In this, the first of two sessions curated by Paul Hillier and Chamber Choir Ireland, we explored the commissioned work by Stephen McNeff with text by Aoife Mannix, together with the winning piece of the Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition by Amanda Feery. To begin, the winning composer, Amanda Feery, spoke briefly about the conception and background of the piece, Changed Utterly, followed by an informal performance of it and some further discussion. Moving on to the commissioned piece, A Half Darkness written in response to the commemorations of the 1916 rising, we retraced the process of commissioning a new work in terms of the words and music together. With input from Stephen McNeff (composer) and his coming together of minds with Aoife Mannix (poet) for the piece, Paul Hillier and the singers will talk about their reaction to both the music and words, and the rehearsal process. Following a read-through of the piece, there was an open discussion between choir, conductor, composer, poet and attendees on reaction to and performance of the piece.
In the second of two sessions curated by Paul Hillier and turning attention to the Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition, Paul Hillier, Stephen McNeff, and the singers of Chamber Choir Ireland discussed the subject of writing choral music today considering the needs and limitations of writing effectively for the voice in a choral context. The choir gave readings of two further selected composers of the Composition Competition – Criostóir Ó Loingsigh with his piece Fornocht do chonac thú and Peter Moran with his piece The Four Noble Truths, as well as further reflection on the winning entry.