Special guests included President Barack Obama, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, as he made his annual St. Patrick’s Day visit to the United States, members of Congress, and dignitaries from Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The Luncheon was hosted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives in conjunction with The Friends of Ireland Caucus, a bipartisan group led by Chairman Peter King (R-NY) and Vice-Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA). The annual event is a time-honored tradition started in 1981 by House Speaker Tip O’Neill, Senator Ted Kennedy, and President Ronald Reagan, who rose above politics to unite in their shared heritage and desire for peace.
The performance of O, America! was followed by standing ovation which was led by President Obama. House Speaker John Boehner, who sat between Obama and Kenny, was reported to have wiped away a tear after the emotional performance.
O, America! was written by IMRO member, Brendan Graham and American composer and pianist, William Joseph.
The Irish songwriter first heard the strains of the melody in the corridor of an LA hotel – and then heard it again later, at a showcase by William Joseph, hosted by multi-Grammy winning producer, David Foster.
”I instantly fell in love with the melody – called Sweet Remembrance of You”, Graham remembers, ”and William generously gave me permission to try to find words to it”.
The idea that it should be an anthem to America came to Graham, when listening to the melody, while driving from Dublin to Mayo, the day after he got back to Ireland.
”It was the longest road home, ever”, he says – ”stopping at lay-bys and farm-gates all down the way, scribbling a bit here and there, in case I’d forget. Songs come in strange ways…and you just have to go with them – having no earthly idea, where they might end up…if anywhere!”
”So, it is a huge good fortune for William and myself that this particular song, should find its way to be performed before President Obama, President of the United States, the country for whom the song was written – and, too, in the presence of Taoiseach, Enda Kenny”.
”Songs always travel hopefully and sometimes, thankfully they arrive. I am thankful to Anthony Kearns for choosing to sing O, America! at this prestigious occasion, between Ireland and the United States…and giving this song its moment to arrive”