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Celtic Cadences

March 16, 2024

Enjoy the lively rhythms, beauty and recognizable tunes of Celtic music, from “Danny Boy” to Riverdance, with BMSO’s Ross Baumgardner on bagpipes and Dr. Maureen Murchie on solo violin.

Program

An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise...........................Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
                                 Ross Baumgardner, bagpipes
 
Irish Rhapsody No.6, Op. 191........... .........Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)
                               Dr. Maurren Murchie, violin
 
Irish Tune from County Derry (Danny Boy) arr. Percy Grainger  (1882-1961)
 
Lord of the Dance selections....Ronan Hardiman, arr. Larry Moore
 
INTERMISSION 
 
Riverdance: A Symphonic Suite................................Bill Whelan (b. 1950)
      I. Cloudsong
      II. Reel around the Sun
      III. Caoineadh Cú Chulainn
     IV. The Countess Cathleen - Women of Sidhe
     V. Firedance 

Program Notes

Orkney Wedding with Sunrise (1985) Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Commissioned by the Boston Pops in 1984, Orkney Wedding with Sunrise was described by Davies as “a picture postcard record of an actual wedding I attended on Hoy in Orkney.” He described it this way: “At the outset, we hear the guests arriving, out of extremely bad weather, at the hall. This is followed by the processional, where the guests are solemnly received by the bride and bridegroom, and presented with their first glass of whiskey.  This becomes ever wilder, as all concerned feel the results of the whisky, until the lead fiddle can hardly hold the band together any more. We leave the hall into the cold night, with echoes of the processional music in our ears, and as we walk home across the island, the sun rises, over Caithness, to a glorious dawn. The sun is represented by the highland bagpipes, in full traditional splendour.” 

Irish Rhapsody No.6 
Sir Charles Villiers Stanford was an Anglo-Irish composer, music teacher, organist and conductor.  Born to a well-off and highly musical family in Dublin, Stanford was educated at Cambridge before studying music Leipzig and Berlin.  While still an undergraduate, Stanford was appointed organist of Trinity College.  In 1882, aged 29, he was one of the founding professors of the Royal College of Music where he taught composition for the rest of his life. Among his pupils were rising composers whose fame went on to surpass his own, such as Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams. 

Stanford composed a substantial number of concert works, including seven symphonies, but his best-remembered pieces are his choral works for church performance, chiefly composed in the Anglican tradition.  His Irish Rhapsody you will hear this evening is the last of a set of six such pieces.  All dating from the 20th century, the first from 1901 and the last from the year before his death. Two of the sets feature solo instruments along with the orchestra: the third (cello) and the sixth (violin).  
 
Irish Tune from County Derry (Danny Boy) Percy Grainger
Born in Australia in 1882, Percy Grainger was a piano prodigy who left for Frankfurt to study at Hoch Conservatory at the age of 13. Between 1901 and 1914, he was based in London where he established himself as a pianist, concert performer, composer, and collector of original folk melodies. He came to the United States at the outbreak of World War I and enlisted as an Army bandsman, later becoming an American citizen in 1918. Grainger has written numerous masterworks for wind band including Lincolnshire Posy, Handel in the Stand, and Molly on the Shore. Irish Tune from County Derry is a setting of a tune from the Irish county of Derry (often called Londonderry). While this tune is widely associated with the lyrics to “Danny Boy,” these actually came later. The origin of the tune is somewhat mysterious, but is generally believed to have been collected by Jane Ross of Limavady, a woman who lived in Londonderry in the 1800s and made a large collection of the popular unpublished melodies of the country.
 
Lord of the Dance is an Irish dance show and dance production that was created, choreographed, and produced by Irish-American dancer Michael Flatley, who also took a starring role. The music for the show was written by Ronan Hardiman, and selections from the show were arranged, in this performance, by Larry Moore. The story follows the character the Lord of the Dance and his fight against the evil dark lord Don Dorcha from taking over Planet Ireland. The Lord of the Dance defeats the dark lord's invasion with help from a little spirit. There is also a story with a "love versus lust" theme expressed through dance throughout the show. Saoirse, the Irish Cailín fights for the love of the Lord of the Dance against the wicked Morrighan, the Temptress. The stories are based on ancient Irish folklore and some biblical references; the title itself, along with the central musical theme, is taken from the Shaker hymn “ ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple.” - Dr. Patrick Riley  
 
Riverdance: A Symphonic Suite - Notes from the Composer Bill Whelan
The idea for a Riverdance Symphonic Suite had been on my radar for some time. Over the years I had often had requests from orchestras around the world for a full-length concert piece containing the music from the show. As my original score incorporated traditional instruments, it was not always easy to assemble the various ethnic elements in countries where pipers and bodhrán players are rare! So what I have done with this new score is to present all the themes from Riverdance in a way that is playable by a full symphony orchestra anywhere in the world, without the traditional musicians. There were two principal challenges – the first was to arrange the themes and melodies as a colourful and dynamic concert piece. The second was to choose the instruments from within the conventional symphony orchestra to appropriately replace the original ethnic instruments and voices.

In this score the listener will hear the core pieces at the heart of Riverdance – namely those melodies which were inspired by the modes and rhythms of traditional Irish music. However, as in most of the music for Riverdance, I have played with rhythmic structures and with counterpoint deliberately to present the choreographers with opportunities to break outside the conventional Irish dance forms.


In this suite I have also incorporated the music I composed for the international elements in Riverdance. So we will hear the Spanish-inflected Firedance and Andalucia as well as the music inspired by Bulgarian, Macedonian and Russian music.The choral music and songs are also included – with the orchestra taking the melodies – and the suite reaches its climax with Riverdance itself – the original seven minute piece that I wrote when the first performance was unveiled in 1994. - Bill Whelan