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Celtic Dreams

Celtic Dreams

March 14 & 15, 2025

Audience-favorite Brayden Drevlow returns with the Finzi "Grand Fantasia and Toccata", and the orchestra ushers in the St. Paddy’s Day spirit with music from Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and When Irish Eyes are Smiling.


Four Welsh Dances from the Wonders of the Celtic Deep....Paul Mealor (b. 1975)

Grand Fantasia and Toccata, Op. 38....Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
                          Brayden Drevlow, piano 


When Irish Eyes are Smiling (traditional) 

Molly on the Shore.......Percy Grainger (1882-1961)

Irish Tune from County Derry ..................Grainger 

The Fellowship of the Ring: Symphonic Suite......Howard Shore/John Whitney

Program Notes

Grand Fantasie and Toccata, Opus 38 by Gerald Raphael Finzi (1901-1956)
Of Italian Jewish ancestry, Gerald Finzi was among the most English of composers, spending much of his life in the countryside of Hampshire and later near Newbury, where the string orchestra he founded became an important vehicle for the performance of his music. His interest in earlier English music and in English literature is largely reflected in his own works, which owe something to Parry, to his older contemporary Vaughan Williams, and to Elgar.
The component sections of the Grand Fantasia and Toccata for piano and orchestra actually date from two separate periods. The stately Fantasia, with its dotted rhythms suggesting a baroque French overture, is improvisatory in mood: the orchestra silently observes the keyboard’s elaborate flourishes for much of the movement, before providing its own reflections.  The Toccata seems to release the tension built up in the Fantasia.  Finzi begins with something like a fugue but doesn’t go into the usual elaborate contrapuntal development.  The sparkling finger-play of music builds to an impressive conclusion.
Four Welsh Dances from the film Wonders of the Celtic Deep (2021) by Paul Mealor (b. 1975)
Paul Mealor has been Professor of Music at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) since 2003 and his output spans opera, symphony, concerto, and chamber music genres.  Welshman Mealor is a major force in the choral music world and much of his popular acclaim can be traced to the performance of his setting of Ubi caritas et amor at the wedding of HRH Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011.
In 2021, Mealor composed several hours of music for the popular BBC Wales TV series Wonders of the Celtic Deep, The series “shines a light on the extraordinary creatures, secretive shallows and hidden depths along the spectacular coast of Wales with Mealor’s music heightening the drama, wit and humor, as well as the tragedy of life out at sea.”  (WiseMusic)
Not only does Wales have a beautiful coast, both below and above water, but it has a rich folk culture, which Mealor wanted to celebrate somehow in his music for the series.  During several episodes he wrote stylized Welsh dance music to accompany the underwater movement of sea creatures.  The dances include the Set dance (a couple dance), two Morris dances, and a lively clog dance (in which the dancers create rhythmic sounds by the placing and timing of their steps, manipulated with foot, ankle and shoe – a wooden-soled clog.)  
About this project, Mealor said to the BBC: It’s been a true joy writing the music to this epic natural history series which explores footage never seen before. Music, if done right, can add so much to film and tv. I hope I’ve been able to capture in music the myriad of sea worlds - from the largest whales to the smallest fish - in this extraordinary program.
Lord of the Rings:  Fellowship of the Ring, Symphonic Suite (2002-2004) by Howard Shore (b.1946), arr. by John Whitney
J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is regarded by many as the finest of all modern literary fantasies, and the series of three films based on it that Peter Jackson brought to the screen have enthralled people of all generations for years. The 221 minutes of music accompanying all three Lord of the Rings movies is Howard Shore’s greatest film music achievement so far.  For this score, he won three Academy Awards, four Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes as well as numerous critic’s and festival awards.
About this medley of tunes from the original soundtrack, Shore commented:
“It is very gratifying to see the music from The Lord of the Rings find a new life on the concert stage. The music was conceived in Wellington through collaboration with Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and it is only fitting that the piece had its premiere in Wellington, New Zealand, which is the home of Middle-earth.”
This arrangement by John Whitney for full orchestra covers all the main themes from the first movie.  The suite begins with the Fellowship theme, followed closely by the dark Prophecy music.  As Gandalf drives his cart into Hobbition we hear Concerning Hobbits, followed by Three is Company, and In Dreams.  As the hobbits move into the wild country surrounding Hobbit land, the music accompanying their trek is Shortcut, Knife in the Dark, and Argonath.  Finally, as Frodo and his companions arrive in the country of the elves and the fellowship dissolves we hear the Breaking of the Fellowship.  And like any great film music, after the last note sounds, we are left wanting to see and hear more.
When Irish Eyes are Smiling (1912) by Olcott and Graff, Jr. (words) and Ernest Ball (music)
The song When Irish Eyes Are Smiling is a tribute to Ireland. It was first published in 1912, at a time when songs in tribute to a romanticized Ireland were very numerous and popular both in Britain and the United States The lyrics were by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr. The duo teamed with Ernest Ball, who wrote the music. The song was written for an Olcott production titled The Isle O’Dreams. and was first published in 1912. 
The Isle O’Dreams premiered at the Grand Opera House in New York on January 27, 1913, and closed on February 22 of that same year. Olcott actually sang the song in the production. At that time, he was a famous Broadway Star. 
Although Olcott’s mother was born in Ireland, the creators of this show were American.  Olcott probably heard his mother’s stories about her childhood in Ireland and this led to him developing a love for the country. He was also the lyricist for My Wild Irish Rose which he wrote in 1899.
Lyrics to “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”:
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure ’tis like a morn in spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter you can hear the angels sing,
When Irish hearts are happy all the world seems bright and gay,
And When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure, they steal your heart away.
Verse 1:
There’s a tear in your eye and I’m wondering why,
For it never should be there at all.
With such power in your smile, sure a stone you’d beguile,
And there’s never a teardrop should fall,
When your sweet lilting laughter’s like some fairy song
And your eyes sparkle bright as can be.
You should laugh all the while and all other times smile,
So now smile a smile for me.
Verse 2:
For your smile is a part of the love in your heart,
And it makes even sunshine more bright.
Like the linnet’s sweet song, crooning all the day long.
Comes your laughter so tender and light.
For the springtime of life is the best time of all,
With never a pain or regret.
While the springtime is ours, thru all of life’s hours,
Let us smile each chance we get.