By Derek Ball
I'm Derek Ball, a composer from Letterkenny living in Glasgow. The project I'm promoting here is part of my “Eileen Donlon commemoration project”.
Eileen was a soprano who was very active in supporting and promoting young composers in Ireland during the latter part of the 20th century. She sang my songs in the 1970s when I was a young composer myself, and she not much older.
A few years ago, after returning to composition from a different career, I very belatedly heard the news of Eileen's untimely death 20 years ago. As a result I started writing a memorial to her, which grew into a triptych of big pieces : a 1-hour opera, a 1-hour song, and a large song cycle. The song cycle is called The Way We Are and is the subject of this Fundit project.
The cycle sets villanelles by seven poets, all known to me. The villanelle is a 17th century poetic form which is still on the go today, and ideally suited to music. Once you start setting them, you can't stop! So far I have 30 of them, and this cycle limits itself, with difficulty, to 16 songs over the course of 75 minutes or more. The poets are mostly but not exclusively Irish and their villanelles are widely varied. The seven are Maurice Harmon and Richard Berengarten, who first caused my villanelle addiction; Anne Makower, Neil Colyer, Paddy Bushe (in English and Irish), Gregory Rosenstock, and Mary O'Donnell.
This Fundit project aims to create a performance and recording of the song cycle in May or June 2015, in the Kevin Barry Room, National Concert Hall, Dublin. The soloist is the soprano Elizabeth Hilliard, someone with wide experience of new music, a keen musical intelligence and soaring voice. She will be accompanied by David Bremner, pianist, who is also an organist and well-known composer.