Bloomsday in The Teachers Club [Gallery 2017]

Vincent O’Brien (1871-1948) was first director of the Palestrina choir, a choir of men and boys founded in 1902. John McCormack was a member of the Palestrina choir and O’Brien coached him to gold medal success in the 1903 Feis Ceoil. Joyce had hopes of winning the gold medal in the 1904 Feis Ceoil and he came to 37, Parnell Square (now part of the Teachers’ Club) to take singing lessons from O’Brien. Joyce won bronze. Joyce remembered his singing teacher in ‘Ulysses’. Vincent O’ Brien is mentioned by name in ‘Circe’, chapter 15. This chapter is set in nighttown, the red light district around the then Montgomery Street. Bloom,while hallucinating, imagines himself sentenced to burning at the stake.


(Invests Bloom in a yello habit with embroidery of painted flames and high pointed hat. He places a bag of gunpowder round his neck and hands him over to the civil powder, saying) Forgive him his trespassses.

(Lieutnant Myers of the Dublin Fire Brigade by general request sets fire to Bloom. Lamenations)


(in a seamless garment marked I.H.S. stands upright amid phoenix flames) Weep not for me, O daughters of Erin. (he exhibits to Dublin reporters traces of burning) (The daughters of Erin, in black garments, with large prayerbooks and long lighted candles in their hands kneel down and pray)


Kidney of Bloom, pray for us. Flower of the Bath, pray for us.

Mentor of Menton, pray for us. Canvasser for the Freeman, pray for us.

Charitable Mason, pray for us. Wandering soap, pray for us.

Sweets of Sin, pray for us. Music without Words, pray for us.

Reprover of the Citizen, pray for us. Friend of all Frillies, pray for us.

Midwife Most Merciful, pray for us.

Potato Preservative against Plague and Pestilence, pray for us.

(A choir of six hundred voices, conducted by Vincent O’Brien, sings the chorus from Handel’s Messiah Alleluia for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, accompanied on the organ by Joseph Glynn. Bloom becomes mute, shrunken, carbonised.

In an article in The Bell,(Vol.3 March 1944) Vincent O’Brien had the following to say when asked had he a pupil as good as John McCormack. ‘Only one. He hadn’t maybe the volume of John’s voice, but he had the quality. He gave up singing too. That was the funny part of it. It was at the Feis Ceoil he threw away the sight-test-piece in disgust and walked off the platform. I believe he put me in his book- Ulysses. He was a strange young fellow. I remember well that year of the Feis. The test-piece was Sullivan’s “Whom God Loveth He Chastiseth”. It was all I could do to teach Joyce the music, for he would be always breaking off to talk and discuss the meaning and ethics of the words of the song. And whenever that started there was no more lesson that day. Still, he’d have made a great singer. It was a pity—a great pity!’

The Teachers’ Club celebrates its connection to James Joyce and Vincent O’Brien on June 16th every year since 2004 with an Edwardian soirée.