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In conversation with: Jenny Greene, Gemma Sugrue & Jack O’Rourke

Tara Maher

 

Jenny Greene is one of Ireland's leading DJs, and she is no stranger to playing Cork's iconic music venues; the annual Guinness Jazz Festival, The Opera House, and Live At The Marquee are only a few on her impressive CV. 


But when she's not performing on stage with Gemma Sugrue, Jack O'Rourke, and the RTÉ Orchestra, you can find her roaming the streets of Kinsale or indulging in Finder's Inn, one of her favourite restaurants. Jenny was born in Dublin, but her parents reside in Nohoval, and her sister lives close by in Kinsale. This familial connection, combined with her love for the city and its music scene, is what draws her back to Cork time and time again. 


Jenny's debut in the Rebel County came 15 years ago when she played in the much-loved and greatly missed SAVOY. She has fond memories of the club and admitted she laments its closure every time she takes a walk through the City. Her performances at the SAVOY marked the beginning of her love affair with Cork, a relationship that has only grown stronger over the years. 

Ever since she returned year after year, Between Live At The Marquee, The Guinness Jazz Festival, and several concerts over Christmas, she now plays on Leeside on average ten times a year. 


"I have such a connection to Cork," Jenny revealed. I think that's why I keep coming back," she told The Carrigdhoun journalist Tara Maher in a recent interview. With just over a month to go until she returns for the 2024 instalment of the LATM festival on Friday, June 14th, her excitement is unmistakable. 


Picture courtesy of Aiken Promotions

"It is mad now to think that I'm playing the Marquee and have been doing so for the last seven years because when I first started playing the SAVOY, I was like, I want to play there," she said.

Jenny returns with her entourage of the RTÉ concert orchestra, Jack O'Rourke and Gemma Sugrue. It's a peculiar mix when you see it on paper, but the union of genres can be personified as an enemies-to-lovers tale; the contrasting sounds surprisingly complement each other, making it one of Ireland's most unique performances. 


Jenny's collaboration with the RTÉ concert orchestra, a project that began in 2016 at Electric Picnic for a once-off performance, has become a significant part of her career. It was described as a "project of nostalgia" and has gone on to perform in venues across the country. It has won accolades, including the prestigious IMRO Outstanding Achievement Award 2018, solidifying its place in the Irish music scene.


Playing in Cork so regularly feels homely but also comes with challenges. It's essential for Jenny to vary her sets to keep both herself and the audience engaged so they don't experience concert fatigue. "Having performed a brand new show last year, we've gone back over the past few years and looked at everything we've done and picked the best pieces from each (show)." Cork singer Gemma also described the set list as "very niche Irish dance tracks that were only popular here. There's one or two that I think people are really going to lose their minds for". 


Jenny has played a number of tunes over the years, but she will always have a special place in her heart for S.P.Q.R—Hypnotic State, which everyone knows and loves as 'Higher.' The track, a nostalgic reminder of her teen years when she first began her career working in pirate radio, holds a special place in her heart. She commended Gemma Sugrue and her vocals for making the song so memorable for her and for the crowd, creating a shared emotional experience with her fans. 


Singer-songwriter Jack O'Rourke is set to join Jenny onstage again this year. Jenny had previously worked with singer Gemma Sugrue but said working with a male vocalist as talented as O'Rourke has added "a new dimension" to the show. The musician, who has strong ties to Crosshaven, announced last week that he will play an intimate gig in Tracton Arts & Community Centre on Saturday, the 6th of July. 


Jack always looks forward to performing with Jenny, Gemma, and the orchestra. Traditionally, he performs behind a piano, and his repertoire consists mainly of folk songs, so when he had the opportunity to step out of his comfort zone, he jumped at the chance. "I don't usually get the chance to sing Jazz, R&B, or Dance Music, so it gives me the opportunity to flex those muscles." 


The trio spoke fondly of each other, the camaraderie they share while on stage, and how it translates into the crowd. "I know when I'm 70, I'll look back and say, ah, the good old days," Jenny said. The unique blend of their talents, the energy they bring to the stage, and the special moments they create together make their performances a must-see for any music enthusiast. 


With the interview coming to a close, we discussed the venues she has yet to tick off her bucket list, and an intimate gig in a City pub came to the fore. Having played in the infamous Conolly’s of Leap in West Cork, which she said was her favourite gig to date, she expressed her desire to recreate something similar in a City location. Maybe we could convince her to do something similar in Carrigaline…

 

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