A Tune goes to Ireland

In my previous book, Theophilus, I told the story of how my little tune I Will Be The Light came into being. Here I’ll try to complete the story–but before I do, a quick word about why I call virtually all of my works “tunes,” and identify myself as a “tunesmith.”

Some composers breathe a different kind of air and inhabit a different world than the rest of us: Ockeghem, Machaut, Josquin, Byrd, Monteverdi, Schuetz, Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Mahler, and others. In my mind, these are real composers. They wrote substantive compositions, works that will stand the test of time.

But the rest of us, for better or worse, just write tunes. There’s not a shred of shame in that, either. One of my heroes, Ralph Vaughan Williams, routinely referred to the music he wrote as “tunes.” If it’s good enough for Rafe (“don’t call me Ralph!”), it’s plenty good enough for yours truly.

Back to business. Here in Ireland, the national public broadcaster is Raidió Teilifís Éireann, or RTÉ for short. Like their counterparts in the US (PBS and NPR), they manage to accomplish a huge amount of good on a budget that is constantly shrinking  (they just sold a chunk of the land on their HQ campus to developers to continue to fund their operations). And like their counterparts in the UK, they sponsor performing groups (per Wikipedia):

RTÉ supports two full-time orchestras—the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and RTÉ
National Symphony Orchestra—as well as the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet, RTÉ Philharmonic Choir, and two youth choirs, RTÉ Cór na nÓg and RTÉ Cór Linn.
These groups present over 250 events annually, including live performances
and work in education. Currently, approximately 200 adults and children are involved in the choirs.

I Will Be The Light came to the attention of Mary Amond O’Brien, who conducts both of the youth choirs, last summer during repertoire planning for the 2018-19 season. She asked Lesley Bishop, a professional horn player who acts as artistic administrator for several of these groups (including both RTÉ Cór na nÓg and RTÉ Cór Linn) to see if the composer could be contacted.

Well, of course he could, and was.

And he was delighted to learn that his little tune would have its Irish and European premiere in September of 2018. According to Mary and Lesley (or was it Lesley and Mary? I honestly can’t remember) “it’s quickly become our signature piece for this year.” And now, at the request of the choirs and their conductor, I have taken the original chorus and piano piece and orchestrated it three other ways: for choir, strings and harp; for choir and woodwind quintet; and (combining the two) for choir and chamber orchestra.

It’s this last version that will be premiered at the National Concert Hall in Dublin this Wednesday, and repeated this coming Sunday.

Yeah, I know: I’m pinching myself.