Stack Theatre, CIT Cork School of Music, Union Quay,

Friday 1st May 2-4pm

Choir in Residence: Chamber Choir Ireland

Artistic Director: Paul Hillier

The Cork International Choral Festival has a long-standing commitment to foster awareness and appreciation of new choral music.  With this in mind a seminar was initiated in 1962 as part of the Festival programme by the late Aloys Fleischmann, Professor of Music at University College Cork, as being central to this purpose.  The Festival presented the 47th edition of the Seminar on New Choral Music as a joint collaboration with Chamber Choir Ireland, our choir in residence. To date, 148 works from 125 Irish and international composers have been commissioned.

The Seminar on New Choral Music maintains its initial purpose of commissioning new works to provide a platform for, and to encourage the composition, and performance of new choral music in Ireland, and to support their inclusion, and that of other new music, onto the regular repertoire of Irish choirs. In the last few years the Seminar has specifically promoted the commission of new works by Irish composers to develop a wider knowledge of, and understanding of, Irish compositional life. Premiere performances are now integrated into a full concert programme by Chamber Choir Ireland.  The present style of presentation makes the seminar very accessible to all, and assists in making current practice in the performance of new choral music accessible to the wider choral sector in Ireland.

2015 saw two new works featured, and given their world premieres in Cork; Slouching Towards Bethlehem by composer Ian Wilson and Mother Goose’s Melodies by the winner of this year’s Seán Ó Riada Competition, Eoghan Desmond.  The Seán Ó Riada Competition was initiated in 1972 in recognition of the creative life and work of Seán Ó Riada.  It is a composition competition which invites the submission of new works from Irish composers in collaboration between the Cork International Choral Festival and Chamber Choir Ireland.  The Festival continues to be overwhelmed by the number of entries and quality of same received for the competition. We were delighted to welcome both composers to Cork to take part in the Seminar.

Without the financial support of the Arts Council in making the commission of Ian Wilson possible, and of the Ó Riada Family for its generous support of the Seán Ó Riada Competition, this seminar would not be in a position to continue to fulfil its important role in promoting the work of Irish composers and encouraging the composition of new choral music.

I welcomed Rhona Clarke, a highly regarded composer in her own right and a great friend of the Festival, as Seminar Chairperson, and thank Majella Hollywood, Chief Executive of the CCI, for her commitment to continue the involvement of Chamber Choir Ireland in this project.

This year’s Seminar Programme also featured a Performance Reading Session with Chamber Choir Ireland, of works by Frank Corcoran and Donal Sarsfield, selected by the Seán Ó Riada Assessment Panel.  Finally, I would direct your attention to the full collection of Seminar scores now housed in the Cork City Music Library and available for consultation.  General information on the Seminar, including digitised pages of scores, is now also available for perusal on the Library website. I acknowledge the Cork City Library staff for their maintenance of this collection.

John Fitzpatrick

Artistic and Festival Director

arts council logo CCI logo


New Joint Festival and Chamber Choir Ireland Commission 2015

Slouching towards Bethlehem is a two-movement work, each movement a setting of one of WB Yeats’ so-called ‘Apocalyptic’ poems, which were inspired by sources as various as Theosophy and the writings of William Blake. Some of these poems, like He mourns for the change…, have their roots in mythology – Irish, Christian, English – and famous ‘journey’ legends such as those of Arthur and Oisin. Others such as The Second Coming, written just after the First World War, have clear resonances with what was happening socially and politically at the time. The language of these poems is by turns dark, pessimistic and strange, evoking unsettling, even nightmarish scenes.

The principal attraction of these poems for me lies as much in the language as the subject matter, although together those elements create very striking imagery which I was excited to set to music. I hoped that these wild and vivid images would lead me towards music which could somehow reflect the drama and awe with which Yeats imbues his visions.

I: He mourns for the change that has come upon him and his beloved, and longs for the end of the world

II: The Second Coming

Slouching towards Bethlehem was commissioned by the Cork International Choral Festival for Chamber Choir Ireland with funds from the Arts Council of Ireland.

Ian Wilson,
January 2015


Ian Wilson


Ian Wilson was born in Belfast in 1964 and obtained the first DPhil in composition to be awarded by the University of Ulster which, in 1993, commissioned his orchestral work Rise in celebration of the tenth anniversary of its foundation. His music has been performed and broadcast on six continents at venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall, London’s Royal Albert and Wigmore Halls, Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw and Concertgebouw, Vienna’s Musikverein, LA’s Zipper Hall and Tokyo’s Suntory Hall and at festivals such as the BBC Proms, the Venice Biennale, the ISCM World Music Days, the Brighton, Cheltenham, Spitalfields and Bath Festivals and the Ultima Festival in Oslo, where Running, Thinking, Finding for orchestra received the composition prize in 1991.

He has written approximately 130 pieces including two chamber operas, concertos for organ, cello, alto saxophone (two), violin (three), piano (three) and marimba, orchestral pieces, 13 string quartets and many other chamber, vocal and multi-media works. In 1992 Ian Wilson was awarded the Macaulay Fellowship administered by the Arts Council of Ireland, and in 1998 he was elected to Aosdána, Ireland’s State-sponsored body of creative artists. From 2000 to 2003 he was AHRB Research Fellow in Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Ulster and from 2009 to 2010 is An Foras Feasa post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Dundalk Institute of Technology. From 2003-2011 he was director of the Sligo New Music Festival, from 2006-2009 he was Composer-in-Association with California’s Camerata Pacifica ensemble and from 2010-2013 is Associate Composer with the Ulster Orchestra.

His music is published by Ricordi London and Universal Edition.


Rhona Clarke


Rhona Clarke was born in Dublin. She studied music at University College, Dublin, and completed a Ph.D. at Queen’s University, Belfast. She is a lecturer in music at St Patrick’s College, Dublin City University. Her output includes choral, chamber, orchestral and electronic works. She has received commissions from RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the Cork International Choral Festival, Concorde, Music Network and the National Concert Hall, among others. Her work has been performed and broadcast throughout Ireland and worldwide.

Recent works include SHIFT for orchestra (2013), which received its premiere in the Horizons series at the National Concert Hall, performed by The RTÉNSO conducted by Gavin Maloney, and a newly commissioned work in collaboration with visual artist Marie Hanlon for Concorde, performed at the RHA Gallery, Dublin. From July- September 2014 her work will feature alongside Hanlon’s in a two-person exhibition at Draoícht Arts Centre. Rhona Clarke is a member of Aosdána, Ireland’s state-sponsored academy of creative artists.