New Commissions by Donogh Hennessy - ‘A Tune for Laura’ and ‘A Trip to Lurgan
We are delighted to present two new Music Network commission songs, composed by Donogh Hennessy. Performed by Donogh Hennessy (Guitar), Oisín Mac Diarmada (Fiddle) and Mirella Murray (Accordion) and recorded at glór, Ennis, Co. Clare on 9th February 2023.
Music Network commissioned Donogh Hennessy to write new music for the Music Network February 2023 tour. ‘A Tune for Laura’ and ‘A Trip to Lurgan’ were premiered at St. John’s Theatre & Arts Centre, Listowel on 8th February 2023.
Performed by Donogh Hennessy, Oisín Mac Diarmada and Mirella Murray in Kerry, Clare, Cork, Wicklow, Wexford, Dublin, Dún Laoghaire, Offaly, Leitrim, Sligo & Galway.
Donogh Hennessy – Guitar
Oisín Mac Diarmada – Fiddle
Mirella Murray – Accordion
Music Network is committed to providing opportunities for Irish composers through its programmes. Commissioning is a vital part of the work we do to nurture music and musicians in Ireland.
Every year we commission a number of new works by Irish composers which are performed by renowned Irish and international performers for audiences across the county as part of our national touring programme.
John Buckley - Duo
A new Music Network commission, composed by John Buckley. Performed by Clara-Jumi Kang and Sunwook Kim at St Ann’s Church, Dawson Street, Dublin 2 on 5th October 2022.
Duo was commissioned by Music Network with funding provided by The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon. It was composed specifically for Clara-Jumi Kang (violin) and Sunwook Kim (piano) for their Music Network tour of Ireland in October 2022.
The title Duo implies a sense of dialogue and engagement between the two instruments; a phrase on the violin elicits a response from the piano and vice versa. From a formal perspective the piece consists of three sections. The opening and closing segments evoke a sense of spaciousness and dynamism while the middle section is lighter in texture and attempts to create a mood of mysterious shimmering.
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh - Cúlshruth & Ar Nós na Gaoithe
Two new Music Network commissions composed by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. The final piece of music entitled 'Ré an tSolais' is also composed by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh.
Performed by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Cormac De Barra & Mark Redmond in Dublin, Dún Laoghaire, Tinahely, Baile Mhúirne, Hammersmith, Clifden, Bellmullet, Newbridge, and Cork between 14th September and 2nd October 2022.
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh fiddle
Cormac De Barra harp
Mark Redmond uilleann pipes
Notes from the composer:
Cúlshruth (Whirlpool) waltz
I’m always looking for local Gaelic terms to do with nature and the sea. This term for whirlpool is beautiful as it literally means ‘back flow’.
Ar Nós na Gaoithe (Swift like the Wind) reel
The wind coming in from the Atlantic rules us so much here on the North-West coast of Donegal. It can be gentle or strong but always there bringing the good and the bad.
Tim Edey - The Open Book & Cooney's copy
A new Music Network commission composed by Tim Edey, performed by Tim Edey, Mairi Rankin and Eric Wright in Dún Laoghaire, Stradbally, Baltimore, Clifden, Dublin, Listowel, and Baile Mhúirne from 5 - 13 May 2022.
Tim Edey guitar/melodeon
Mairi Rankin fiddle
Eric Wright cello
Jonathan Nangle - Granular Dusk
A new Music Network commission composed by Jonathan Nangle, performed Jennifer Stumm on viola in Bray, Dublin, Roscommon, Clifden, Listowel, and Waterford from 29 March – 6 April 2022.
Jennifer Stumm viola
Granular Dusk (2022) For Solo Viola
During the winter season, when I wrote this piece, the sun is low on the horizon and on a nice day, the sunset puts on a particularly vivid display of colour. The sky is ablaze as it shifts through a spectrum of blue, violet, pink, orange, red, eventually settling on the darker hues and finally black as the sun dips below the skyline. So often, this scene has a granularity to it, like a photograph speckled with noise. My piece loosely seeks to express this image, a frame that remains the same while elements within shift in colour and granularity.
Ronan Guilfoyle - Helter-Shelter-Skelter
A new Music Network commission composed by Ronan Guilfoyle, performed Amy Dickson, Sonoko Miriam Welde and Simon Mulligan in Clifden, Tralee, Cork, Kilkenny, Dublin, Dún Laoghaire, Waterford, Baile Mhúirne, Newbridge, and Sligo from 3 – 13 March 2022.
Amy Dickson saxophone
Sonoko Miriam Welde violin
Simon Mulligan piano
Helter-Shelter-Skelter is a ‘performance piece’. Of course, any music written for performance could be considered to be a performance piece, but there are pieces of music that seemed always to be destined to live their lives on the concert stage. They have something that works best in the live performance setting. When I was asked to write this piece for these great musicians, I was conscious of two things - giving the musicians something to get their teeth into musically, and providing something that would hopefully work well as a performance piece and engage the audience.
The title of the tune - ‘Helter-Shelter-Skelter, refers to the ‘Helter-Skelter’ opening and closing of the piece, and the ‘Shelter’ in the title refers to the softer, more lyrical central section. The piece comes charging out of the blocks, and a back and forth conversation ensues between the three players. Since I am a jazz musician myself, it's hardly surprising that the piece has many jazz characteristics, particularly in the rhythmic aspects. And it has an improvisatory feeling to certain sections of it, although none of it is actually improvised. In the central section, the saxophone plays what sounds like a jazz solo to some degree, and that was deliberate on my part, since the saxophone has such a huge presence in jazz and I wanted to incorporate that kind of language into a completely written piece. The piece ends very much as it began, with the ‘Helter-Skelter’ theme so to speak, before cheekily exiting quietly at the very end.
It's been a great pleasure to write this music for this wonderful group, I hope they have fun performing it and that you have fun listening to it.
Séamus McGuire, Niamh Varian-Barry & Gerry O'Beirne – where the river bends
Performed in Wexford, Ennis, Baile Mhúirne, Cork, Tinahely, Clifden, Sligo, Dún Laoghaire, Newbridge, Carrick-On-Shannon, Dublin, Roscommon, Letterkenny and London from 2 — 18 February 2022 by Séamus McGuire, Niamh Varian-Barry and Gerry O Beirne.
Séamus McGuire viola
Niamh Varian-Barry viola
Gerry O'Beirne guitars
Iarla Ó Lionáird, Úna Monaghan & Kevin Murphy – Amhrán an Chuaichín
Performed in Roscommon, Drogheda, Limerick, Castlebar, Carrick-on-Shannon, Dublin, Ennis, Portlaoise, Cork, Newbridge, Dún Laoghaire, Listowel, Clifden, London, Belfast, Sligo from 1 — 19 September 2021 by Iarla Ó Lionáird, Úna Monaghan & Kevin Murphy.
Emma O’ Halloran - To turn in Circles
Performed online by Patrick Rafter (violin) and Fiachra Garvey (piano) as part of a digital 'tour' presented by Music Network in partnership with Waterford Music, Ionad Cultúrtha (Baile Mhúirne), Riverbank Arts Centre (Newbridge), National Opera House (Wexford), Pavilion Theatre (Dún Laoghaire), Music in Kilkenny, Linenhall Arts Centre (Castlebar), and Siamsa Tíre (Tralee). Premiered online 16 June 2021.
Contrary to what is usually believed, it is not general ideas and grandiose unfolding of great events that impress the mind during times of heightened historic upheavals, but rather the uninterrupted flow of little experiences, observations, disturbances, small ecstasies, or barely perceptible discouragements that make up day-to-day living.” - Etel Adnan
The title of this piece, To Turn in Circles, is a line taken from the poem “To Be in a Time of War” by Lebanese-American poet Etel Adnan. This poem is a stunning depiction of the experience of living through a period of historic turmoil, and I found myself returning to it again and again over the course of writing this work.
During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, I experienced a profound shift in the way I experienced the world around me. Time seemed to move both rapidly and at a glacial pace, and I found that the only way I could ground myself was to pay close attention to the minute details of my daily life. These months became an inextricable blend of anxiety and dread balanced by mindfulness and serenity, and it is this experience that I’ve tried to capture in this piece.
By stripping away everything but a single melodic line, the piano and violin become a unified instrument, playing as one for the entire work. In getting to the heart of what this moment in time is about for me, this piece has become about paying attention. Here, every moment is significant, the slightest shift in colour becomes monumental, and at times, these barely perceptible disturbances can become warped and distorted, taking on a life of their own.
– Emma O’Halloran
Conor Linehan - An Autumn Night's Dream
Performed online by cellists Ailbhe McDonagh, Martin Johnson, Rosalie Curlett and William Butt as part of a digital 'tour' presented by Music Network in partnership with Waterford Music, The Courthouse Arts Centre, Riverbank Arts Centre, St. John's Theatre & Arts Centre, Linenhall Arts Centre, and glór from 12–21 May 2021. Premiered online 12 May 2021.
The title of this piece comes from the fact that its main theme literally came to me in my sleep. I was staying in Galway last September, writing music for Druid Gregory, Druid Theatre’s production of six Lady Gregory plays, staged in the grounds of her former home of Coole Park. One night, the opening melody came to me in a dream. On waking up, I quickly sang it into my phone before the mist cleared and it would be forgotten forever!
The piece is in an almost palindromic form. It opens with the ‘dream tune’, a slow, meditative melody, which then transforms into a graceful dance for one bowed and three pizzicato cellos in ever shifting time signatures.
The dance is interrupted by a more driven, playful, section which alternates between 4/4 and 6/8 bars, subsequently incorporating the initial melody. This moves back into a variation on the more pensive opening music before a brief coda of the ‘pizzicato’ dance.
The brief, such as it was, when writing the piece was to compose music which is optimistic and warm, in the face of such difficult times. It also distributes the material evenly between Martin, Ailbhe, Rosalie and Bill. After all, in a quartet of four cellos there is no musical hierarchy!
I hope that the piece invokes a little of the tone of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream music. I also hope that it also might have absorbed some of the magical spirit of Coole Park.
I’m very grateful to have been asked to compose this piece for four such superb musicians. I hope you enjoy it.
– Conor Linehan
Brian Finnegan - Crossing Rubicon | Ollin
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 12 June 2020.
Brona McVittie - Amid the Weeds of a Returning Wilderness
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 10 June 2020.
Amanda Feery - 'Frame Story'
Performed by Fiachra Garvey at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 5 June 2020.
Niamh Varian-Barry - Waiting For The Numbers
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 3 June 2020.
Nick Roth - Cúig Dhallán Dé
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 29 May 2020.
Andrew Hamilton – Music For People Who Want To Go Home
Performed by Mairéad Hickey at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 27 May 2020.
Gerry O'Beirne – Shadows Falling
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 22 May 2020.
Tom Portman – Spring's Call
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 20 May 2020.
Jonathan Nangle – Mandala
Performed by Deirdre O'Leary at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 15 May 2020.
Niall Vallely – Idir Dhá Thine Bhealtaine
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 13 May 2020.
Christine Tobin – Beneath The Sedges And The Heather
Performed with guitarist Phil Robson at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 8 May 2020.
David Munnelly - Cocooned
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 6 May 2020.
Judith Ring - Is It Over Yet?
Performed by Lina Andonovska at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 1 May 2020.
Laoise Kelly - Guth na Maidine
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 29 April 2020.
Ger Wolfe - Hello Gorgeous | Someone Called
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 24 April 2020.
Caitlín Nic Gabhann - An Ciúnas
Performed with Ciarán Ó Maonaigh on octave fiddle at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 22 April 2020.
Julien Colarossi - Sounds From My Room
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 17 April 2020.
Peadar Ó Riada - A Kovid Butterfly
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 15 April 2020.
Carole Nelson - From Stillness Into Life
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 10 April 2020.
John Doyle - Alone Together
Performed at home as part of The Butterfly Sessions, Music Network's online series featuring 20 new commissions composed and performed by 24 exciting jazz, traditional and classical musicians. Premiered 8 April 2020.
Garth Knox - Cloak
Performed in Paris, Belfast, Derry, Portstewart, Clifden, Castlebar, Wexford, Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Castlepollard from 25 February-7 March 2020 by Saltarello Trio.
Cloak was inspired by the legend of St Brigid’s Cloak. Her initial request for land on which to build her monastery having been refused by the landowner, she asks if he will give her the amount of land she can cover with her cloak. Seeing the small size of her cloak, the landlord agrees, whereupon St Brigid’s four followers each take a corner of the cloak and start to walk in the 4 cardinal directions. The cape miraculously expands to cover acres of land, which the landowner is obliged to hand over to her.
This idea of miraculously expanding space helped me to imagine a piece which begins with a musical Big Bang, explosive, chaotic and hard to comprehend which then gradually evolves in time and space becoming clearer, more luminous and where a certain order begins to form. The 4 corners of the cloak are represented by four Tibetan bowls, whose sound evolves in exactly this way. At the opening of the piece they are played all at once and continuously, giving a saturation of sound difficult to analyse. Little by little the bowls are separated and played more slowly. At the end of the piece we hear each one individually, enriched and sustained by harmonics of the strings.
The three players represent St Brigid’s followers, and their individual departures in different directions. A solo for viola explores the note played by the smallest of the 4 bowls, the cello seeks to find what lies between the pitches played by the two middle bowls, and the percussionist expands time with his rhythms. At the end he finally draws the essential in time sound from the lowest bowl.
Anxo Lorenzo, Jim Murray, Dónal O’Connor & Jack Talty
Performed in Dublin, Newbridge, Castlebar, Clifden, Drogheda, Letterkenny, Ennis, Cork, Bray, Wexford, Baile Mhúirne, Birr and London from 14-30 January 2020 by Anxo Lorenzo, Jim Murray, Dónal O’Connor & Jack Talty.
Anxo Lorenzo gaita/whistles
Jim Murray guitar
Dónal O’Connor fiddle
Jack Talty concertina
Brian Bolger - Lawra
Performed in Waterford, Tralee, Dublin, Kilkenny, Castleconnell and Clifden from 21-27 November 2019 by tenor Ben Johnson and guitarist Sean Shibe.
I wanted to have my piece connect with the rest of programme in some way and this was made easy by the inclusion of 'When Laura Smiles' by Philip Rosseter and the obvious connection to my own partner Laura Sheeran. I thought this to be a good omen and worthy of pursuit.
Instead of simply resetting this poem again I searched for another ‘Laura’ poem to use and was delighted to find the sonnet ‘Rose-cheekt Lawra’ by Rosseter’s closest friend, fellow lutenist and collaborator Thomas Campion (1567 -1620). Small world!
In fact, ‘When Laura Smiles’ is taken from Booke of Ayres on which Campion and Rosseter collaborated in 1601. I was further facilitated in how Campion’s poem is filled with musical metaphors and was therefore very easy to express musically. You will hear the voice and guitar responding to ‘discord’, ‘gracing’ and ‘dull notes’ as they occur in the text. ‘Flowing’ and ‘eternal’ is expressed through the cyclical nature of the repeating arpeggiated chord progressions.
- Brian Bolger
Alex Petcu - Cross | Paths
Performed in Dublin, Waterford, Bray, Clifden, Portlaoise, Castlebar, Cork and Ennis from 2-11 October 2019 by Bangers and Crash Percussion Group.
Something I have been interested in a lot lately is people’s preconceptions of what things sound like and the interest they show when the actual sound deviates from their expectations. For example, one can imagine what a metal pipe might sound like, probably from having heard one crashing on the floor. Drill two holes in just the right spots however, then hang it up and strike it with a vibraphone mallet, and the sound you’ll hear is suddenly surprisingly different.
When asked to write this piece I wanted to make use of this idea, to write something that would provide enjoyment to the listener and lastly, be fun to play. It’s a piece in two halves, the first featuring the familiar sound of the drums (as well as a few other bits and pieces). From large to small (or low to high), we have a concert bass drum, tom toms, congas and bongos. The second part introduces some pieces of scrap into the mix, with both familiar and unfamiliar sounds of those said pieces of scrap being heard!
The title refers to the extensive use of cross-rhythms and the individual paths that each player’s line takes throughout the piece. There is a culminating moment right in the middle where everything comes together. Visualising how the piece would look as a diagram, I imagined it as an X.
- Alex Petcu
Josephine Marsh - The Coffee House & An Spideóg
Performed in Dublin, Ennis, Baile Mhúirne, Wexford, Portlaoise, Listowel, Limerick, Dún Laoghaire, London, Letterkenny, Sligo and Clifden from 11-23 September 2019 by Tara Breen, Laoise Kelly, Josephine Marsh and Nell Ní Chróinín.
I wrote a Planxty for the harp, it took a while because I wanted to write something I was really happy with, so bits and pieces of it came to me at different stages, and I also wrote a modern take on a slip-jig, called An Spideóg – The Robin. This July our house was visited twice in the one week by a young robin who flew in and took a look around and flew off again. I like to think that it was a visit from our little boy, Robin, to whom this tune is dedicated.
- Josephine Marsh
Kevin Volans - cello:piano 2 in C major
Performed in Dublin, Cork, Letterkeny, Dún Laoghaire, Castlebar, Waterford and Wexford between 3rd and 11th April 2019 by German cello and piano duo Raphaela Gromes and Julian Riem.
Jane O'Leary - Fantasia (homage to J. S. Bach) for Baroque violin and harpsichord
Performed in Dublin, Birr, Clifden, Dún Laoghaire, Waterford and Listowel between 16th and 22nd February 2019 by baroque violinist Claire Duff and harpsichord player Benjamin Alard.
This piece was commissioned by Music Network for Baroque instruments, surrounded by Bach’s music in performance. I drew on some general impressions of Bach’s music, the style of the period, and also the particular qualities of sound inherent in these two contrasting instruments from another era. Open strings, harmonics and arpeggiations create stretches of rich sonority from the violin, while the harpsichord’s plucked strings make sharp incisions into these lines. Alongside rhythmic passages there are free sections where the music escapes into a timeless space.
‘Fantasia’ was a form often used by Bach, described as ‘the play of imaginative invention’; the term implies freedom, unpredictability, an element of surprise. As the music flows, moving forward and reaching upward, it takes some twists and turns, and a resonance from the past filters through.
- Jane O'Leary
Sebastian Adams - 2018.3
Performed in Dublin, Clifden, Letterkenny, Birr, Sligo and Castlebar from 7-12 November 2018 by Russian violinist Yury Revich and German cellist Benedict Kloeckner.
2018.3 emerged out of some improvisations on the viola da gamba,
and aims to find common ground between the sound of the viol and of the
violin family. I wrote the piece straight after two very complex works,
full of things that were difficult to write and are difficult for
players to learn. Perhaps in reaction to this, I made this piece into a
semi-improvised work with a very open, warm sound world. It seemed
natural to leave some elements of the piece open to improvisation, given
that the material was worked out that way in the first place. As I
worked out the material, I looped short snippets of recorded chords and
played over them, trying to find shared resonances and moments of
- Sebastian Adams
Amanda Feery - Gone to Earth
Performed in Castlebar, Dublin, Tinahely, Castlepollard, Cork, Tralee, Castleconnell and Waterford from 8-17 October 2018 by Dutch ensemble the Amatis Piano Trio.
The white calm of unselfsih love wrapped Edward, for he felt that he could make Hazel happy. As he fell asleep that night he thought: “She was made for a minister's wife.”
Reddin, leaning heavily on the low wall, staring at the drunken tombstones and the quiet moon-silvered house, thought: “She was made for me” Both men saw her as what they wanted her to be, not as she was.
- Mary Webb – Gone to Earth
My piece, Gone to Earth is inspired by a novel of the same name, written by Mary Webb. 'Gone to Earth' is also a term used in fox hunting, when the hunted fox has taken refuge, hidden from its predators. The plot of the book centres around one female character in the middle of the obsessed 'love' of two men. There is a supernatural backdrop to the plot represented in the mythological 'wild hunt' of the death hounds, which encapsulates the theme of the book; predatory behaviour and men’s desire to take what they feel is their own.
I was immediately drawn in to the book, stunned that it was written in 1917, and angry that the notion of the predatory hunt and desire to control women is still very much a threat to women's lives today. The musical material attempts to represent a propulsive chase followed by a respite and refuge.
- Amanda Feery
Benjamin Dwyer - sin títolo
Performed in Wexford, Castlebar, Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Tralee, Clifden and Dún Laoghaire from 22 April- 1 May 2018 by Franco-Spanish guitarist Thibaut Garcia and German cellist Isang Enders.
sin títolo (‘without title’) is based on a madrigal by Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa (1566-1613). But the aim was less a tribute to the great madrigalist than a need to have a structure upon which to create a new work. The madrigal chosen therefore also remains 'sin títolo', as I don’t wish to direct attention towards any similarities or differences that may exist between the two works. The nature of a cello and guitar duet is completely different to a five-part vocal work; however, the cello part does absorb melodic lines drawn from the vocal parts – sometimes from the base, sometimes from the soprano and alto lines. The complex, interrelated nature of Gesualdo’s madrigal writing refuses a simplistic reduction to mere melody and accompaniment, and thus the very nature of the original is radically transformed.
Despite its vocal source, this is an instrumental work for cello and guitar. While the cello part plays melodic lines, I also wanted to make sure that timbre, texture, microtonality, rhythmic articulation and tonal variation played a significant role in the final result of those ‘melodies’. The guitar part’s role is predominantly supportive to the cello’s lines, but considerable skill is required to maintain a deceptive simplicity, as the unusual harmonic formations are far from easy to execute.
- Benjamin Dwyer
Siobhán Cleary – An Cailleach
Performed in Skibbereen, Dún Laoghaire, Castlebar, Cork, Newbridge and Letterkenny from 4-11 March 2018 by Russian pianist Anna Tsybuleva.
In preliterate times, seasons were observed by the hours of light, weather patterns and lunar cycles, rather than any set calendrical date. Stories were invented and handed down generation by generation, in order to explain the astronomical divisions of the year; the vagaries of the weather and the shortening and lengthening of the days.
In the folklore of Ireland and Scotland, the Cailleach was the embodiment of winter, among many other things. Incarnated as an old hag at the end of Autumn (Samhain) she brings winter’s elemental destruction until she is recreated once again at the beginning of Summer (Beltaine) as a young maiden.
These four short piano pieces take their title from a Scottish Gaelic legend which depicts the multitudinous ways the Cailleach casts her hibernal spell from Ben Nevis over her lands, until she is transformed, inevitably (and annually) into Spring.
- Siobhán Cleary
Rhona Clarke - Edge, String Quartet No. 3
Performed in Letterkenny, Kilkenny, Dublin, Newbridge, Waterford, Tralee, Dún Laoghaire and Skibbereen from 17-26 November 2017 by French string quartet Quatuor Voce.
The word ‘edge’ conjures up the idea of sharpness but it can also refer to extremes of nervous tension, to ‘being on edge’. Tentatively, we edge towards something fearful or become immobilised with apprehension as the feared entity edges towards us. Although the title was applied when the string quartet was almost finished, these are the qualities found in the music. Tension is created initially by high, hovering, barely moving individual parts; later the sliding, falling sensation which can be heard early on, becomes extreme, moving to the lowest registers of the instruments.
- Rhona Clarke
Deirdre Gribbin – Through every wind that blows
Performed in Dublin, Bray, Waterford, Sligo, Dún Laoghaire, Clifden, Castleconnell and Tralee from 10-18 October 2017 by trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth and pianist Gunnar Flagstad from Norway.
Connla’s Well has been an inspiration for Irish poets for centuries. Surrounded by nine hazel trees the ripe nuts fell into the well feeding the ‘salmon of knowledge’. Reputedly those who ate the nuts or the salmon would have immediate and profound knowledge, mystical insight and the ability to create visionary poetry.
The well was known to be the source for seven Irish rivers. Women were forbidden to go near it but the beautiful Sinaan, granddaughter of the sea god Lir wanted this knowledge. Approaching the well she ate the salmon. The water rose in a torrent engulfing her new-found power into a mighty river. From the name Sinaan it became the river Shannon.
This title is from George William Russell:
And when the sun sets dimmed in eve and purple fills the air,
I think the sacred Hazel Tree is dropping berries there
From starry fruitage waved aloft where Connla’s Wello’erflows;
For sure the enchanted waters run through every wind that blows.
In the music there is strong robust interplay between the soloist trumpeter and pianist. Fragments are repeated and distorted with rough-edged wah,wah rasping mutes. The soloist emerges into the foreground, is meshed with the filigree piano line, and eventually is drawn upwards, ending in quiet trance-like reflection.
- Deirdre Gribbin
Ian Wilson – Quattro Stagioni
Performed in Dublin, Birr, Newbridge, Dún Laoghaire, Castlebar, Clifden, Limerick, Cork and Tinahely from 19-29 April 2017 by violinist Mia Cooper, Katherine Hunka, Ioana Petcu-Colan and Helena Wood.
This work is a 21st-century response to the idea behind Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, as seen through the lens of American artist Cy Twombly’s major work from the 1990’s, Quattro Stagioni. Involving the talents of four of the finest violinists in Ireland – Mia Cooper, Ioana Petcu-Colan, Katherine Hunka and Helena Wood – Quattro Stagioni consists of four “concerto”-type movements: each of the four violinists has their own focal movement, where the other three act as the ‘ripieno’ group. The character of each movement is inspired by one of Twombly’s Quattro Stagioni paintings:
Primavera; Estate; Autunno; Inverno
This work is not only a celebration of the finest violinists on the island, but also a meditation on the cyclical nature of life and as such is full of colour, texture and emotion.
- Ian Wilson
Anne-Marie O’Farrell – Klaria
Performed in Dublin, Tralee, Dún Laoghaire, Clifden, Portlaoise and Castlebar from 8-15 November 2016 by Belgian harpist Anneleen Lenaerts and Greek clarinettist Dionysis Grammenos.
This piece was commissioned by Music Network for a tour with Greek clarinettist Dionysis Grammenos and Belgian harpist Anneleen Lenaerts. Although I was not required to ‘respond’ to the music already programmed – as is sometimes the case with commissions – it seemed the most natural thing to consider the context in which the new piece would be heard, namely, in a recital of 19th-century repertoire. Therefore, my mind was not far from the musical gestures of the Austro-German world of Schubert and Schumann.
The harmonic language of my piece shows tiny glimpses of characteristic 19th century writing, for example, in the leading semitones, but I also drew on a group of pitches from Elliot Carter’s solo clarinet piece Gra (1993), and set about establishing how a group of notes from Gra might be voiced on the harp, and which of its transpositions would best suit the harp’s chromatic pedal mechanism. I also rearranged these pitches in such a way as to provide harmonies idiomatic to the soundworld I wanted to achieve.
As a composer, who also plays what is often a gender-stereotyped instrument, I was reminded of the work of Clara Schumann (Wieck) and looked to her piano music and lieder for a suitable ‘cell’ from which to grow further ideas. One such cell is drawn from the first of her piano preludes Op. 16 (which precede her fugues), and so the sound of her first name, if not the spelling, is incorporated into the title of the piece. The title also deliberately contains the word aria, since some of tonight’s programme is drawn from vocal repertoire, and the idea of writing an ‘aria’ for clarinet is one I found appealing.
- Anne-Marie O'Farrell
Deirdre McKay – a quarter million miles from the moon
Performed in Dún Laoghaire, New Ross, Waterford, Cork, Dublin, Clifden, Castlebar and Sligo from 30 March-8 April 2016 by British violinist Chloë Hanslip and pianist Danny Driver.
Since writing my third quartet, 'mr shah stares to the heavens', the incomprehensibly vast quietude of space has become a fixture in my thought: space, being an almost perfect vacuum, is not well equipped to support sound.
In an age promising earthlings commercial flights to the moon, if you’d like to experience the sensorial beauty of skilled musicians playing live on exquisitely crafted instruments, you need to visit Planet Earth.
With this thought, comes a deeper appreciation of sound as a phenomenon. It draws the ear closer, as though not a note should be wasted. Something of the weightlessness, the immense quietude of a vast soundless space, something of a renewed preciousness in each individual note, fused in this soundworld.
- Deirdre McKay
Marian Ingoldsby – Never give all the heart (Yeats)
Performed in Skibbereen, Clifden, Dublin, Tipperary, Cork Dún Laoghaire and Warrenpoint from 15-23 November 2015 by German baritone Benjamin Appl and British pianist Gary Matthewman.
‘Never give all the heart’ was composed in response to a Music Network commission – a setting of the WB Yeats poem for baritone and piano. The poem contains a gamut of emotions, from blind love to romance, passion, frustration and loss, and I have tried to encapsulate all in this short song. The piano and baritone remain interactive in the main, here and there the piano assumes the role of accompaniment for atmospheric purposes.
I have used simultaneous D major and E major tonalities, alongside some delayed rhythmic patterns, echoing the sense of pain and longing. Chords are almost but not quite, consonant, never settling anywhere, but becoming at times darker and more dissonant throughout. The rhythm does however settle as the poem moves towards its conclusion, where hearts are ‘given… up to the play’. The tessitura of the baritone is varied, highlighting the general tenor of the lines of poetry.
- Marian Ingoldsby
Brian Byrne - Saxophone Quartet No. 1
Performed in Dublin, Navan, Newbridge, Sligo, Griaguenamanagh, Clifden and Castlebar from 5-11 November 2013 by Chatham Saxophone Quartet.
"The Byrne, with its beautifully shaped phrases, has sensitive solos in a profound pastorale to contrast its jazz dancing elements elsewhere. Byrne's score fits Chatham's closely-knit ensemble like the proverbial glove." - Irish Independent