Gaol's Ruadh Ros
a Celtic Concerto for 2 Harps and Orchestra
Instrumentation: *2*222/2110/timp,2 perc,solo hp.I/II/strgs.
Composition Date: 2002/3
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.
At the time we began planning the piece Nora and Julia had already been booked for our 2002/03 season, so I suggested since I had yet to choose the works I would write for this season, that I compose a double harp concerto for this concert. Normally these things take a lot longer to plan but this one fell into place quite easily.
I originally began with the idea of a work in three movements but as it developed it became just one movement with three sections; fast, slow, fast. From the beginning Nora and I decided that somewhere in the piece I would use the Robert Burns song "My Love is Like a Red Red Rose."
This idea arose because at the time Nora had just performed this song at a memorial service for Nancy Fairley a long-time active member of our Board of Governors. When her husband Grant then decided to dedicate this concert to her memory, Nora asked if I could work the song into the concerto. I was more than glad to do this since I too knew Nancy and I also loved the melody.
At first I thought I would just hint at it but as I worked with that tune it grew and grew to the point where it is the central material of the slow section. That is why the piece is called Gaol's Ruadh RÚs which is Gaelic for "Love's Red Rose."
The piece begins with some bold chords stated with a rhythm known as the "Scottish Snap." The piece then builds into the 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 two harps which leads into "My Love..." The melody is first played by the two harps in a very light and ethereal style and then repeats in a more bold and straight forward manor. The slow section then transitions back into the Celtic dance and ends with the cluster chords. The work is dedicated to the memory of Nancy Fairley.