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Artistic Director’s Introduction

‘And the wise choirs of faery Begin (innumerous!) to be heard.’

James Joyce, Chamber Music (XV) 

 

In 1907 Joyce wrote a letter to his brother Stanislaus candidly expressing the hope that his poems from Chamber Music would one day be put to music: ‘I hope someone will do so’, he wrote, ‘someone that knows old English music such as I like’. 

 

Joyce was an accomplished tenor, having won a bronze medal for solo singing in 1904 at the Dublin Feis Ceoil competition. The influence of singing is seen throughout Joyce’s work. In addition to mentioning John Dowland in Ulysses, Joyce references ‘Byrd (William) who played the virginals [...] Tomkins who made toys or airs and John Bull’, composers equally praised for their choral music. The imagery of Joyce’s lyrics – such as the ‘soft choiring of delight’ (XXVI), ‘the wise choirs of faery’ (XV), and ‘for many a choir is singing now’ (XVI) – calls for a new project, a full collection of choral settings of the poetry of Chamber Music. 

 

With the aim of fulfilling the wishes of James Joyce, I have commissioned eighteen composers from around the world in this Volume I collection. Volume II is already underway! Our composer- partners who have created new music for this first album hail from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Latvia, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the United States of America. Pairing each composer with their own Joyce poem seemed a fitting way to acknowledge the international aspect of the author’s personal journey. As Joyce was himself a singer, it became an important feature of the project that these pieces would be satisfying to sing: to compose music that respects singer, player and listener alike takes craft, and I am grateful to each of the composers for their collaborative approach as much as for their new music. 

Joyce was a graduate of our beloved University College. Choral Scholars are proud of our unique connection to Joyce’s Dublin story: not only do we hear and create the accents and speech patterns of his literary characters, but we also understand their cultural history. It is a pleasure and honour for us to be the first choral ensemble to wrap James Joyce’s ‘suite of songs’ in an Irish choral voice.

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Desmond Earley
Founding Artistic Director 

Associate Professor

Choral Scholars of University College Dublin

Programme

TITLE

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

From dewy dreams, my soul, arise

When the shy star goes forth in heaven

O cool is the valley now

Winds of May, that dance on the sea

Rain has fallen all the day

All day I hear the noise of waters

Gentle lady, do not sing

O, it was out by Donnycarney

The twilight turns from amethyst

Sleep now, O sleep now

Dear heart, why will you use me so?

Silently she’s combing

In the dark pine-wood

Because your voice was at my side

Now, O now, in this brown land

My love is in a light attire

Lean out of the window, Goldenhair

My dove, my beautiful one

POEM

COMPOSER

XV

IV

XVI

IX

XXXII

XXXV

XXVIII

XXXI

II

XXXIV

XXIX

XXIV

XX

XVII

XXXIII

VII

V

XIV

Matthew Emery

Timothy Stephens

David Walters

Mark Armstrong

Eoghan Desmond

Andrej Makor

Damien Geter

Owen Brady

Ivo Antognini

Natasa Paulberg

Dale Trumbore

Desmond Earley

Elaine Agnew

Kevin Whyms

Laura Sheils

Ēriks Ešenvalds

Jocelyn Hagen

Seán Doherty

Composers

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Matthew Emery

Track 01 - Poem XV

From dewy dreams,
my soul, arise

Glasses and Music Sheet

Timothy Stephens

Track 02 - Poem IV

When the shy star
goes forth in heaven

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David Walters

Track 03 - Poem XVI

O cool is the valley now

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Mark Armstrong

Track 04 - Poem IX

Winds of May,
that dance on the sea

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Eoghan Desmond

Track 05 - Poem XXXII

Rain has fallen all the day

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Andrej Makor

Track 06 - Poem XXXV

All day I hear the
noise of waters

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Damien Geter

Track 07 - Poem XXVII

Gentle lady, do not sing

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Owen Brady

Track 08 - Poem XXXI

O, it was out by Donnycarney

Artists

Soprano


Emma Arthur
Holly Bond 
Hazel Conway

Amber Dixon 
Emily Doyle *
Isabella Gibber §✤
Isabelle Kerins Brett 
Mollie Lalor 
Orla Mulvey
Kiri O’Neill

Alto

 

Amy Barrett
Seoirse Claffey
Lucy Cleere▴
Rose Higgins *⚜︎
Cara Kennedy ‡
Emma Ridenhour 
Sarah Thursfield *
Caitriona Timmins ⚜︎
Katherine McDermott▴

Tenor

 

Stephen Allen▴
James Costello ‡
Liam Cotter▴
Michael Driscoll ‡
Oisín Johnston
Glenn Murphy *
Max O’Neill
Declan Wildes *^

Bass


Francesco Bach ‡
Gavin Coll ▴
Cormac Feeney ✤
William Gaunt §
John Horan ‡
Jeffrey Ledwidge §
Eunan McDonald §□
Simon Morgan *^
Fayed Ojewale ‡
Martin Purtill-Kalk ^
Colm Shortall ▴
Harry Watchorn ‡

Solstice Ensemble

Mia Cooper | Violin
Martin Johnson | Violoncello
Macdara Ó Seireadáin | Clarinet □
Seamus Wylie | Clarinet / Bass Clarinet º
David Agnew | Cor Anglais ⚜︎
Clíona Warren | Bassoon
John Hearne | Bassoon □
Malachy Robinson | Contrabass
Kenneth Edge | Alto Saxophone º
Cormac Ó hÁodáin | French Horn
Geraldine O’Doherty | Harp º
Kevin Whyms | Guitar
David Adams | Harpsichord 

▴ Denotes those who participated at the October 2021 sessions only

✤ Denotes those who participated at the February 2023 sessions only

□ Denotes those who participated at the November 2023 sessions only

^ Denotes those who participated in October 2021 and February 2023, but not in November 2023

⚜︎ Denotes those who particpated in October 2021 and November 2023, but not in February 2023

‡Denotes singer who particpated in February and November 2023, but not in October 2021

* Denotes alumna/alumnus

§ Denotes guest singer

Acknowledgements

This album is dedicated to the memory of Mrs Iris O’Brien, who was a great supporter of young people, education, the Arts, and Choral Scholars.

With sincere gratitude we wish to acknowledge the creative work of the 18 composers involved in this project, all of whom embraced the significance of fulfilling the wish of James Joyce: they delivered a palette of music compatible with the Irish sound of our ensemble. Heartfelt thanks to our wonderful collaborators, Solstice Ensemble singers and instrumentalists; to producer, Nick Parker, and engineer, Andrew Mellor, for another wonderful recording and editing experience; to Steve Long and the team at Signum Records (Kim Bourlet and Matt Conn, in particular); to Sarah Blackman and Rebecca Petts Davies at Hyperbeau for the cover-art concept and design for this album.


We are all greatly obliged to Gavin Coll, Hanna- Mari Marshall, Abby Molloy and Aoife Perry, each of whom helped plan and execute logistical elements of this production over the course of three recording patches from October 2021 to November 2023. We wish, particularly, to thank Principal Yvonne Markey, Very Rev Fr Tom Nash, Stephen Waters and his staff at Blackrock College who welcomed us into their beautiful chapel for all three recording patches.


We add our most sincere thanks to writer and academic, Dr David Vernon, for his meaningful programme notes on each piece. To Professor Harry White, Chair of Music at University College Dublin, for the eloquence of his pen and his deep engagement with art music and the Irish literary oeuvre, evidenced in his essay for this booklet, ‘Distant Music’.

The warm welcome of the Special Collections team at UCD Library was matched only by the excitement of discovery and an appreciation for all archivists: sincere thanks to Rachel Daly, Eugene Roche, and Evelyn Flanagan of the James Joyce Library at University College Dublin, and the UCD Librarian, Sandra Collins. We extend similar gratitude to the team at the National Library of Ireland, led by Audrey Whitty.

We are beyond grateful to Síle McCarthy- Cannon, vocal coach to Choral Scholars, for her dedication, endless enthusiasm and infectious energy which never fails to inspire us; we also recognise Glenn Murphy, Sharon Carty, Fergal Caulfield, Mark Chambers, Gillian Daly, William Gaunt, David Leigh, Vincent Lynch, Suzanne Nance, Tristan Russcher, and Ksenija Walsh for their répétituer and vocal-coaching work in rehearsal and workshop as part of this project.


Our deepest gratitude to Emma Arthur, for her keen editorial eye overseeing this booklet, and for her work in the choral library: navigating an ever-changing whirlwind of editions and parts produced by the Artistic Director in consultation with each composer; our thanks to David Lockey and his team at UCD Copi-Print, for printing newly printed manuscript-editions for us in rehearsal and recording.

This project would not have been possible without the generous support of the Iris O’Brien Foundation: we are deeply grateful to all at the Foundation including Denis O’Brien, Maria Mulcahy, and Andrina Moore whose contributions have enabled our beloved ensemble to flourish. Other sponsors/funders of new commissions include Henry Cox & Michael Kunkel, for funding Eoghan Desmond’s setting of ‘Rain has fallen all the day’ (XXXII); our partners


in co-commissioning Dale Trumbore’s setting of ‘Dear heart, why will you use me so?’ (XXIX), Scott Tuomi at Pacific University Chamber Choir; and Toby Gilbert, alumnus scholar, for his ongoing generosity.


The choir wishes to acknowledge the support of Professor Orla Feely, President of University College Dublin; thanks to the current Dean of the College of Arts & Humanities, Professor Regina Uí Chollatáin, and to the previous College Principal, Professor Sarah Prescott; to all on the College of Arts & Humanities team, especially our colleagues Bríd Reason and Niall McLernon; to Jordan Campbell and her team at UCD Foundation; and, to our many friends at UCD Estate Services for their incredible generosity and willingness to turn up to Richview at all hours.

Sincere thanks to all members of the Advisory Board to Choral Scholars for their sustained contribution and commitment to the choir (David Agnew, Sarah Blackman, Joseph Brady, Mary Codd, Desmond Earley, Tríona McCormack, Eilis O’Brien, and Bill Whelan) and particularly the Chair, John Keogan; thanks to David Agnew for his many stimulating discussions around Joyce and music; to Andrew Stephens for his distinctly Joycean (Dublin) turn of phrase and unparalleled wit; to Dennis Jennings, who has always encouraged the development of Performing Arts at University College Dublin. 

Joyce wrote a letter to composer Geoffrey Molyneux Palmer candidly expressing the hope that his poems from Chamber Music would one day be set to music, indicating they were ‘pretty enough to be put to music. I hope someone will do so’ (1909). With the aim of fulfilling the wishes of Joyce, our Artistic Director, Desmond Earley, has brought together 18 composers from around the world in this first volume of choral/instrumental settings. With the permission of the composers Timothy Stephens, Owen Brady, Ivo Antognini, Natasa Paulberg and Laura Shiels, Desmond Earley arranged/orchestrated tracks 2, 8, 9, 10 and 15 for the full Solstice Ensemble. In typical fashion, he is now at work on gathering composers to set the next 18 tracks, for a Volume II release on Signum Classics in the future. The choir is deeply appreciative of his artistic vision, talent and dedication.

Poem XXXI

Chamber Music

O, it was out by Donnycarney
When the bat flew from tree to tree

My love and I did walk together;
And sweet were the words she said to me.

Along with us the summer wind    Went murmuring—O, happily!—

But softer than the breath of summer Was the kiss she gave to me.

                                   James Joyce

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