April 26, 2009
Since I last posted news here I’ve been all over the place, from New York to Estonia. Here’s a brief report on each event.
JANUARY 2009 – USA
In January I took my Dad on a holiday to the US where we visited New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. We saw President Obama’s inauguration via the big screens in Time Square, New York. It was an historic occasion.
Whilst in New York I was delighted to meet legendary new music DJ and writer John Schaefer who interviewed me for his long running WNYC show ‘New Sounds’. The show was broadcast on 17th March and you can hear it here
John also played one of my pieces on this edition of the show
MARCH 2009 ROME, ROMANIA AND PRAGUE
I had a great trip to Central Europe in March beginning with a two day stay in the incredible Italian capital Rome. I’d never been before and was really blown away by the beauty of the city. After this I flew to Cluj-Napoca, the capital of Transylvania in Romania, where I performed a concert with Ioana Petcu-Colan and gave a seminar in the Gheorghe Dima Academy of Music. We were grateful to Iulia Cibicescu-Duran and her husband Eugen and Dr. Adrian Pop for inviting us and to Culture Ireland, IMRO and the Romanian Cultural Institute for providing support for the event.
Following this I flew to Prague in the Czech Republic where the Prague Chamber Orchestra gave the World Premiere of my string orchestra piece ‘Echoes of Bamako’ as part of the Prague Premieres Festival. Here’s a picture of me standing in front of the orchestra taking in the rapturous applause!
Many thanks to the organisers of the festival for inviting me over. It was great to spend a few days in such an historic city as Prague. I’ll never forget my visit to the medieval torture museum!!
APRIL 2009 FINLAND AND ESTONIA
I recently returned from a week long trip to Finland during which I also had a day trip to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The trip was mainly a research trip for my current PhD studies. I had a great time visiting the homeland of one of my favourite composers, the great Jean Sibelius. I even managed to meet him while I was there…….
As you can see from my hair, it was quite windy that day!
On Easter Sunday I took the 2 hour ferry trip to Tallinn from Helsinki for what was really the unexpected highlight of my trip. Tallinn is a really interesting mix of medieval, 18th Century and old Russian communist architecture. Estonia is also the home country of another one of my favourite composers Arvo Pärt. Whilst there I attended a concert by the most beautiful choir I’ve ever heard, the Estonian TV Girls Choir. They sang pieces by Pärt, Tormis and Kreek, it was a magical concert, the closest thing to hearing a choir of angels.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Tomi Raisanen and Pekka Jalkanen, two of Finland’s finest living composers. I’m also thankful to Hannu Saha for helping me with my research. Hannu is one of Finland’s leading Kantele players, the Kantele being an ancient Finnish instrument.
Here’s Hannu playing some Kantele music
I’m currently holed up in my home in Spiddal working on some compositions and my PhD. I’m also recording a new album which I hope to release in the summer, more of which later.
JULY 2009 RETURN TO NEW YORK
My foreign travels will continue again in July with a quite unexpected trip back to New York where my String Quartet No.2 ‘The Cranning’ will receive its US premiere at the Summergarden Festival at the Museum of Modern Art on 19th July. It’s a thrill to return to New York so soon for this event and my thanks go to Joel Sachs, the Juilliard School and the Contemporary Music Centre for helping to make this happen.
What I’ve been Listening To
I just realised that in my first news post I mentioned I’d say what I’ve been listening to lately with each post. Well recently 3 pieces of contemporary classical music have got my attention. The Finnish composer Pekka Jalkanen composed a wonderful Concerto for Kantele and Strings and I’ve been listening to the CD it’s on, ‘Helios’ by Eva Alkula.
I recently bought the new Arvo Pärt album In Principio. The title track is surprisingly Philip Glass-like, the tracks that really caught my attention are the new arrangements of Da Pacem Domine and especially Mein Weg, a great addition to the Pärt canon.
I’d been increasingly disappointed by Steve Reich’s recent output, nothing in recent years has matched any of his great works from the 1970’s and 1980’s but his latest Pulitzer Prize winning work Double Sextet is a worthy addition to his canon. On first listen it seems very similar to many of his works, not a major change of style or anything, but the more I listen to it the more I like it. There is a subtle change here due to the constantly changing rhythmic emphasis and, praise be, the harmonic changes in the piece are glorious. Reich’s publisher Boosey and Hawkes have made a recording of the work performed live by the ensemble Eigth Blackbird available on a stream here –