The annual Bloomsday celebration on June 16 will feature all sorts of craic and carryings-on. John Crelan, founder and director of Arts and Society, is in his 35th year of organizing the celebration of music, drama and dance based on James Joyce’s classic, Ulysses, the plot of which takes place on June 16, 1904 from 8 a.m. that morning till the early hours of the next day.
The name Bloomsday comes from the book’s main character, Leopold Bloom. The first serious Bloomsday took place in Dublin in 1954 as early Joyce enthusiasts John Ryan, Anthony Cronin, Brian O’Nolan, Patrick Kavanaugh and Tom Joyce celebrated the book by retracing the day of Leopold Bloom. Word has it that the group broke up before the route was finished as literary homage merged with pub crawl.
While the Vineyard version of Bloomsday won’t include tilting back a passel of pints, it will feature many talented Vineyarders celebrating the life of the beloved Irish writer. The program begins with Nathaniel Horwitz on classical harp and will feature Gerry Yukevich performing Araby from Joyce’s Dubliners. The two will be joined by Katrina Nevin, Buck Reidy, Anna Yukevich, George Ricci, Martha Hudson, Joyce Maxner, Robert Doss, Claire Baione and others.
Mr. Crelan’s first organized Bloomsday occurred decades ago in Boston as a benefit to raise money to stop the closing of the Stone Soup bookstore in Cambridge.
“Anyone could read there,” Mr. Crelan said. “You might have a Pulitzer prize winner or a poet off the street.”
The fundraiser was a hit and everyone asked him to do it again. Mr. Crelan eventually brought Bloomsday to the Vineyard and he still enjoys pulling the event together. Is he a huge fan of Joyce? Eh, not completely.
“Joyce isn’t easy,” he said. “I’m not a one-author person.”
Mr. Crelan taught English and creative writing at Emerson College and Suffolk University, as well as Russian and Soviet history at the University of Hartford. He has a master’s degree in history from Trinity College.
“You have to know Shakespeare, Irish history, English history and the Bible in order to read Joyce,” he said. Mr. Crelan said Ulysses is filled with music and likely contains “probably 300 nursery rhymes in it.”
Bloomsday takes place on Sunday, June 16, at 8 p.m. at the Katharine Cornell Theatre, 54 Spring street in Vineyard Haven.
Tickets are $15 at the door.
It may not be Dublin, but on June 16 it will come awfully close.