23 June 2015
Residency at Tyrone Guthrie Centre, County Monaghan
© Miles Lowry
I was fortunate to visit the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan Ireland for two weeks in May this year. My composing residency was assisted by a generous grant from the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia.
The Tyrone Guthrie Centre is about one hour's walk to the nearest village which has a general store. The setting is lovely - hectares of land, including a lake. The buildings are very stylishly decorated with lots of artwork everywhere. I was lucky to be given a cottage of my own, and a large music room with two grand pianos for the duration of my visit.
I have some Irish ancestry and a strong musical connection with Irish music - especially sacred and Celtic music which I have been composing and singing and playing for quite a while. I was a regular cantor at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne (1999-2005), and have presented many Sacred Stage concerts, solo and with others, featuring original and extant Celtic sacred music.
Annaghmakerrig, which the Tyrone Guthrie Centre is also known as, is a very special place. It is not just the amazing buildings and gardens, but also Robert McDonald, the Director, and all the staff are very helpful. Meeting the other artists was a great exchange of knowledge and ideas. For example, I sang with an Irish woman Eileen Keane, for hours - many Irish folk songs that we both knew off by heart, song after song. I also had the chance to improvise with a Canadian dancer David Ferguson just for a moment, and to visit four artists' studios. I had also visited the Contemporary Music Centre in Dublin for research before my residency and was given a wonderful CD of their composers' works which was interesting to listen to.
I was composing a work called Memorial, based on my own 'Improvisations as Nature', and an Easter Sunday chant. The piece is partly a memorial to the 1916 Easter Rebellion at the General Post Office in Dublin (next year is the centenary). I was given a book about the GPO's museum exhibition. Memorial was initially inspired by Birtwistle's Earth Dances, which I heard while speaking at a music conference 'Composition in the 21st Century' at Trinity College, Dublin, last year. I am hoping my piece will be premiered in Belfast at a Catholic college, and also performed locally.
I completed a final draft of the 10-minute work during my two weeks residency. I composed the work with pencil, rubber, and paper, sometimes in my studio and sometimes sitting by the lake notating birdsong to include in the work. I was interested in how much culture we add to this direct depiction of nature, a resonance I found with another Irish artist in residence, Jean Bardon, a print maker. Having the grand pianos at my disposal to play through what I had composed was great, and the huge music room to do my daily voice and instrument practice was also a bonus. I also found myself singing with the birds along a forest track every day, learning their trills and turns.
I hope to return to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and would recommend the place to anyone with a strong and active interest in Irish culture.
© Australian Music Centre (2015) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
Be the first to share add your thoughts and opinions in response to this article.
You must login to post a comment.