“My earliest memory of life is of hearing Bach’s B Minor Mass being played on the record-player on Sunday mornings at home.
My father would lift the box with its integrated speaker and stylus arm out into the hall, crank the volume well up and our house would be filled with those most glorious sounds. The awesome scope of the piece, the vision of it all, the power of the choral writing and singing, the majesty of the orchestration…. I couldn’t of course voice of any of that back then, but I distinctly remember being moved. Inexplicably so. I was in awe, drawn to it, but unable to explain that feeling to myself. It was like looking up into the night sky – the absolute and tearful wonderment of it all. The Kyrie Eleison I particularly remember, and to this day, I frequently return to it and find myself similarly moved, fifty-odd years on. And from those childhood days, I have been consumed with orchestral and choral writing.
I am humbled to have been commissioned to compose a choral symphony, a concerto, many other choral and orchestral works and to be currently writing an opera – I put it down to JS Bach and to my parents’ fantastic record collection and their selfless encouragement of music in my siblings and myself.”
The Great and First Object
“This work was commissioned by The Linen Hall Library in Belfast to mark its 225th year in existence. I collaborated with the writer/librettist Glenn Patterson, who drew on minutes taken at governors’ meetings in the late C18th for inspiration. The library is a haven for me, a sanctuary.”
“For this choral commission, I was keen to explore the use of macaronic verse, and chose Irish and Latin. The sounds that come off the two languages are very different and yet feel natural and comfortable side by side.
The Irish text was translated by the Rev Gary Hastings – minister, musician and mighty man.”
“This began life as a short section of incidental music for a BBC TV series that I later then developed into a stand-alone choral piece for a Belfast school choir.
At the time of writing, I had no idea that they would be premiering this in St Paul’s Church, Ground Zero, NYC.
Once I learned this, the words – “Lamb of God, take away the sins of the world” – took on an even greater significance.”
“These immortal words, meaning literally ‘the tears of things’ are borrowed from Virgil’s Aeneid, where he uses them to underpin the futility of war.
Over the years they have come to convey something of the inherent element of sadness that all humans can meet over the course of a life.
The work was premiered at a concert in Belfast in memoriam Seamus Heaney, November 2013.”
“The 48-minute choral symphony was a massive undertaking – in all sorts of ways. It marked the 400th anniversary of The Flight of the Earls, an epic event in Ireland’s history.
My research involved retracing overland the Earls’ journey through Ireland, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Such inspiration! A BBC tv crew followed me over the year of its writing.”
Orchestral and Choral Audio Player