Devil’s Dwelling Place

Composer: Deirdre Gribbin (b. 1967)
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Composer: Deirdre Gribbin (b. 1967)

Performance date: 01/07/2016

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 2016

Duration: 00:15:01

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Solo

Artists: Nurit Stark - [violin]

My great uncle, Freddie Mitchell, fought and survived the battle of
the Somme. His remaining short life back in Belfast was blighted by the
injurious effects of mustard gas poisoning. He died a young man in a military
hospital, alone.

Devil’s Dwelling Place refers to the Delville Wood, a point of strategic
importance where German lines were dominant. It
was the scene of particular
carnage for the 36th Ulster Division who fought on July 1st 1916.
The wood was
decimated, the trees
blown apart. One hundred years on, amongst the furrows

of the trench outlines, trees thrive again, their roots intertwined
with the remains of so many soldiers who lost their lives there.

The following account from an unknown survivor encapsulates that
sense of inevitability, of vulnerability and of sheer terror.
I made up my mind that I was going to be killed. While I was
waiting, during the last half-hour, I kept saying to myself: ‘In half an hour
you will be dead. In twenty-five minutes you will be dead. In twenty minutes
you will be dead. In a quarter of an hour you will be dead.’ I thought of all
the people I liked, and the things I wanted to do, and told myself that that
was all over, that I had done with that; but I was sick with sorrow all the
same. Sorrow isn’t the word either: it is an ache and anger and longing to be
alive. There was a terrific noise and confusion, but I kept thinking that I
heard a lark; I think a lark had been singing there before the shelling
increased. Then the noise became a perfect hell of noise, and the barrage came
down on us, and I knew that the first wave had started. After that I had no
leisure for thought, for we went over.

This single movement violin line aims to capture the energy of
anticipated fear and uncertainty. It also reflects a sense of hope and
determination where the instinct for survival in the human spirit is all