In 1844, Asenath Nicholson, a school teacher, reformer and proprietor of an all-vegetarian boarding house in New York City, travelled to Ireland to "personally investigate the condition of the Irish poor." Upon her arrival, she saw the beginnings of the Great Famine, a seven-year period of mass starvation and disease in which it is estimated over one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland. Nicholson's writings and first-hand observations from the time are stitched together to form the narrative backdrop of The Hunger, a multi-media opera by Donnacha Dennehy.
Commissioned by Alarm Will Sound, The Hunger provides an overtly emotional and personal account of the devastation created by the famine. Interwoven into the live performance are vintage recordings of sean nós (old style) Irish folk tunes as well as video clips of economists and historians discussing the social-political causes and ramifications of the disaster.
As part of an exclusive Meet the Composer Bonus Track, download movements one, two and five of The Hunger, a work-in-progress that was performed at the Sheldon Hall in St. Louis by Alarm Will Sound and mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway.