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Island People

Deirdre Gribbin (b. 1967)

Deirdre Gribbin

Deirdre Gribbin

Composer
Deirdre Gribbin (b. 1967)
Composition Year
2010
Work Movements
1. The Given Note
2. Oracle
3. Gifts of Rain
4. Lovers on Aran
Artists
Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello]), Sebastian Philpott [trumpet], Ann De Renais [soprano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Deirdre Gribbin

I come from an island whose history is so deeply affected by the water, which surrounds it. It is a place where Celtic art flourished much longer than in the rest of Europe because the tide of change was distanced by the waters surrounding its island shores. It is also a place from which immigrants left in droves after the blight of the famine in the 1840’s, seeking better lives in new lands. I grew up in Belfast; Beal Feirste whose name in gaelic means mouth of the Sandy ford where the River Lagan flows into Belfast Lough. Being close to water was a part of my growing up. Getting away from it all, to the sea, out of Belfast’s turbulent troubled city in the 1970’s and, losing myself by the waters edge, listening to the stillness of waves breaking is part of my deepest core.

One of my earliest memories is of standing at the back of the Liverpool ferry watching the grey sea foaming in the ship’s wake journeying down Belfast Lough and watching the land which was so familiar to me vanish into the distance. When I left Ireland to come to London on that same ferry some years later, I knew that this leaving had a greater meaning. It was to mark a journey’s end and a new beginning onto a different island. I was taking with me the essence of the place, the remembrances of encounters with the land and water and Seamus Heaney’s poetry, a touchstone and talisman. Not to have those words at hand would mean that something so fundamental to me would be missing. This poetry with all its truth and directness was a salve for me on new ground and revealed itself fully many years later through my encounter with Heaney himself and Anahorish.

Being one of the Island People is for me a metaphor for my life as a composer. I forced myself to step off the solid familiarity of the known ground and venture anew onto a different solid land to a new place, a new island and further.

This symbolizes the nature of writing music, a thing, which is always in flux, stable for a moment and then moving on another wave as clear and as troubled as the depths of the sea itself. This collection of chamber works is rather like a group of interrelated short stories which explore and question the nature of the fragility of the human spirit on the firmament, and, across the sea.

The poems are, The Given Note, Oracle, Gifts of Rain and Lovers on Aran. There is a thread running through the song-cycle that is to do with the land, the earth, and the familiar in the landscape, which hold truths to the core of our existence. The featured trumpet is similar to the role of the ‘Greek chorus’ commenting on and pre-empting the mood evoked by the soprano and strings.

In the first song The Given Note, Heaney talks about the fiddler struggling to find the notes from the mystical, out of the Atlantic air, grasping the sounds from an unknown magical place and channeling them anew, in this instance passing them on to the trumpet. In Oracle, Heaney’s reference to finding resonance in the hollow of the willow reminds me of that sense of sureness which I have when sitting still, in a cleft of a hill in the Mourne mountains near Belfast, my very own oracle. In Gifts of Rain the music shouts out from the depths and secrets of the river Moyola, renewing itself. And in Lovers on Aran, there is a balance between the solid and the fragile where sea and land are constantly redefining themselves in an unexpected beauty, which is, the nature of life itself.

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Island People

Composer: Deirdre Gribbin (b. 1967)
Performance date: Monday 30th June 2014
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Deirdre Gribbin (b. 1967)
Work Title Island People
Composition Year 2010
Work Movements 1. The Given Note
2. Oracle
3. Gifts of Rain
4. Lovers on Aran
Artist(s) Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello]), Sebastian Philpott [trumpet], Ann De Renais [soprano]
Performance Date Monday 30th June 2014
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:16:25
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Small Mixed Ensemble
Instrumentation S-solo, tpt, 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Deirdre Gribbin

I come from an island whose history is so deeply affected by the water, which surrounds it. It is a place where Celtic art flourished much longer than in the rest of Europe because the tide of change was distanced by the waters surrounding its island shores. It is also a place from which immigrants left in droves after the blight of the famine in the 1840’s, seeking better lives in new lands. I grew up in Belfast; Beal Feirste whose name in gaelic means mouth of the Sandy ford where the River Lagan flows into Belfast Lough. Being close to water was a part of my growing up. Getting away from it all, to the sea, out of Belfast’s turbulent troubled city in the 1970’s and, losing myself by the waters edge, listening to the stillness of waves breaking is part of my deepest core.

One of my earliest memories is of standing at the back of the Liverpool ferry watching the grey sea foaming in the ship’s wake journeying down Belfast Lough and watching the land which was so familiar to me vanish into the distance. When I left Ireland to come to London on that same ferry some years later, I knew that this leaving had a greater meaning. It was to mark a journey’s end and a new beginning onto a different island. I was taking with me the essence of the place, the remembrances of encounters with the land and water and Seamus Heaney’s poetry, a touchstone and talisman. Not to have those words at hand would mean that something so fundamental to me would be missing. This poetry with all its truth and directness was a salve for me on new ground and revealed itself fully many years later through my encounter with Heaney himself and Anahorish.

Being one of the Island People is for me a metaphor for my life as a composer. I forced myself to step off the solid familiarity of the known ground and venture anew onto a different solid land to a new place, a new island and further.

This symbolizes the nature of writing music, a thing, which is always in flux, stable for a moment and then moving on another wave as clear and as troubled as the depths of the sea itself. This collection of chamber works is rather like a group of interrelated short stories which explore and question the nature of the fragility of the human spirit on the firmament, and, across the sea.

The poems are, The Given Note, Oracle, Gifts of Rain and Lovers on Aran. There is a thread running through the song-cycle that is to do with the land, the earth, and the familiar in the landscape, which hold truths to the core of our existence. The featured trumpet is similar to the role of the ‘Greek chorus’ commenting on and pre-empting the mood evoked by the soprano and strings.

In the first song The Given Note, Heaney talks about the fiddler struggling to find the notes from the mystical, out of the Atlantic air, grasping the sounds from an unknown magical place and channeling them anew, in this instance passing them on to the trumpet. In Oracle, Heaney’s reference to finding resonance in the hollow of the willow reminds me of that sense of sureness which I have when sitting still, in a cleft of a hill in the Mourne mountains near Belfast, my very own oracle. In Gifts of Rain the music shouts out from the depths and secrets of the river Moyola, renewing itself. And in Lovers on Aran, there is a balance between the solid and the fragile where sea and land are constantly redefining themselves in an unexpected beauty, which is, the nature of life itself.