Irish Composer and Musician Bill Whelan (b. 1950) wrote Cloudsong from Riverdance: A Symphonic Suite in 1995. Whelan said he wrote the suite after requests from orchestras around the world who wanted to play the music of the international sensation Riverdance show, which at the time was not written for orchestra. Whelan said he insisted on keeping the music “dance-friendly” and also incorporated rhythms of Flamenco and Eastern European dance in the piece. Whelan has also composed music for films, theater and television.
You could say Australian Composer and Pianist Percy Grainger’s (1882-1961) Molly on the Shore is a predecessor of the “mashup.” Grainger combined two traditional but contrasting Irish reels, "Temple Hill" and "Molly on the Shore" in 1907 as a birthday gift for his mother. She nurtured his passion for the piano and Grainger began performing in public at the age of 10. He would move to the U.S. in 1914 where he performed with the Army band. After his mother’s suicide in 1922, Grainger traveled back and forth from the U.S. to Australia, playing piano and “collecting” folk songs along the way. In 1935 he founded Melbourne’s Grainger Museum dedicated to Australian Music and invented the free music machine, considered an early version of the electronic synthesizer.
British Composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) wrote Symphony No. 3 in F Minor, also known as “Irish,” in 1887. A prolific composer and conductor, he was also a professor at London’s Royal College of Music and Cambridge University and his students included composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst. He would compose 10 operas, seven symphonies, and five Irish Rhapsodies, compositions inspired by his affection for traditional Irish music. Symphony No. 3 in F Minor was an instant popular and critical success, with performances in London, Vienna, Hamburg and at the New York Philharmonic under Maestro Gustav Mahler. The dramatic fourth movement that you will hear today is the Symphony’s longest movement, inspired by traditional Irish jigs and, said Stanford, the poem “Deidre’s Lament of the Sons of Usnach.”
American Composer, Musician and Conductor Leroy Anderson’s (1908-1975) Irish Suite is a work in six movements, inspired by Irish folk tunes, reels, jigs and ballads. The Boston Pops, led by Arthur Fiedler, premiered the Suite in 1949 and it has been an orchestra mainstay ever since. Coincidentally, like Grainger, Anderson made his first public appearance as a piano soloist at the age of 10. He would go on to graduate from Harvard University, and to compose and arrange hundreds of works, including “The Syncopated Clock” which became the theme of TV’s The Late Show and the holiday classic “Sleigh Ride.” You might not know that Anderson was a staff composer and arranger for Decca Records, where he worked with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.
BONUS DIGITAL PROGRAM CONCERT NOTES
Written in 1950, “Isle of Innisfree” by Dick Farrelly is one of the more recent songs that you will hear tonight. Fittingly it was first performed on St. Patrick’s Day in 1950. When film director John Ford heard the song, he chose it as the theme of his 1952 film The Quiet Man, which was set in Ireland, but you won’t see it mentioned in the movie’s credits. When Bing Crosby recorded it that same year, it became a world-wide hit. It has since been recorded by hundreds of other artists.
California-born John Bettis (b. 1946) who wrote the lyrics to “Distant Shore” has more than 800 songs to his credit, including hits for the Carpenters, Pointer Sisters, George Strait, Ronnie Milsap, Whitney Houston and many others. Bettis wrote the song “Human Nature” on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album and the hit “Crazy for You,” for Madonna. He has written for TV and for movies from Cocktail to Say Anything and The Godfather Part III. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
"Red Is the Rose" is a traditional Irish folk song, believed to have been written in the mid-18th century. It tells the story of lost love and memories and is sung in the same tune as the Scottish song “Loch Lomond.” Irish Music Daily credits a resurgence in its populariy to recordings by The Chieftans, The High Kings, and Orla Fallon.
“The Parting Glass” is a very popular traditional Irish lament dating back to the 17th century. It is often sung at the end of a gathering, especially wakes and funerals. Recorded in 2011 by Celtic Woman, it reached a new audience when covered by Irish singer Ed Sheeran, whose YouTube video of the song has nearly 7 million views.