This year’s Opening Gala Concert brought the works of two Irish composers to Cork: Aloys Fleischmann’s Clare’s Dragoons (Owen Gilhooly – Tenor) and Bernard Geary’s In Praise of a City (Mairead Buicke – Soprano) along with many other Irish works performed by the Band of the Defence Forces along with a bespoke Festival Chorus comprised of Goethe Institute Choir, Viva Voce Choir and East Cork Choral Society, conducted by Lt. Col. Mark Armstrong and Captain Brian Prendergast.
Aloys Fleischmann was born in Munich to Irish-based German parents. He graduated from University College Cork. As founder of the Cork Symphony Orchestra (1934) but also our own Cork International Choral and Folk Dance Festival (1954), he was a highly influential figure in musical life in Ireland. Fleischmann evidently embraced the Gaelic culture in his work, and Clare’s Dragoons is no stranger to that: based on a work by the poet and patriot Thomas Davis, it is a triumphant call to celebrate the nation of Ireland.
Bernard Geary was born in Cork. His compositions include orchestral, choral, chamber and instrumental works and have been performed and broadcast throughout Ireland as well as in Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany. In Praise of a City was completed in Autumn 1984 and received its Premiere performance by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, soloist, and choir, at the New Year Gala Concert in Cork City on January 1 st 1985 to celebrate the occasion of Cork 800 – a yearlong festival which celebrated Cork’s 800-year status as a chartered city with powers of local government. The work is based on texts drawn from the writings of Edmund Spenser, Seán Ó Faoláin, Father Prout, and an anonymous 14 th century poet. Father Prout was the poet Francis Sylvester O’Mahony and the composer felt that a work written in praise of Cork would hardly be complete without a reference to some lines from The Bells of Shandon.
While originally scored for orchestra, both works were newly orchestrated for wind band, soprano soloist and mixed voice choir especially for the Opening Gala Concert of the 2018 Festival, when the new orchestration of In Praise of a City will receive its second (!) premiere. The availability of both pieces added hugely to the very small repertoire available for wind band and choir and provided Irish, and international, wind bands the opportunity of extending their concert programmes in collaboration with vocal and choral forces.