Frank Corcoran

irish composer


Where the Abbey River meets the Shannon is Ylimreck, my childhood´s mythic Great City-Goal. And now , there, the first performance of ” QUASI UNA FUGA” this July 13 at Limerick´s Shannon Festival.
Strange, how fresh and youthful all the Irish Chamber Orchestra´s string-players . Or, above all that high rapture he had ( – he had ! ), there was also the rhythmic virtuosity of Anthony Marwood´s bowing, playing, conducting .
Well, it took off. They bore and enticed the fugal ” theme” airily upwards, at first only two solo strings, then more, then a lot more. Cancrizans, inversion, it was all now descending , shaping intervals so beautifully in the Cathedral evening that I found myself inside that twisting and turning of a thematic rope, a contrapuntal warp and woof, a kind of an unwashed 1691 Thomond kerne below on Patrick Sarsfield´s treacherously opened, Irish boy-killing bridge over the brown, black and white flecked river-rapids . The conductor floated with his orchestra onwards to my final cadence : his orchestra was saying goodby to the splayed motivic smithereens of a quasi-, hardly, maybe fugue. Strange string-theory.
I remembered Dad driving through Birdhill and stopping above the great gorge of the Shannon-race . This boy in the black Ford felt giant turbines near, a dark force , giant water-terror pulling below. Might just have found its way into ” Quasi Una Fuga”. A student peregrine in them sixties, I visited mother´s little Terryglass school on the south shore of Lough Derg ; that´s the bit of Shannon lake-quiet that is in the work, I think, where a solo string-quartet has two still bars in the middle of the whole string-thing, it´s just before the end-section, before high harmonics sing their smithereens of ” Ibunt Sancti”, an Early Celtic hymn that Saint Brendan and his merry ( ? ) monks´d have sung, they paddling a cow-hide currach out to the Shannon Estuary on their cold enough navigation up North, up past Scotland, up past the Shetlands, up past the Orkneys, past Iceland, onward to glory and to a cold enough fish-dinner on the friendly, unbaptized back of the saint´s North Atlantic whale near Greenland. Yes, ” Ibunt sancti” alright , I was thinking , as the Irish Chamber Orchestra rehearsed down- and up – bows and beautiful plink and the sheeny plonk and quasi- pizzicato of my quasi-carpentry under high Cratloe roof timber-beams in St. Mary´s.
Outside the South Door of the Cathedral I did stumble on the grave-stone of George Alexander Osborne , 19th. century Limerick Irish componist and Parisian wine-libator, he was apparently host to Chopin , Berlioz , such figures. – ” Ibunt sancti” . Yes. He ” entered his rest”, in 1893 I think it was . These saints shall. Their landscape is grey rain, grand Clare slate , maybe also a bit o´ that sea-dampness in the work premiered by Limerick candle-light. Beware the genetic fallacy ! ( No violin-holds barred . Cellos and violas had the exposition lurching and sliding, even gliding upwards to unheard-of tonal heights. )
I had done it , I adressed that small boy in the black Ford car, I established my musical front-line at the cutting-edge, risked quasi all ; I rescued ” Quasi My Music” from the Neo- Bachsky- or Igor- temptations that a poor composer´s flesh is heir to in Munster and elsewhere and nevertheless I shaped my own sound´s shape . Counterpoint conquered, blow my modest trumpet. No articles of capitulation, no sallyport in this fugal guipure.
– Well, that itself. The Shannon doesn´t care, of course, its mutinous, brindled wavelets scurrying out in a grand soft ( – had to be ! ) drizzle. You gotta be tough, it seems to be muttering . The saints will march, row, bow, pluck on, riding high ( – if un poco sea-sick ) in their crazy curragh up near Greenland . Quasi incredible , their oceanic fugue.

Posted under: General

One comment

  • Fergus Johnston on July 25, 2007 at 5:41 pm said:

    The saints will march, row, bow, pluck on, riding high ( – if un poco sea-sick ) in their crazy curragh up near Greenland . Quasi incredible , their oceanic fugue.

    Great Frank!
    Shouldn’t that ( – if un poco sea-sick ) be ‘quasi-queasy’, though?