Publisher: Novello & Co
The Spring (from 'Acallam na Senórach') (2008)
Jointly commissioned by the National Chamber Choir and the Cork International Choral Festival for the seminar 'from composition to performance, the seminar on choral music'.
Novello & Co Ltd
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
The Spring is a musical rendering of the opening passages from the Acallam na Senórach (The Colloquy of the Ancients), an important Middle Irish narrative dating from the 12th or 13th century.
In its entirety, the text follows two aged Irish warrior-heroes (Oisín and Caílte, inexplicably still alive centuries after the famed battles in which they fought) as they travel across Ireland with the newly-arrived Saint Patrick.
Only the very opening of the legend is covered in The Spring, yet the kernel of the story that is to unfold is found here. Instead of Patrick merely converting the two pagan warriors, he is encouraged to listen to Caílte’s poem about a pure spring of significant importance to the warriors’ tribe (the Fían). Here the secular/sacred osmosis begins as the great Saint is asked first to listen to the historic tales of his new land before offering the tenets of his new religion to the inhabitants.
Musically The Spring is a concatenated sequence of self-enclosed musical segments linked together by a recurring theme. First heard at the very opening and last iterated in the final bars, this motif is the melodic glue that holds the narrative elements together.
The English translation is sourced largely from Ann Dooley and Harry Roe’s 1999 edition of the text (Tales of the Elders of Ireland), adapted for this musical setting by Geraldine Parsons and myself in 2008. The medieval Irish is taken from the Whitley Stokes and Ernst Windisch 1900 edition ('Acallamh na Senórach' from Irische Texte mit Übersetzungen und Wörterbuch).
I am extremely grateful to Geraldine Parsons, a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, for the invaluable array of assistance she has offered me (from the specific pronunciation of the medieval Irish to providing a wider understanding of the subtleties of the text itself).
Cambridge, April 2008