Spotlight on Newly Commissioned Works

Ceiluradh for DYO

The Dublin Youth Orchestras will be celebrating their 25th Birthday next year, and to mark this special occasion a decision was made to commission a new musical work. As this project was to reflect a “Youth for Youth” approach, it was decided to invite a young post-graduate student to arrange a suite or medley of Irish traditional melodies. Professor Gerard Gillen, Head of the Music Department, N.U.I. Maynooth was approached and asked if he could recommend one of his students, and he, having congratulated D.Y.O. on their initiative, had no hesitation in recommending Peadar Townsend, currently a student there in the Masters programme in Composition, (and also a former member of the Cork Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra). Peadar immediately accepted the commission, which included the request that the music be fun to play and that it would have an unusual and unexpected orchestration. Now Dublin Youth Orchestras is delighted to announce that the new work, titled “Ceiliuradh” is in rehearsal. It is in three movements – a march, a slow air and a reel – and will be premiered at their Annual Concert on Sunday 14th January 2007 in the National Concert Hall-by Cherry O’Keeffe

Cork VEC Commission – Irish dance as percussion!

‘Pléaráca an Ghaorthaidh’, written for the County Cork VEC Youth Orchestra by Bernard Geary, will be performed on 3 February at the Annual Festival of Youth Orchestras. This work incorporates writing for a conventional classical orchestra, an Irish traditional ensemble (Ceol le Céile, Ceolteoirí Chairbre) and a jazz group and allows for the addition of dancers as a ‘live’ percussion section, who will join the orchestra on stage at NCH! A novel and unique composition, specifically written for young musicians, it reflects the broad approach to music making they have in the County Cork School of Music. The personality of the piece was born of a brainstorming session between Bernard Geary (composer), Martin Power (Director of Ceol le Céile), John Fitzpatrick (Director of CCSM) and Carol Daly (Conductor of CCVECYO). The composer listened carefully to descriptions of what they wanted to say with the piece, of the standard of playing and the instrumental resources, which he could use and when the first hand-written section arrived for perusal, it was clear that he had completely understood them. We look forward to hearing it at the Festival!

RIAM Commission – ‘An Adventure and an Education’

Kevin O’ Connell has been commissioned to write a piece called ‘The young are always right’ for the RIAM Symphony Orchestra. Though initially concerned about the technical difficulties for composers writing for youth orchestras he then ‘set about writing something as challenging as [he] could’ and the results are very promising. He told IAYO: ”The young are always right’ is a twelve-minute single movement in several sections. It tests not only the technique but the musicality of the players to a high degree. Anyone who has heard the RIAM S.O.’s recent performances of Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra or Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony will be in no doubt about the capabilities of these players. I sometimes think that the only thing that differentiates the top young players from professionals is the professionals’ ability to learn a new score quickly. But with a two-month rehearsal period, I am confident of James Cavanagh’s and the orchestra’s ability to conquer the difficulties. I teach composition to many of the players and this allows us to discuss everything from technical and expressive issues to inaccuracies in the orchestral parts. The whole process is proving to be what such projects should be but perhaps too seldom are: an adventure and an education for everyone involved.’

Music Matters commissions Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra

Born out of a conviction that contemporary music must be presented to music students in a way that is relevant to them, I commissioned Brendan Walsh, an MA Grad from DIT, professional guitarist and composer from Six Mile Bridge, Co. Clare, to compose a one-movement work for our senior orchestra. Brendan had huge experience in composition and arrangement for young, mixed-ability groups through his work as director of NUI Maynooth Guitar Orchestra, as the founder member of the Irish Guitar Trio and through his close working relationship with the avant-garde group E.A.R.

Brendan and I discussed the forces available and standard of each section and decided to write for guitar and string orchestra. In January 2005, after 3 months of rehearsal and 3 visits by Brendan, we premiered the work. It was immediately apparent that we had started something very special. I attribute the success of this venture to three factors. Firstly, the youth and personality of the composer – Brendan was just 21 when the piece was commissioned, highly gregarious, totally approachable, and always generous with his time and ideas. Secondly, because Brendan performed the piece with us, the interpretation of the work was carefully monitored by him, and his passion for music and the composition was contagious. Lastly, the piece itself is eminently playable and accessible to listeners. In 2006, Music Matters won the IAYO/ Penneys Special Achievement Award. With this money and a grant from Galway Co. Co. I asked Brendan to compose a further two movements to create a complete concerto for us. The growing ability of the players is reflected in the technical difficulty of the final two movements and one student even commented that Brendan’s composition skills had improved in two years! It is this ability, to compose at the students’ level, that is one of Brendan’s most important talents. To aid preparation for our performance at the IAYO Festival in 2007, we recently undertook an intense weekend of rehearsals and performances in Galway, Dublin and Cork. The improvement in the orchestra was marked. The tour brought the work to a new level of interpretation, bonding the orchestra and Brendan even further (he is now ‘our’ composer) and totally exhausting our members of staff! And now it is onwards and upwards to NCH and the IAYO Festival!
by Maire McLoughlin