My Dad was a big fan of Phil Coulter. He was at Queen’s at the same time as Phil and liked to tell us about the time Phil locked him and a bunch of other students in a room on the campus to rehearse them! As a boy, I went to hear Phil Coulter and his orchestra a number of times—in Craigavon Leisure Centre, in the Grand Opera House at least once—and his albums were staples of family car journeys. I enjoyed his arrangements of Irish folk songs and I still remember going to Matchett’s Music in Belfast one Saturday morning to get a copy of his piano book (which I still have, complete with pencilled-in letters on ‘The Town I Loved So Well’ under the ledger line bass notes that Anna and I hadn’t learned yet). Actually, it’s through Phil Coulter that I got to know most of the tunes in the first place. Definitely a big inspiration to me. I still have a couple of signed photos somewhere with him posing at the piano in a billowy white shirt 🙂
His songs were what particularly made an impression on me. He started his songwriting career at a run, penning a Eurovision winner and a one-point-off-the-top runner-up at a time when doing so meant that, (a) it was a good song, and (b) they were destined to be massive hits. Check out his website for more of his story—it’s very readable, clearly written by him, and filled with loads of stories about the amazing career he’s enjoyed.
I was prompted to write this today by one song in particular, though, ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’. Written from Phil’s personal experience, this song was first introduced to the world by the wonderful Luke Kelly. Here’s a lovely, intimate recording from a Tallaght pub in 1974:
Today parents, teachers, pupils, Special Needs Assistants and others are taking to the street outside the Dáil here in Dublin to protest the cutting of funding for SNAs. Listen to this song and let your heart go out to them.
Suzanne Savage singing this great song. I was supporting Suzanne and her talented triumverate in Bewley’s Theatre a while ago and they played this. Agog, I was. Catch them live and watch out for their EP ‘Dizzy’, which is being released soon…
A beautiful performance of Leo Brouwer’s ‘Cuban Landscape with Rain’ by Dublin Guitar Quartet. I came across Leo Brouwer’s work while helping catalogue guitar music at The Victorian Music Library in Melbourne in November. One afternoon I popped out for lunch to a lovely charcoal chicken place and, as I ate, the heavens opened and spewed forth rain such as I’ve never seen before. Then, as swiftly as it had begun, it was over. Listen out for the portrayal of rain in this beautiful piece.
Today I sang Hubert Parry’s anthem, ‘I Was Glad’, with St Ann’s choir for a service to mark the commencement of the newly-elected Irish parliament (Dáil Éireann). Parry was born in 1848, an explosive year in Europe, not least in Ireland. He died in 1918, just a few months before the first Irish parliament convened.
This paragraph, from the Wikipedia article on Parry, is a bleak reminder of the cost of freedom:
In the words of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: “During the war he watched a life’s work of progress and education being wiped away as the male population—particularly the new fertile generation of composing talent—of the Royal College dwindled.”
‘I Was Glad’ is justifiably one of Parry’s best known works, and was written for the coronation of Edward VII, revised for that of George V, and performed again at Elizabeth II’s crowning ceremony. (An upside to the abdication debacle—for Parry, at least—must have been the opportunity to hear his work performed at two coronations!). It’s a great piece and brilliantly written. Listen to the lovely word setting of the central section (“O pray for the peace of Jerusalem…”) and the wonderfully expansive climax on the word ‘plenteousness’ at the end.
(PS this isn’t us—it’s St Paul’s in London on the Queen’s golden jubilee)
Today is Ash Wednesday, so it didn’t go unnoticed among the choir that ‘I Was Glad’ is rather a joyous piece for the first day of Lent. Quick as a flash, one of our number, a Finnish girl called Tuula, said, “Well, it is past tense: ‘I Was Glad’…”.
Freya Schreurs, a friend of mine who used to sing with New Dublin Voices, posted this video on Facebook. I love it! Beautifully executed and it sounds great.
The piece is by Belgian composer Thierry de Mey and is called ‘Musique de tables‘ (‘Table Music’).
Have a look and a listen, let me know what you think. (I like the sound of that sentence!)