COMPOSER'S PERSONAL STATEMENT
"Ireland’s centuries-long struggle for nationhood is not only a vital part of her own history – it also vividly expresses the innate and irrepressible desire of all humans and all societies to be self-determining.
Thus, as an American composer, IRELAND’S POET-PATRIOTS, A Musical History, is an expression of my profound love of Ireland, her music, her people and her culture, and the poetic impulse that is so profoundly rooted in the Irish soul.
In the most personal way, Ireland and her people have been in the core of my heart from a very young age. I began my musical studies at age 5, learning and playing every form of classical, popular and liturgical music available. After my graduate studies, I became active in American avant garde music. Then, musically and personally, my horizons were expanded immeasurably by my discovery of, study of, and enthusiasm for Irish literature and ‘trad’ music, which led me to spending many years traveling to Ireland, gratefully absorbing her culture along the way. It was an instant love affair for me that has never wavered, and it lives with equal passion alongside my work in ‘classical European’ music and American musical theater.
I am always inspired by the work of Seán Ó Riada, who built bridges between Ireland’s deep, beloved and uniquely engaging Traditional music and the emotional breadth of European classical music.
It is because of Ó Riada’s insights that I have dared, in IRELAND’S POET-PATRIOTS, to imagine the exquisite poems of W. B. Yeats and Ella Young in the musical language of art songs; the stirring words of Maud Gonne and Padraic Pearse in the dramatic musical language of opera; the powerful words of O’Donovan Rossa and James Connolly set to well-known Irish traditional tunes; Robert Emmet’s speech before his execution, George William Russell’s mystical reverie, and Pearse and Connolly’s brilliant words of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in liturgical musical language; interspersed with segments of Irish traditional music, both sean nós vocals and instrumental tunes, standing proudly on their own.
I am grateful to have lived long enough to witness great progress in the reconciliation between the Republic of Ireland and the North. It is to that end that I dedicate the final movement of IRELAND’S POET-PATRIOTS – a meditative musical benediction for choir, soloists, and orchestra based on the poem ‘Immortality’ by the Irish mystic poet George William Russell, ‘A.E.’
Over the years, it has been my privilege to make music with such wonderful Irish and Celtic musicians-now-friends including Aly Bain, Christy O’Leary, Dave Fadden, Muireann nic Amhlaoibh, Oonagh Keogh, Eamonn Lane, Cathal McConnell, Seamus McGuire, Derek Ryan, John Creighton Murray, Moya O’Doherty, Geraldine O’Grady, Sean Og Potts, Dave Richardson, Breandán de Roiste, Aimée Farrell-Courtney, Todd Denman, Diana Rowan, John Sheahan, Claire Sherry, as well as others whose names inadvertently lie too deep in my memory at this writing.
It is because of the vision, energy, and hands-on leadership of Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western U.S. at the time, that IRELAND’S POET-PATRIOTS first came to life in San Francisco’s magnificent Grace Cathedral – as his Consulate’s contribution to Ireland’s Centenary in April 2016. I extend my profound thanks to Philip.
I shall always be grateful to Síle de Valera, Minister of the Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht & the Islands, who bestowed a great responsibility and honor on me by commissioning my original air ‘Kilmainham Gaol’ (now featured in IRELAND’S POET- PATRIOTS) as part of her Ceole Reoite project in 1999 to commemorate the new Millennium in Ireland. I was especially honored that Ms. de Valera asked us to premiere this piece of music in the East Wing of Kilmainham Gaol (whose last prisoner had been her grandfather) on a fittingly frigid and wildly windy evening in February 1999, where the only light came from small candles lovingly placed along the iron balconies, bridges, and stairs – in honor of all those whose spirits will continue to keep watch there through the centuries."
Richard B. Evans, Composer, Writer, Adapter and Orchestrator