Stories from the Old World (2008)

For Uilleann Pipes, Narrator/Sean-nós Singer & String Quartet.

Duration: 20 mins.

Commissioned by Kerry International Chamber Music Festival with funds from the Arts Council of Ireland.

Premiered in the Blasket Islands Centre by Eoin Duignan (uilleann pipes), The Engegård String Quartet and Annóg Theatre Group at the 2008 Kerry International Chamber Music Festival.

Recording by Mick O’Brien (pipes). Breanndán Begley (voice) and the IMO Quartet. Buy here

Programme Note

This piece is based on four stories as narrated by the famous Kerry Storyteller Peig Sayers. Each story is set to music with String Quartet accompaniment; uilleann pipes provide musical interludes with the Quartet.

Stories I, II and IV are narrated, Story III is a song sung by a traditional Irish ‘sean-nós’ singer.
Each story is followed by an instrumental section which is inspired more by the music that came before it than the text.

The musical material is almost entirely influenced by sounds and techniques found in Kerry traditional music and uilleann piping.

The rhythms of Kerry Slides and Polkas are used, as are Slip Jig and Reel rhythms; these intertwine with poly-rhythmic and poly-metric material in the Quartet. There is some influence from Zimbabwean Mbira music in the use of very close canonic material, indeed the use of close canons is central to the piece.

The music is primarily modal in nature, centred on D and G modes, reflecting the modal nature of the uilleann pipes.

What the critics say…
  • “Begley naturally dominates Stories From The Old World when his readings are so resonantly delivered; even if the words are incomprehensible to those not versed in the local Kerry Gaelic dialect, his ‘musical’ performance still captivates (English translations for the traditional Irish texts appear in the release booklet). The tone here is light, irreverent, and even cheeky, as shown by the work’s second movement “Más Le Gigeog A Mheallas í… (If It Was With a Fart I Won Her…).” Like before, O’Brien and the IMO excel, and the combination of narration, strings, and uilleann pipes makes for a memorable end to the album.”