Jamie O’Reilly: Legacy White Cliffs of Dover

A preview of the album coming this summer.

Placeholder image of new album, due out in August

Listen to The White Cliffs of Dover

SongNotes: Legacy
The White Cliffs of Dover
Jamie O’Reilly, vocals
John Erickson, piano

I first heard White Cliffs of Dover on Those Were the Days, a local radio show that includes songs from the Hit Parade as a regular feature. I find the crooning singing style compelling, and big band 40s vocalists like Alice Faye and Anne Shelton’s smooth delivery ironic, in light of the fact that events on the world stage during World War II were wreaking havoc on humanity.

I was even more intrigued a few years back when I sought-out the back story of Vera Allen, the British singer with whom the WWII ballad is inextricably linked.

Known for her weekly BBC broadcasts to bolster the troops, the young singer performed at times literally with the bombs falling around her. Her determination unwaning; her patriotic duty, clear. Among the titles for which she is most know is We’ll Meet Again, When the Lights Go On Again, the lesser known After the Rain, and my personal favorite of the genre: White Cliffs of Dover, the perfect anthem to hope by Walter Kent and Nat Burton.

I perform the latter two songs and include them on my upcoming album Legacy.

Commemoration, Nostalgia, Activism, Hope, Destiny, Courage

From the time I immersed myself in the Irish song genre, themes of war and peace were ever present. I did stand-up versions of Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, Shule Agra (the predecessor to the American Buttermilk Hill), The Patriot Game and others, while making it through a fourth set at an Irish pub. My 1960s peace song repertoire took a back seat to the demands of an Irish-American audience with its fervor over “the Troubles,” which were still very much alive across the sea.

In the early 90s, I sang about “the Troubles” at the Chicago Cultural Center, in a program paired with John Conroy, writer of The Belfast Diary. Identifying the source of class struggles, genocide, prejudice and civil unrest in bloody the Protestant vs Catholic conflict was no simple matter. Singing provided a route to the indescribable.

Listen: Foggy Dew commemorating the 1916 Irish Easter Rising

Foggy Dew

In 1996, Michael Smith suggested I look at the songs of the Spanish Civil War for a cabaret show we were putting together. Our Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, with songs in six languages, became a recording heard worldwide. Its stirring folksongs and anthems remain a testament to the courage of the Spanish People, and to men and women of the International Brigades from 53 countries who came to their aid against Fascism.

Listen here to the Spanish Civil War ballad Beloved Comrade

Beloved Comrade from Pasiones

Soldier’s Heart
The early 2000s took a political turn for me after 9-11. PTSD in Ireland is called “Soldier’s Heart.” The anti-war program Michael Smith and I created with poet Patricia Monaghan for the 2004 Chicago Humanities Festival told the story of Mad Sweeney, performed by the wonderful poet/actor John Starrs. What followed was the release of Songs of the Kerry Madwoman, Monaghan’s powerful song cycle, set to music by Michael, the story of a woman driven mad by war in ancient Ireland.

Morning Mist is a Wide Door from Kerry Madwoman

It seemed reasonable then, as the world was fighting a different kind of enemy: Covid 19, I sought out songs from another time of sacrifice and loss. The World War II era came to mind, as people of the “Greatest Generation” recalled experiences during that war; a time of food rationing, limited resources, and high anxiety.

With Tough Broads & Tender Lasses, I perform songs that inspire, offer hope and speak of resilience. After the Rain and White Cliffs of Dover among them.

In Old Chicago, the show about my Irish-American relations in turn-of-the-last century Chicago, features Sanctuary City, and others songs coming out of the social justice battlefield.

Listen to Sanctuary City

Sanctuary City

White Cliffs of Dover
Music by Walter Kent; Lyrics by Nat Burton
Recorded live at WFMT Levin Studio
Eric Arunas, Engineer
Peter Swenson, Mastering
J. O’Reilly Productions, 2023
Song preview for Jamie O’Reilly: Legacy

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see
There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after
Tomorrow, when the world is free

The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valley will bloom again
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see