Traces in Dublin German singer Agnes Bernelle

Agnes Bernelle collaborates with Philipp Chevron and Elvis Costello, c. 1985. Image: Courtesy of Mark Leslie
Agnes Bernelle collaborates with Philipp Chevron and Elvis Costello, c. 1985. Image: Courtesy of Mark Leslie | Foto: Courtesy of Mark Leslie

Agnes Bernelle’s journey from Berlin to Dublin created a living link between the German cabaret of the 1920s and contemporary Irish music.

She was born Agnes Bernauer in Berlin in 1923, the daughter of Jewish Hungarian-German theatre impresario Rudolf.  In 1936 she followed her father who had fled to England in December 1935. When war broke out, she went to work for the British intelligence services as “Vicki”, the siren voice of anti-Nazi propaganda radio broadcasts. She married an upper-class Irish Spitfire pilot Desmond Leslie (whose father Shane was a cousin of Winston Churchill) at the end of the war and performed German cabaret songs, especially those of Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill and Joachim Ringelnatz, in London.

In 1963, she and Desmond moved to his ancestral home, Castle Leslie in County Monaghan. Later she divorced Leslie, married Irish writer Maurice Craig and moved to Dublin. For young Irish people, her performances at the Project Arts Centre in the 1970s and 1980s and her three albums of German songs were electrifying. Punks idolised her and she had a huge influence on Irish musicians like Philip Chevron of the Pogues and Camille O’Sullivan. Bernelle died in Dublin in 1999.

Visitor Information:
Project Arts Centre 
39 East Essex Street 
Temple Bar 
Dublin 2 
IRELAND

+353 (0)1 881 9613
info@projectartscentre.ie 

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Agnes Bernell - Surabaya Johnny