Friday, 23 March 2012

24 & 25 March

CB Ireland 2

Intro:  Haste To The Wedding/Trip To The Forest, trad, arr Burgess (3.22 min)

This is Classical Break on Somer Valley FM, and I’m Rupert Kirkham.  Today’s programme was written and researched by Mike Burrows and is a second celebration of Irish music, for St Patrick’s Day.

We’ve just heard the traditional jigs, Haste To The Wedding and Trip To The Forest.  Now, let’s hear the Irish Rhapsody Number One of the Ulsterman and bedrock of Anglo-Irish dominance in British life, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.  In the early 20th Century, he wrote six Rhapsodies based on folk-tunes and in the manner of European nationalism, often descriptive of events and characters from Irish legend.  In the Rhapsody Number One in D Minor, a narrative of an episode in the story of the warlike hero Cuchullan and his wife, Emer, Stanford employs the drolly aggressive battle-song, Leather-bags Donnell and the lament, Emer’s Farewell To Cuchullan, otherwise known as Londonderry Air.  The treatment of the themes - sonata-form development - does not preclude powerful and affecting writing, splendidly scored.  The First Rhapsody was first heard at the Norwich Festival in 1902, the year in which Stanford gained his knighthood.

Track Two:  Irish Rhapsody No 1, Stanford (13.39 min)

Born in Norfolk, the son of a parson, EJ Moeran’s life was broken by the Great War, in which he was badly injured.  Of partly Irish blood, in time, he moved permanently to Ireland.  His Violin Concerto is a work of great, fine-spun but tough beauty, whose glamour or magic is conjured up out of Irish fiddling, human warmth and story and a wild, dark-shadowed and light-shot landscape.  Here is the finale, Lento, full of nostalgic, colourfully scored feeling and echoes of birdsong, folksong, Delius and Sibelius. 

Track Three:  Violin Concerto, Moeran (10 min)

Here’s a song sung by the Australian baritone, Peter Dawson:  The Kerry Dance, by Molloy.  This piece stands out from many written in a spirit of wistful thoughts of home, and is sung with deep understanding by Dawson.  

Track Four:  The Kerry Dance, Molloy (3.46 min)

Now, another traditional march, often played at the funerals of expatriate Irishmen, Let Erin Remember The Days of Old.

Track Five:  Let Erin Remember The Days of Old, Trad (2.00 approx)

Now, let’s hear The Star of The County Down, an Ulster song sung by John MacCormack and accompanied by Edwin Schneider, in broadcast from 1936. You will notice that the tune is virtually identical to the English Dives and Lazarus, the words those of a love-song. The recording comes complete with a farewell from MacCormack, whose easy manner with any audience added to the charm of his singing.

Track Six:  The Star of The County Down, Trad (2.28)

Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty hailed from County Down.  His tone-poem, With The Wild Geese was first performed at the Cardiff Music Festival in 1910.  It is in four movements run into one with much use of thematic development - transformation and combination - as in sonata-form.  It tells the story of Irish mercenaries who fought for the French against the English at the battle of Fontenoy in 1715.  The piece is strongly enough worked up together to seem a Symphony.  With at least three contrasting main themes,  it begins with a heroic fanfare, a chirpy song of farewell, the march abroad - with backward looks.  Proceeding through night in camp and dreams of home; a call to arms and battle, it closes with dead mercenaries transformed into the wild geese of the title, flying home to County Clare. The end of the piece builds from strange, vibrancy to a fitting apotheosis, rich in pathos and pride, and final development of the opening material.  Throughout, one meets uncanny touches in orchestration.  The music is richly scored in woodwind, three flutes (one doubling on piccolo, 2 oboes, a cor anglais, 2 clarinets, one in A, the other in B--flat, Bass Clarinet in B Flat, 2 bassoons:  Harty’s Irish idiom demands Scotch-snappy lyrical solos - typically on flute or oboe, and doublings - allying treble and alto, or alto and bass.  He is fond of misalliances between lower woodwind and brass or strings, particularly violas or cellos - here, this trait comes to conjure up both Ancient Ireland and the plangent cries of geese.  The trumpets in C have been chosen for their keen, bugle-like tone - if muted, calls sound dusky or nocturnal.  A quartet of horns and three trombones are ready to back them up.  The strings are another choir, with violin solo, outright unison on first violins, or in tissues of layered, nostalgic sound evoking darkness on the camp, or move at blistering speed in accompaniment.  In style, the battle-music anticipates The Battle of Shrewsbury in Elgar’s Symphonic Study, Falstaff of three years later,  Tchaikovsky being the forebear in common.  The Tone--poem was inspired by the Irish nationalist poetess, Emily Lawless’ collection of the same name.  We were with the Wild geese from beginning to the strange and triumphant end - that is no end.

                        “Men of Corca Bascinn, men of Clare’s Brigade,

                        Hearken stony hills of Clare. hear the charge we made;

                        See us come together, singing from the fight,

                        Home to Corca Bascinn in the morning light.”         

This was Classical Break on Somer Valley FM, and I’m Rupert Kirkham.  Today’s programme was assembled by Mike Burrows.  We hope you enjoyed it and will join us again soon.  Goodbye!

Track Seven: With The Wild Geese, Harty (18 min)


This was Classical Break on Somer Valley FM, and I’m Rupert Kirkham.  Today’s programme was assembled by Mike Burrows.  We hope you enjoyed it and will join us again soon.  Goodbye!

Track Ten:  With The Wild Geese, Harty (18 min)