On certain nights in the tiny town of Dingle,Ireland, residents can hear the strains of music coming from an ancient church, with musicians from around the world having made the long journey to the westernmost edge of the country. And on other nights — the local fishermen will swear by this — you can hear the distant sounds ofManhattan traffic leaping across the Atlantic into the mists just off the coast.
Those two sounds, one improbable and the other probably mythic, came together for two nights late last week, when “Other Voices,” an Irish television program that films performances in the 200-year-old St. James Church in Dingle, took up residence at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. The “session,” to use the nomenclature of Irish culture, combined poetry and readings from the likes of Paul Muldoon and Colum McCann with music that included collaborations between established artists like Martha Wainwright and lesser-known ones likeBell X1.
“Other Voices” came to New York to celebrate 10 years of enticing musicians, including Amy Winehouse, Billy Bragg and the National, to make their ways to County Kerry to join local musicians for intimate sets and unexpected mash-ups of the ancient and modern. True to form, Friday night included both a traditional violin performance from the Irish fiddler Martin Hayes and Laurie Anderson’s spoken-word incantations. (In a small-world moment, Lou Reed, who came to watch his wife, Ms. Anderson, got a mention in a poem by Joseph O’Connor that featured shout-outs to downtown New York artists like Tom Verlaine and the Ramones.)
After the event, Mr. McCann, the Irish-born author of “Let the Great World Spin,” who read one of his early short stories from the stage, tried to explain why a music series from a tiny town in coastal Ireland looked so at home in New York.
“We often say that New York is the 33rd county of Ireland,” he said. “Not to be twee about it, but tonight was a reminder that even though Irelandhas its share of financial troubles right now, this kind of thing is very important to building and reinforcing the cultural bridges that have givenIreland a special place here.”
Like a lot of the performers, Mr. McCann pointed to the election held in Ireland that day, in which Michael D. Higgins, a poet, beat a businessman, among others, to become the president.
“That is very much a part of who we are,” he said, “and as we try to dig ourselves out of a situation, part of the fix is in who we are and the music and art we produce for ourselves and the rest of the world.”
The evening was produced by Phillip King, who runs “Other Voices”; the musician Thomas Bartlett; and Glen Hansard, the former Irish busker and musician in the Frames who came to prominence in the movie “Once.” The night was billed as a benefit for Fighting Words, the charity established by the writer Roddy Doyle (“The Commitments,” “The Snapper” and “The Van”), to teach creative writing to schoolchildren in Ireland.
During a quick bite before the show, Mr. Hansard said he hosted “Other Voices” when it began and became hooked on its ability to strip music down to its elemental form. “Everything today is about context,” he said. “We are all told whether we should or should not like something and how important it is. On a night like this, it’s less about who you are than what you can bring to the evening.” In his bit of tribute to the event’s location in the Village, Mr. Hansard sang a version of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.”
So what attracts these artists to Dingle? After singing a version of “Tell My Sister,” written by her mother, Kate McGarrigle, who recently died, Martha Wainwright explained what she called its magical properties by talking about a trip she and her brother, Rufus, had made there.
“We were driving toward a double rainbow, and then a herd of wild horses came galloping along the beach,” she said, expressing profane amazement at the sight. On her third song, “Talk to Me of Mendocino,” Ms. Wainwright was joined in a duet by Sam Amidon, an American folk musician.
Mr. Amidon embodied the ethos of the evening. He sang traditional melodies like “Streets of Derry,” which sounded as if they had sailed over fromIreland, taken a trip down to the Appalachians and then headed back north for the listening. And when he wasn’t singing, he drifted back in with the band, on banjo, guitar and violin, as other musicians and writers came and went.
The actor Gabriel Byrne read a poem by Yeats. He also serves as the cultural ambassador for Ireland, an unpaid position in which he works with ImagineIreland, part of a governmental effort to export Irish culture.
“You see it in the performances and even in the rehearsals as these two traditions came together,” he said after the event. “New York has always played a big role in terms of Irish immigration and in the Irish imagination. And the people who came here brought much of that culture and traditions with them. It seemed natural to spend an evening celebrating that.”
It was something of a cliché that the evening ended with everyone’s coming back onstage to sing “The Parting Glass,” the Irish ode to a night of song and drinking among mates. But no one seemed to mind.