Orchestuary was composed for the University of Limerick Orchestra anniversary concert as part of Anne-Marie O’Farrell’s three-year residency in composition at Mary Immaculate College, funded by the Arts Council of Ireland and in association with the Lime Tree Theatre. Although the title of the piece refers to the home of Limerick city on the Shannon Estuary, there are no programmatic or descriptive elements in the work. While a programme note such as this is normally the place to explain techniques of hidden allusions contained in a piece of music, in fact, this work does not reflect extra-musical stimuli. Instead, it creates its own landscapes, pictures, moods and atmospheres, without coded references to such extra-musical influences.
Apart from the acknowledgement in the title of the context and place for which Orchestuary was composed, the piece is not ‘about’ something, other than the exploration of the very considerable orchestral timbres available, even when the instruments are used more conventionally. I set out to express these sound colours in a way which would be satisfying for the players, while also having an immediacy of communication to listeners on a single, first hearing. With a strong presence of melodic content and dance-like rhythms, a subtitle could be ‘Air and Dance’. Thematic material is prominently presented, as I sought to highlight the availability of soloistic colours within the orchestra. Influence of traditional Irish music is never far away, with traditional ornamentation featuring in an oboe solo, and Irish dance rhythms camouflaged within the changing metres of the final presto section. The inclusion of oblique references to Irish musical heritage helps to identify the work’s origins, particularly when it is programmed alongside existing works of the classical orchestral tradition.