A Note from Jamie
Michael passed away on Aug 3, 2020, peacefully in his home. These pages will be edited over the next weeks and months. In the meantime, enjoy reading about his extensive work with me and our J. O’Reilly Productions collaborators. This website, and its contents: posts, history and reflections, are the domain of me, Jamie O’Reilly, a writer, performer, and friend of Michael’s. It is not a commercial or fan site. Nor do I act as agent, or handle his business affairs. Those roles will be his family’s to determine, now that he is gone. Please go to his personal website michaelpetersmith.com, for updates. If you choose to stay and read, please do so respectfully. It was my honor to know Michael and make beautiful art with him. We all miss him terribly. He is irreplaceable- jamie
Jamie O’Reilly’s newest program.
IN OLD CHICAGO
Stories and Songs of a Beloved City
Featuring Jamie O’Reilly, vocals
with John Erickson, piano
and Judi Cogan Heikes, narrator
“THANK YOU!!! That was an absolutely beautiful, inspiring, instructive, fun show in which to participate. So much great music, readings, poems, Chicago local history and family experiences. It was a wonderful experience – that we will recall and discuss for the rest of our lives, and will be passed on to our families. We hope you will do it again locally, so our family members and friends will be blest with this experience.”
Vocalist Jamie O’Reilly newest program debuted in October, 2019 at Chief O’Neill’s glorious pub in Chicago, to a full house and standing ovation. This long-awaited concert celebrates Chicago’s vibrant history and her connection to it. Jamie reflects on forty years in her beloved city, with tales of its neighborhoods, and stories of her Irish and German ancestors and others: artists, writers, and feisty activists around the turn-of-the last century, into and following the first world war. Integral to the piece is the role of radio, and a bit of lore from and about Studs Terkel (a friend of Jamie’s), the truest voice for a by-gone era of the City of Big Shoulders. Songs showcase Jamie’s signature soprano in songbird-style ballads, romantic standards, sultry gypsy ballads, parlor songs, Americana ballads, and Irish songs. There are also songs written by and for her. She is accompanied by John Erickson on piano. Judi Cogan Heikes joins them, narrating and reading her own selections. Want to book this show? More to follow on our blog.
About Michael and Jamie Collaborations and Commissions
With their shared love of language, and expansive musical palette, Jamie and Michael developed new work on a regular basis. In their over twenty five years as collaborators, they created a niche for themselves as cultural artists who incorporate theater, chamber music and folk-cabaret forms in smart and stirring pieces. Their work, together and apart, was sought out by the finest cultural venues and institutions. Some of these collaborators became CD recordings.
“Poetry and music may share a lineage, and centuries of influencing one another, but each seems heightened when they come together as harmoniously as they do in the work of Jamie O’Reilly and Michael P. Smith. Music takes life in the world of images and words, and poetry, led by strings and embodied in sonorous voice, finds a way more readily, more surely into the invisible, indelible reaches of the heart.”Stephen Young The Poetry Foundation
Michael Peter Smith’s
Songs from Moby Dick
Michael’s program, featured his original songs inspired by the seminal American classic, setting the texts from Herman Melville’s novel as sea shanties, story-songs, ballads and anthems. Strong, swarthy, infectious, and infused with Smith’s signature poignant melodies, the songs of Moby Dick are reminiscent of 19th century balladry, and capture the tantalizing power of seafaring life. These original compositions were included included in the Blair Thomas & Co touring production of The Brotherhood of the Monastic Order of Ancient Mariners Purges the Ills of Society Through a Reading of the Tales of Moby-Dick, performed at the The Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes in Charleville, France. In concert and on the recording, Michael’s compositions were performed with stirring vocals and Michael’s fine guitar playing. As strong a collection as any in the 21st century Americana folk music lexicon, the Songs of Moby Dick may be some of Michael’s best work! (Read more.)
Of this Moby Dick, a fan says:
“15 Songs From Moby Dick is so rich and engaging that I have listened to nothing else for days. Michael Smith’s music takes the poetry of Melville’s words to a level that demands — and rewards — repeated listening. Ahab’s Compliments in particular has been ringing in my ears and I like it there.” – Janet Sayre, musician, Chicago
Other Cultural Programs
And the Poet Sang Literary Program
A concert created for the Poetry Foundation, gave a new face to some of Jamie, Michael and guitarist Peter’s finest material: folk songs and art songs, with melodies by Smith and others.
Settings of poets ranging from Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, Wallace Stevens, Bertold Brecht, F. Garcia Lorca and Anne Carson and Chicago poets David Hernandez and the late Patricia Monaghan were heard. Settings from Shulamite women of Lebanon, ancient Irish and Chinese poets are among the selections songs from their folk cabarets Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War and Hello Dali: From the Sublime to the Surreal are also featured.
Irish Art Songs with Jamie O’Reilly
I Know Where I’m Going is the remastered first solo album of vocalist Jamie O’Reilly performed at the Oak Park Library in Oct 2015, to an SRO crowd. Accompanied by guitarist Peter Swenson, Jamie sang this collection of beloved Irish ballads on heels of her vocal debut at Orchestra Hall. Eleven songs were recorded at WFMT Studio in 1984, with Rich Warren as engineer and Anne Hills as producer. Additional songs were recorded at WFMT, with Jamie, Peter and special guest Michael Smith on guitar. More information here.
Jamie and Michael sang ghost stories Epitaphs and Apparitions
In its original 2014 presentation, Jamie and Michael led an ensemble of readers embodying voices from the beyond, in afterlife stories as rendered by Masters of American 19c and 20c literature. Now adapted for smaller ensembles. Featuring Americana songs and Michael’s original pieces. Among the authors: Civil war soldier Sullivan Ballou, novelist Willa Cather, poet Emily Dickinson, essayist William Dean Howells, plus Zora Neale Hurston, Katherine Ann Porter, Washington Irving, Edgar Lee Masters, Herman Melville, Louisa May Alcott, Edgar Allan Poe and more. Conceived and directed by Jamie O’Reilly.
In a sequel to the Halloween program of ghost stories, conceived and directed by Jamie O’Reilly with Belinda Bremner, this winter-appropriate program played at Rhinofest, Chicago’s longest running fringe festival. Readers embodied voices from the beyond in poems and songs, as rendered by the Brits: the Bard, and Masters of American literature. Among them: Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Willa Cather, Amy Lowell, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Dylan Thomas, and Noel Coward. With traditional and original music by Michael Smith.
And the Poet Sang: (sample program list)
The musical setting below is by Michael Smith, unless indicated.
- Flowering Henna: poem by the Shulamite Women of Lebanon additional lyrics by Jamie O’Reilly
- Epitaph: Robert Louis Stevenson
- Blue Guitar: poem The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens
- Seurat: from an essay by Anne Carson
- Lament of Ignacio Meijes or Five in the Afternoon: poem by F. Garcia Lorca (Spain)
- Song of the United Front: Lyrics by Bertold Brecht; Music by Ernst Busch performed with Questions from a Worker Who Reads: a poem by Brecht
- Asturias: a traditional Spanish anthem (listen Asturias)
- The Dead Sleep Cold in Spain: Ernest Hemingway poem
- Beloved Comrade: song by Fred Katz; Lewis Allen
- Mountain Morning: a poem by Patricia Monaghan (fr Songs of a Kerry Madwoman)
- Wolves in the Winter: a poem by Patricia Monaghan (fr Songs of a Kerry Madwoman)
- Young Lad of the Braided Hair: from an ancient Irish poem
- Swallow: from Fear, a poem by Gabriela Mistral
- Painted Horse: from an Ancient Chinese poem by Little Su
- Angels Were at Our Sides: a poem by Gabriela Mistral
- Adios Cuidad: a poem by David Hernandez, (late Puerto Rican poet)
- We Become Birds: from Poetry of Children; Robert Coles, editor
- Set Me As a Seal: from the Songs of Songs; Music by Peter Swenson