Christine Tobin


Sailing to Byzantium Trail, Belle Records ***

The trouble with setting great poetry to music is not simply that the lyricist isn’t involved in the process (nor in this case even alive to give his consent) but that the words weren’t written in expectation of musical accompaniment. It is abundantly clear from his poems that WB Yeats considered qualities like rhythm and melody, but he chose to put his words on paper, intending that their “music” would sound in the mind of the reader. To graft on other melodies, to push and pull his carefully wrought phrases to fit into musical structures, as Dublin-born singer Christine Tobin does here, risks diminishing both the poetry and the music. Tobin is a vocalist of rare sensitivity and many critics have praised her performances of the poems in a live setting, but to these ears Sailing to Byzantium sounds like an exercise in lily-gilding, a jarring note from a singer who rarely gets it wrong.