The Brendan Voyage
- TARA 3006
Assistant: Pearse Dunne
Produced by Shaun Davey
Production Assistant: Judy Lunny
Design and Layout: Design Warehouse.
Special Thanks to: Carolyn Evans-Tipping for assistance and advice during preparation and recording.
Front Cover Painting: Pat Musick.
Other works by Pat Musick can be viewed online at www.musickstudio.com
Tim Severin's book, The Brendan Voyage, is available from Gill & Macmillan.
All music publishing rights: Shaun Davey.
'The critical and popular success of The Brendan
Voyage was as ground-breaking as the music itself. Over the years its
power as a single, self-contained suite for Uilleann pipes, Orchestra
and Rhythm Section has remained undiminished while the progress of the
Celtic Music Renaissance has confirmed not only its author's visionary
genius but the status of this one work as an absolute cornerstone for
so many subsequent developments. Subsequent years have seen others paint
on the pallet of Davey's dream, but in my view there is still only one
master of the form. Regularly lauded as a populist with integrity, a
visionary, a serious artist, an unsung hero at the very dawn of the
current Celtic music explosion, Shaun Davey is all of these things and
The Brendan Suite is a series of pieces based on the story
contained in The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin. Though a great adventure
in itself, Severin's voyage had the serious purpose of discovering if
St. Brendan's sixth century voyage, as told in a medieval manuscript,
could have been possible. The mention of a leather boat and an extravagance
of apparent fantasy led scholars to dismiss the possibility that Brendan,
the Abbot of Clonfert, may have reached America long before the Norsemen.
Nonetheless, the legend remained and it was the reality behind the myth
that Severin and his crew explored in the replica medieval boat, `Brendan'.
For myself, I must confess that while Severin's expedition proved that
it is very possible that St. Brendan reached America in a leather boat,
I have the greatest difficulty in comprehending the sheer act of faith
that was required of early explorers: I chose instead to take the hard
facts and images of Severin's voyage to convert into musical terms,
and modern culture, so I have tried to find some meeting points between
old and contemporary forms of music. Naturally much of the beauty of
the subject lies in the presence of those, we hope, eternal elements;
the sea, sky and the creatures that inhabit them. These, along with
the character of the boat and the bravery and determination of her crew
prevented the composition from ever approaching any kind of mere academic
exercise. The only academic exercise involved was the hard graft of
learning to work in terms of an orchestral score plus the task of discovering
the nature of the instrument chosen to represent the boat, the uilleann
pipes which, for those unfamiliar with them, I shall describe. The lineage
of the Irish or uilleann pipes extends back through the centuries far
across Europe. They differ from Scottish bagpipes firstly in that their
wind is supplied by bellows secured to the player's arm rather than
from a bag, which he blows into, and secondly in that they have a far
more sophisticated system of keys and chanters with which to produce
notes. They are designed for playing while sitting down, preferably
in sheltered places such as parlours or sitting rooms and are not the
sort of instrument to take for walks over mountains. In this sense their
function can be seen to be different from their Scottish (and for that
matter Bulgarian, Rumanian and Turkish) relations: like their first
cousin the Northumberland pipes, uilleann pipes are more sophisticated,
more intimate, and are in fact a chamber instrument in the literal sense.
Yet unlike other European chamber instruments, the repertoire of the
uilleann pipes has remained rooted in traditional rather than classical
idioms. Its repertoire has been transmitted by ear rather than on the
written page and pipers have tended to remain a select breed who have
taken seriously their obligation to preserve a traditional repertoire
for the sake of future generations. And the fact is that despite their
enormous expressive power and eloquence, the pipes are an instrument
that has rarely found itself within the orchestral fold.
Following it's first live performance at Tombee de la Nuit, Rennes and the Lorient Interceltic Festival in 1982, The Brendan Voyage has been performed in concert halls around the world, including The Sydney Opera House and The Royal Albert Hall, London. It has been performed by Liam O'Flynn with;- the ECO at the Royal Festival Hall, London, the SCO in Edinburgh, the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast, the Northern Sinfonia in Newcastle, the Munich Radio Orchestra, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, the Staten Island Symphony Orchestra, on tour with the RTECO in Cologne and at Seville Expo 1994; at the Tonder festival, Denmark. Continues to be performed by the RTE Concert Orchestra and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, and has for several years featured in the Irish school curriculum.