Duration: 11′

2222/4331/timp. 2 perc, harp, str

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Spire (2015)

for orchestra, by Anne-Marie O’Farrell

This work combines three elements: the first two relate to melody and harmony, namely, the Gregorian chant melody Veni Creator Spiritus, and nine chords symbolising gifts (love, joy, peace, self-control, gentleness, goodness, forbearance, faithfulness and kindness). The third element is a rhythm derived from text extracted from the Angelus, which is itself centred around bells. Each of these three resources is treated in a variety of ways through pitch, rhythmic alteration, and orchestration. The chant melody is used and transformed at particular points throughout the piece, sometimes appearing in fragments. While the nine chords and the chant melody are two primary elements, bell sonorities also feature, drawing on bell peals from Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral. The thematic material heard prominently in the tom-toms is drawn from the text rhythm, and this too is heard in different instrumentations throughout the work.

The piece falls loosely into three sections, Tranquillo, Allegro, and a longer Adagietto/Tempo primo. The first section introduces the nine symbolic chords and the prayer rhythm, while the four phrases of the chant melody are heard successively. The Allegro section utilises and develops the text rhythm in a variety of ways, condensing it to heighten its drive. The opening motif from this rhythmic theme on woodblocks closes the Allegro section, and makes way for the final section, Adagietto/ Tempo primo. A variety of manifestations of the chant melody take prominence here, along with rhythmic transformation suggesting the unmetered nature of chant when sung in its original context. The modal character of the original chant melody is enhanced by fusion with pitch sets from the nine chords to create further colour and chordal tension. Given the extensive overtone spectrum of bells, the large buildings in which the chant melody would normally be heard, and the far-reaching symbolism of the harmonies, it was felt that a large symphony orchestra would be the most suitable timbral setting to realise these artistic ends.

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