For the Stage

Gaelic Rhapsody

Bass Trombone player Rose DoyleMason and I discussed creating a solo piece for Bass Trombone with wind band accompaniment several years before the piece came to light in 2023. Her vision was to use Irish folks songs, which reflected her heritage, to create a fun but challenging composition to show off the virtuosity of the bass trombone.

She provided more than a dozen songs to consider, and taught me a great deal about modern Irish folk songs in the process. From her suggestions, and other research, I chose two songs to form the basis of the composition. The song 'Star of County Down' has been recorded by a number of Irish groups, with a lot more variation between the recordings than I would have imagined. The lyrics describe the romantic pursuit of a particularly attractive Irish girl, who is described as the 'star' of County Down, located in Northern Ireland.

My son, Stephen, shared with me a recording by a band called 'The High Kings', from their album Memory Lane, that shifted effortlessly between 6/8 and cut time, punctuated by 3 repeated chords at each transition. This recording fired my imagination and the composition process began! You can hear these transition chords in 'Gaelic Rhapsody', as we move across the time signatures. Rose suggested a beautiful Irish ballad called 'A Chomaraigh Aoibhinn O' for inclusion in the lyrical section of the piece.

The title, and the words are in Gaelic, written by a priest to describe the Comeragh Mountains in County Waterford in Ireland. There is a beautiful rendition by folk singer Karan Casey available on YouTube.

I am thrilled that Dr. Paul Bauer will serve as the soloist for the premiere of this piece, scheduled for April 2024. Dr. Bauer was the chairman of the music department at NIU when I was hired in 2005, and I have been grateful for his leadership and friendship ever since. Likewise, I am grateful to my wonderful students at NIU, and specifically the members of the Wind Ensemble, whose talent and skill will bring the premiere to life.

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