014).

Seán’s primary group output is with This is How we Fly a contemporary folk band whose music sees Swedish folk rhythms meet the texture of traditional Irish fiddle, percussive dance from America, and improvised jazz and electronics. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh – fiddle, hardanger fiddle. Seán Mac Erlaine – clarinets, live electronics. Nic Gareiss – percussive dance. Petter Berndalen – drums, percussion.

Shane O’Reilly


Shane is a theatre maker and performer from Dublin, Ireland. He trained at Trinity College Dublin where he received a first class honors degree in 2008.

Shane in “King Oedipus” by W.B. Yeats

Shane works mainly in theatre and has performed with companies in both Ireland and abroad. His recent theatre work includes Signatories (Verdant Productions), Override (White Label) and Oedipus, Me Michael, The Dead, FOLLOW, Seven Jewish Children, Richard II at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

Other theatre work includes; Centenary (RTÉ, Bord Gais Theatre) The Matador (Show in a Bag) An Ideal Husband (Gate Theatre); The Burial at Thebes (Ouroboros Theatre) FOLLOW [Nominated best Male Performer Dublin Fringe 2011], FARM, CARE (WillFredd Theatre); Assassins, Life is a Dream (Rough Magic Theatre); The Conquest of Happiness, (Prime Cut Belfast/East-West Sarajevo/Mladinsko Ljubljana); The Vampire with No Teeth (Bram Stoker Festival); ExhibitUS, A contemporary mini opera (Outlandish Theatre Platform); A Murder of Crows, Song From The Sea, Boy With A Suitcase, Jack, (Barnstorm Theatre); Those Sick and Indigent, (Bewleys Café Theatre); Cinderella, (Gaiety Theatre); The Pearl Fishers, Lucia Di Lammermoor, (Anna Livia Opera).

Shane O’Reilly as Joseph Mary Plunkett by Joseph O’Connor

Shane’s recent Film and Television work includes;  16 Letters (RTÉ), Centenary (RTÉ), Fair City (RTÉ), The Killings of Coolacrease, (RTÉ); Nannette’s New Glasses, (Disney Channel); The Resistors (TG4).

Shane is currently developing two pieces of theatre: The Genealogy Project which is a project that endeavours to locate an alternative and original history of Ireland in the ancestries of the five multi-disciplinary performers collaborating on the piece. This work has completed its initial research and development phase and will be produced in 2017. There’s Gold in the Water is a contemporary musical that centres around two men attempting to ‘parent’ a goldfish, and is being composed by Denis Clohessy and co-written by Paul Curley. An excerpt from this new musical was performed as part of the 2016 On The Edge festival in Birmingham, UK.

Earlier this year Shane was commissioned to write a short piece of theatre for the Heidelberg ‘Hot Shorts’ 2016 festival which was produced and performed in Heidelberg in June.

Shane is a participant in the Six in The Attic resource sharing initiative at the Irish Theatre Institute in Dublin.


Why did you decide to take part of the Estonian collaboration project The Cap and Bells? What elements in this particular project are interesting, intriguing etc?

Seán: There’s something about working with (great) literature that really appeals to me as a musician. Reading and writing were very important to me growing up before I really got hooked by music and even then it was the great songwriters who grabbed my attention. So being asked to work with Yeats’ text was an exciting challenge. The fact that the request came from Estonia was immediately interesting – like a bolt from the blue! The Avarus Ensemble are great musicians with a big enough line-up to create complex sound worlds yet nimble enough to be able to write meaningfully for each member (I hope!).

Shane: I am taking part in the Estonian collaboration project The Cap and Bells in order to experience Estonian culture and share some of my own Irish perspective on Yeats with the fantastic Estonian musicians and collaborators involved in this ambitious project. I am really interested in the musical approach to the words and concepts that Yeats was exploring in his work. As an actor I work with words, and when I think of the work of W.B. Yeats I think of his poetry, images and ideas. Through my engagement with The Cap and Bells project I have seen how his words can influence music and how the poetry of his work can inspire a score which pushes further our insight and understanding of his work. I’m humbled to be a part of it all.

What’s your personal relationship to Yeats? Have you worked with his legacy before?

Seán: I’ve never worked musically with Yeats before. His poems have been with me since I was a teenager and he still remains a towering figure in Irish culture.

Shane: As I mentioned I am an actor. Here in Dublin we have a National Theatre which is called The Abbey Theatre. W.B. Yeats is one of the founders of this theatre, and so is one of the fathers of the Irish Theatre. I am proud to have worked at The Abbey Theatre both as a performer and with my own work and I am humbled to be a part of the theatrical canon of work that stems from his vision and determination to create “ an uncorrupted & imaginative audience trained to listen by its passion for oratory … & that freedom to experiment which is not found in the theatres of England, & without which no new movement in art or literature can succeed.” I have previously performed in a rehearsed reading of Yeats’ version of Oedipus Rex on the Abbey Stage, and performed in a production of a new version of Oedipus by Wayne Jordan as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival that was inspired by his version.

Do you think it’s still important and relevant to work with Yeats today? Does he speak to modern times?

Seán: Yeats wrote much about the universal recurring themes of humanity: love, mortality, myth, regret, so of course these topics still speak to us. Looking at his work in 2016 contains a special resonance 100 years after the Irish Easter Rising.

Shane: Of course I think that Yeats is still relevant today. Look at what his work has brought us all together to do here in Estonia! The Nobel prize winner, Irish Senator and Nationalist visionary will always be a part of the literary fabric of Ireland. His work makes up part of the emotional landscape of every Irish person, his words capturing our identity and ideology and rendering it timeless.

What do you know of estonia? Any prior contact, experiences?

Seán: Zero!

Shane: I am ashamed to say I know very little about Estonia, but that is what makes it so exciting to be travelling there! I have been doing my research in advance and look forward to exploring what I can of the country and unearthing the various treasures that are there. I have heard, from friends who have travelled to Estonia in the past, about the incredible kindness and hospitality of the people and their wonderful food and drink culture so i’m looking forward to experiencing that!

Anything else to add that is crazy, unusual, interesting, boring, typical, fascinating, extraordinary or completely irrelevant?

Shane: I think that international exchange between artists is what will influence and shape the thinking of our future as a race. I actually do! Having worked abroad in many countries in which I was a complete cultural and racial outsider with artists from those countries my perspective has been deepened when it comes to creating performance, new work and when considering the potential for that work to speak to an audience outside of my own familiar surrounds. That experience has forced me to consider more than just what is in front of me, to be curious about and empathetic towards people that don’t look and sound like I do. We cannot quantify the power and importance of international exchange and collaboration immediately, nor should we want to. However, its accumulative affect on the theatre, music and visual art that will be created will push every audience and spectator to consider a small part of that affect. To absorb a little of that exchange and insight. And that is powerful and beautiful. That’s my tuppence.