for Irish harp and orchestra
duration ca 14'
Gealán // ‘sparkle’
While listening to Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Ellen Cranitch talk about writing for the Irish harp, I was struck by the bold and bright language used to describe the instrument. This immediately suggested a radiant and rich soundworld to me that came to define the opening of Gealán.
This concerto shows off three characteristics closely associated with the Irish harp: colourful, nimble and lyrical; qualities that perhaps could be said to define Máire’s own musical persona. In each of its three movements, Gealán brings one of these elements to the foreground. The first movement presents a soaring melody in F major in the uppermost register of the harp, allowing it to sing above the orchestra (with the help of some amplification!), accompanied by minimalist string fragments that return in various forms throughout the work. The second movement is a plaintive modal air, introduced by the clarinet and responded to by the harpist’s left-hand melody, coloured with filigree, whispering right-hand arpeggios. The final movement draws heavily on the Irish dance music tradition, borrowing on syncopated reel rhythms to create a nimble and virtuosic harp tune that allows Máire to showcase her formidable technique.
01.05.19 – Máire Ní Chathasaigh & RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, cond. Gavin Moloney, National Concert Hall, Dublin, IE