Wednesday 21 March 2018

A question of culture with Karen Egan, Singer/songwriter

Singer/songwriter Karen Egan
Singer/songwriter Karen Egan

Declan Cashin

The singer/songwriter lists Jacques Brel, Elbow and Leonard Cohen's gig in Kilmainham amongst her favourites.

Favourite musician?

Jacques Brel - his performances were always so dramatic and passionate. As many of Brel's songs were narrative-driven, they lent themselves to theatricality and rather intense performances. You really felt he lost himself in his songs.

Favourite band?

I go through phases with bands. I've recently been listening to a lot of Elbow. I love the way they play with different sounds and dynamics. Starlings is a beautiful song with a simple melody, ingenious lyrics and evocative images.

Best gig?

Leonard Cohen in Kilmainham. The atmosphere was electric. There was a real feeling of joie de vivre. It was pelting rain but everyone just covered themselves with black refuse sacks and danced in the aisles.

Favourite piece of music?

Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2. I always listen to this if I'm in a bad mood. I love the intensity and passion of many of the Russian composers.

Funniest thing you've seen at a gig?

I once saw Finnish singer/songwriter Mikko Halonen eat his own beard. It was rather surreal but the Finnish audience didn't seem to think this was in any way unusual.

Best show?

The Berliner Ensemble production of The Threepenny Opera was chilling. The actor who played Mack the Knife managed to both seduce and terrify the audience, and the cast members were incredibly technically accomplished while still interpreting their roles in a refreshing way.

Last book you loved?

The China Factory by Mary Costello. Her stories have a great sense of the interior. She manages to portray her characters' 'aloneness' without being sentimental, which is why the stories are so affecting.

Favourite film?

I was going to pick Casablanca or The Third Man but instead I'll say This is Spinal Tap, which never fails to reduce me to tears. The characterisations are ridiculously funny, the one-liners from Nigel Tufnel are classic.

Cultural blindspot?

Christmas songs. My idea of hell is being locked in a room, forced to listen to Christmas music, played on panpipes.

Karen is touring her new album Charlatanne to Dolan's, Limerick (Feb 27), Monroes, Galway (Feb 28), Whelan's, Dublin (Mar 6) and The Source, Tipperary (May 21). See

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