Gaol's Ruadh Ros
a Celtic Concerto for Harp and Orchestra
Instrumentation: *2*222/2110/timp, 2 perc, solo hp/strgs.
Composition Date: 2002/3(revised 2013)
Commissioned by: Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
This piece was originally written for the principal harpist of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Nora Bumanis, and her duo partner Julia Shaw.
The piece begins with some bold chords stated with a rhythm known as the "Scottish Snap." The piece then builds into a fast section, which has two themes. One, a series of chord clusters interjected with lively unison lines and two, a Celtic like dance in the un-dance-like time signature of 7/8. The fast section ends with a cadenza for the harp, which leads into a setting of "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose".
From the beginning Nora and I decided that somewhere in the piece I would use this beautiful work by Robert Burns. This idea arose because at the time Nora had just performed this song at a memorial service for Nancy Fairley a long-time member of the Edmonton Symphony’s Board of Governors. When her husband Grant then decided to dedicate the premiere performance of this concerto to her memory, Nora asked if I could work the song into the concerto. At first I thought I would just hint at it but as I worked with the melody it grew to the point where it is the central material of the slow section. That is why the piece is called Gaol's Ruadh Ro`s, which is Gaelic for "Love's Red Rose." The harp first plays the melody in a very light and ethereal style and then it repeats in a more bold and straightforward manor. The slow section then transitions back into the Celtic dance and ends with the cluster chords.
In 2011 I received an email out of the blue from Patricia Masri-Fletcher asking to see a score and recoding of the piece. About a year later she contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in re-working it into a concerto for 1-harp. I immediately jumped at the idea, as the opportunity to work with Patty, Maestro Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony is every composers dream. Patty and I have worked on the piece over the past year and I have to thank her for teaching me so much about the wonderfully idiosyncratic instrument that is the harp. In this version all the basic thematic elements from the original concerto remain with the only real change being length. This new version is about 5-minutes shorter.