Taibhreamh Ó Riada (2007)

for female voices, accordion, 2 fiddles, 2 Irish flutes/tin whistles, Irish harp.

Duration: 10 mins.

Commissioned by RTÉ Lyric FM. Premiered by Líadan. August 2007 at the EBU Folk Festival, Cork School of Music.

Programme Note

“Taibhreamh Ó Ríada” is my way of paying tribute to the vision of the late Seán O Riada, one of Ireland’s greatest musical figures. O Riada almost single-handedly revived traditional Irish music and he is largely responsible for creating the idea of a traditional Irish music ensemble, which he did so successfully with Ceoltoirí Chualann. This ensemble paved the way for The Chieftains and many groups who followed including Líadan, the group this piece is written for.

Líadan are a group of six Irish women who have developed a very unique sound combining traditional Irish instruments with vocal harmonies from all six of the members. This combination of six female voices with fiddles, flutes, whistles, harp and accordion are the embodiment of O’Riada’s vision of a specifically Irish form of chamber music.

According to the critic Charles Acton, O’Ríada had intended to compose new music for Ceoltoirí Chualann using old classical techniques such as canon and counterpoint in tandem with traditional Irish methods, unfortunately he never got around to this. I have thus tried to fulfil O Riada’s vision by creating a new piece of music using traditional Irish instruments, voices and techniques alongside classical techniques such as harmony, counterpoint and a form of canon I call a polymetric cycle, which in this case is the cyclic repetition of a Double Jig rhythm (6/8) against a Slip Jig Rhythm (9/8).

The piece has two movements both around 5 minutes each, which flow into each other. The first movement is a 3 part vocal piece with a drone from the accordion. The second movement is purely instrumental and based around a Jig and a Reel I composed.

The text used in the first movement is the text from which Líadan got their name, a poem in old Irish called ‘Líadan and Cuirithir’.

Cen áinius
in chaingen dorigenus:
an rocharus rocráidius. …

Mé Líadain,
rocharussa Cuirithir:
is fírithir adfiadar.

Gair bása
hi coimthecht mo Chuirithir:
frissom ba maith mo gnássa.

Céol caille
fomchanad la Cuirithir
la fogur fairce flainne.

ní cráidfed frim Chuirithir
do dálaib cacha ndénainn.

Ní chela!
ba hésom mo chrideṡerc,
cía nocharainn cách chenae.

Deilm ndegae
rotethainn mo chridesae,
rofess nícon bíad cenae.

The following translation comes from the webpage


Without pleasure
(is) the bargain which I have made:
what I have loved, I have vexed. […]
“I (am) Liadain,
I who have loved Cuirithir:
it is true exactly as it is told.
A short time (only)
I was in the company of my Cuirithir:
my intercourse with him was good.
The music of the woods
would sing to me (when) with Cuirithir,
together with the voice of the purple sea.
I would have thought
that there would not result torment to my Cuirithir
from all the encounters which I might have arranged.
I may not conceal (it)!
It was him indeed (who was) my heart’s love,
even if I might have loved everybody else besides.
The roaring of the blaze
has shattered my heart:
it is certain that it might not exist without him.”