Ó Riada Re-imagined
Composed by Sean O’Riada
Arranged by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky
EQ Singers, with Zoë Conway,
Siobhán Armstrong, Robbie Harris
conducted by Eamonn Dougan
Compact Disc (Audio)
Louth Contemporary Music
Available on Spotify here
Seán Ó Riada was the most influential figure in the renaissance of Irish traditional music in the second half of the last century. Just as he found a wider audience for Irish music in the concert hall, theatre and cinema (his soundtrack to the seminal 1959 documentary Mise Éire a particular high-watermark), his Mass, completed just three years before his death at the age of 40 in 1971, annexed new territory for the genre in that most Irish of domains: the church.
This vital new arrangement, recorded live at this year’s Temple Bar Tradfest in Dublin, is performed by the crack 16-voice EQ Singers and employs three instruments – fiddle, harp and bodhrán – embedded in the very DNA of Irish music. Deriving from the unlikeliest of sources – the Uzbekistan-born composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky – it’s a brilliantly realised exercise eloquently conducted by The Sixteen’s associate conductor Eamonn Dougan pays respectful homage to Ó Riada’s simple, hauntingly melodic, by turns ecstatic and tranquil original while teasing out revealing new textures and colours. Michael Quinn Classical Ear
Irish Times Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky: Ó Riada Re-imagined Louth Contemporary Music Society
Siobhan Long Fri, Dec 27, 2013
Bold, angular lines intersect this timely reimagining of Seán Ó Riada’s widely admired 1968 mass by Uzbek composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, commissioned by Louth Contemporary Music Society. Recorded live at the 2012 Temple Bar Tradfest, with 16 voices (the EQ Singers), it features Zoë Conway on fiddle, Siobhán Armstrong on harp and Robbie Harris on bodhrán. Yanov-Yanovsky brings a welcome detachment to the project, with his arrangements using Ó Riada’s music as a springboard to propel it further into a sacred space where his clean, often bare classical lines can breathe free. Conway’s fiddle and Armstrong’s provide the persuasive backdrop to Rúndiamhair an Chreidimh, with music and voices achieving a poise born of Yanov-Yanovsky’s healthy distance from the source. Avoiding any temptation to tether itself too closely to its roots, this reimagining is just that: a fearless flight that reinvigorates Ó Riada’s much-loved opus.
On a frosty night in January, Dublin’s historic St Werburgh’s Church played host to a curious gathering of Irish musical greats. Assembled in the beautiful eighteenth-century room were fiddle player Zoë Conway, harpist Siobhán Armstrong, bodhrán player Robbie Harris and an all-star chamber choir, the EQ Singers, all under the musical guidance of conductor Eamonn Dougan. And then there was Seán Ó Ríada: the composer from Cork, who died aged only forty in 1971, made his presence felt in spirit if not in body, for here his work was heard re-wrought, re-inspired, re-imagined.
The occasion, part of Temple Bar TradFest, was the performance of a new arrangement of Ó Ríada’s famous mass, composed originally for the choir that he established in Cúil Aodha, County Cork. Here Ó Riada’s work was respun by the, perhaps unlikely, hands of Uzbek composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky. And yet as the first notes of the ‘Iontroid’ settle, it becomes apparent that the link from Tashkent to Cúil Aodha is not as incongruous as it might seem — Yanov-Yanovsky may be of a different time and place to Ó Ríada, but his musical sensibility and sensitivity to the material resonates with the Corkman in a way that is uncanny.
Luckily for those who missed this remarkable event, the performance was expertly recorded. Now released by Louth Contemporary Music Society, an organisation that has energised music in Ireland with its brave and ambitious programming, Ó Ríada Re-Imagined is an exemplar of the continuing tradition across musical history of assimilation, re-invention, tribute and re-interpretation. And like the best adaptations, Yanov-Yanovsky’s take on Ó Riada’s important work succeeds in being a respectful, indeed affectionate, effort, without being tame or over-deferential.
Yanov-Yanovsky, in his arrangement, focusses in on the distinctive melodic identity of Ó Ríada’s mass, a quality that lends so much pathos to the work. Taking the mass in a new direction, Yanov-Yanovsky builds a set of pieces with an identity of their own, often delicately layered, placing the finely-balanced voices of the EQ Singers in counterpoint to Conway’s singing fiddle, Armstrong’s flowing harp or Harris’ driving bodhrán. At other times, Ó Ríada’s melodies are pressed into sumptuous harmonies, as if a lingering memory of a music heard long ago.
Moving swiftly from ecstatic moments of release to tender, tranquil writing, Yanov-Yanovsky expresses Ó Riada’s vision in an original way for a contemporary audience. Seán Ó Ríada in his lifetime spoke of his ‘two hats’, being his enthusiasm for and activism in traditional Irish music and his composition of music in the European classical tradition. With Ó Ríada Re-Imagined this division is thrown joyously, and conclusively, to the wind.
This recording has been funded through the Arts Council’s DEIS music recording scheme