Island People

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

Performance date: 30/06/2014

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 2010

Duration: 00:16:25

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Small Mixed Ensemble

Instrumentation Other: S-solo, tpt, 2vn, va, vc

Artists: Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins] Simon Aspell [viola] Christopher Marwood [cello]) - [quartet]
Sebastian Philpott - [trumpet]
Ann De Renais - [soprano]

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
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.