#42: Friday, February 1, 2019
“An Oiche” (The Night) by Michael McGlynn
Text: Traditional Irish
SSAA, a cappella
Greetings from Ireland! The Hollins Choirs are just returning from Ireland, and I wanted to share our experience with “An Oiche,” by Michael McGlynn.
On the trip, we were based in Dublin, Galway, and Limerick, with day-trips to other locations and performances. Our tour coordinator (shout out to Lauren at Music Contact International!) had set up a workshop for us in Dublin with the educational coordinator from the vocal group Anúna. Before preparing for the tour, I had heard of Anúna and had listened to them, but wasn’t well-acquainted with their full repertoire. When their educational director, Lucy Champion, reached out to prep for the workshop, I made a point to choose a piece from Anúna’s catalog to add to our tour folder.
“ANÚNA is Ireland’s flagship a cappella vocal ensemble representing the beauty of Irish musical heritage and literature all over the world. In 1987, Irish composer Michael McGlynn founded the choir in an effort to create a physical voice for his compositions, some of which are strongly influenced by the history and mythology of his homeland.(from ensemble’s website, http://www.anuna.ie/ )
Composer Michael McGlynn, founder of Anúna, has written and arranged an extensive catalog of music, for a variety of voicings and instruments.
“Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1964, Michael came late to choral music, singing in his first choir at the age of nineteen. Despite the rich and sophisticated musical forms that lie at the centre of Irish traditional music, choral music does not exist as part of that tradition. His love of traditional song and the literary culture of his homeland led him to create the choral ensemble ANÚNA in 1987 as both a vehicle for his compositions and a unique choral form for Ireland.”(from composer’s website, http://www.michaelmcglynn.com/ )
For more detail about Michael and his compositions, see these excellent resources, taken from the composer’s website:
· Doctoral dissertation at the University of Miami, Florida “The Choral Music of Irish Composer Michael McGlynn” (Dr. Stacie Rossow) available to download from their site in PDF format HERE.
· Dissertation at the University of Louisiana entitled “An Overview of the Choral Music of Michael McGlynn with a Conductor’s Preparatory Guide to His Celtic Mass” (Dr. Karen Marrolli) is available to download from HERE.
For my students, I wanted their first foray into Irish to be successful, which meant choosing a piece from Michael’s repertoire that was slow enough for them to catch the text of a language that was unfamiliar to them. I ended up going with “An Oiche,” a lilting 6/8 piece in SSAA, with S1 melody. It’s a beautiful selection, and one well worth the time. (We did it a step down, which fell better for the S1s).
You can hear Anúna’s performance of the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXS4XVEAtoA
Pitches can be learned primarily on solfege or through rote patterns. Rhythms are standard for compound time, with nothing out of the ordinary. In rehearsal, I was able to send S2/A1/A2 off to sectionals run by student leaders, while I worked with the S1 melody line. With the full group, I focused on the ebb and flow of dynamics, to give the work shape and life.
The sheet music for this and other selections by Michael can be found on his website. Pieces come with IPA transcriptions, translations, and often an mp3 of the pronunciation as well. This was invaluable to me in rehearsal. The text is a traditional Irish story of relationships and love.
What made this piece such a success was how it permeated the ensemble. Wherever we happened to be, during our pre-tour preparation, the melody would inevitably start floating up from the group. Someone was always humming a phrase here or a line there.
When we had our workshop with Lucy, Anúna’s educational coordinator and long-time member, the work she did with us was amazing. Anúna performs conductor-less, so much of her workshop was about my students finding the pulse within themselves and taking responsibility for the beat/forward motion/precise entrances. We have worked on those things on our own, but sometimes hearing it from someone else is what it takes to make them real.
Within the workshop, we also spent time with another member of Anúna, polishing our Irish. A few points that IPA doesn’t convey well:
- Ts are dental, not hard
- The vowels are more similar in mouth shape, and generally brighter, than you might think – try not to separate a / e / i / o / u as much as in Western classical music.
There were other subtleties to the text as well, and I would spend some quality time with the mp3 to discern those intricacies.
If the song floated mysteriously from my group before the workshop, now it was ever present. So much so that the next day when we stopped at Corcomroe Abbey in County Claire, my students spontaneously broke into the song while exploring the ruins of the 13th century monastery. It was organic and haunting and magical to hear the harmonies drifting across the stones. I wish your singers the same beauty and joy with the piece as mine have!
|Title:||An Oiche (The Night)|
|Date of Composition:||1999|
|Text Source:||Traditional Irish|
|Subject(s), Genre:||Love, relationships, belonging|
|Voicing Details:||S1 melody plus S2/A1/A2|
|Ranges:||(as written, in Bb)|
|Tempo:||40 “Flexibly and with phrasing”|
|Further descriptions and details, including program notes, audio, perusal score, and purchasing: |
Until next week!
Dr. Shelbie Wahl-Fouts is
associate professor of music, Director of Choral Activities, and music
department chair at Hollins University, a women’s college in Roanoke, Virginia.