WARM BLUE SKY
This is a paean to Cruit Island, a small island off the north-west corner of Ireland that I believe to be my spiritual home. I first visited west county Donegal as a child on family holidays in the 1960s, and then specifically Cruit Island with my own family for the last three decades. From my childhood memories, there was always something beguiling, intangible and magical about that part of the world – rugged landscapes, sprawling empty strands, big skies, turf smoke, the Irish language, the people, the apparent pace of life. It contrasted hugely with city life in Belfast on the north-east coast. As I grew older, I was able to give voice to these things, and I fell in love with the place.
Cruit Island is the only place I have discovered on the planet where I feel completely at my ease – as soon as I arrive there, my internal system is at peace. There’s no “settling in” – it’s instantaneous. I know this landscape, I know field names, I know my neighbours there. The place opens up headspace and time doesn’t rush. The energy that comes off the place suits me – yes I’m mostly on holiday whilst there, so relaxation, ease and euphoria are in-built – but there’s an extra dimension to it, a layer of “being home” that runs deeper than the mere physical. I feel hugged and known by the place. And when I’m composing there, music seems to arrive unforced. So it’s a haven, a breathing hole in the ice-cap. I respect it and guard it.
With the intention from the outset of composing a choral piece, I wrote the short poem WARM BLUE SKY during May 2020 when I wasn’t sure whether we’d be able to visit Cruit this year. I longed to be there, to drink in those ever-changing wide skies that selflessly offer up daily their comfort and solace. Setting it then to music happened almost in tandem, my ultimate aim being to head for harmonic and emotional warmth, and scale – from it’s restricted and less-than-sure opening strains to the closing fff organ, fff chorus, and resolution.
Set for SATB and organ, my hope is that this work receives its premiere in west Donegal.