Music and 1916 – the Irish Research Councils funds the premiere of Bax’s ‘In Memoriam – In Memory of Patrick Pearse’



Posted: 15 February, 2016

The Irish Research Council has supported Dr Maria McHale, Dublin Institute of Technology, to purchase Sir Arnold Bax’s score and orchestral parts for In Memoriam (written in memory of Patrick Pearse). The Irish premiere of Sir Arnold Bax’s In Memoriam took place in the National Concert Hall with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (RTÉ NSO) and conductor Duncan Ward on 19 February 2016 as part of the RTÉ NSO’s 2015-2016 Main Season. To mark the premiere, the Irish Research Council held a reception in the National Concert Hall. Celebrating the premiere with Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Chair of the Irish Research Council and Dr Eucharia Meehan, Irish Research Council Director, were the Mexican Ambassador to Ireland, Carlos Garcia De Alba, Dr Martin Mansergh and Gabriel Doherty, members of the Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations; Professor Brian Norton, President of Dublin Institute of Technology and Tom Boland, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority.

Commenting on the premiere, Maria McHale said, “Bax’s poignant orchestral work will resonate with the public in this centenary year and the retrieval of this work given its creation, fascinating narrative and subsequent neglect should reinstate the piece into Irish concert life and accord it the position it deserves.” Minister for Research, Skills and Innovation, Damien English TD, said “The Decade of Centenaries offers a unique opportunity for national reflection and remembrance, for all members of Irish society. This particular project and associated performance fits well with the breadth and diversity of the programme, and reflects the full complexity of Irish and European history, whilst also demonstrating that academic discourse and research is vital to any acts of national commemoration.”

John O’Kane, Executive Director, RTÉ Orchestras. Quartet and Choirs also commented, saying: “It is amazing to be referring to this particular performance of this work as an Irish premiere and to reflect on the fact that such a fine piece has lain neglected for so many decades. RTÉ is very pleased to have the opportunity to redress that situation by programming this wonderful piece, in which Bax offers a poignant and personal response to events of Easter 1916. It seems all the more appropriate to do so in this the centenary year of the events to which the work directly refers, and in a year which sees RTÉ present a broad range of programming and events across television, radio, mobile and beyond as part of RTÉ 1916.” Professor Jane Ohlmeyer added “The Irish Research Council is delighted to be part of the national programme of centenaries. The public interest in the Rising emphasises the centrality of humanities research to the public discourse on this period. We are also delighted that the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra is the orchestra to perform the Irish premiere, as part of its 2015-16 Season at the National Concert Hall.

About the project

Dr Maria McHale was awarded 1916 Flagship Project funding to examine the Easter Rising through the lens of music as part of the Council’s Decade of Centenaries programme. One of the project’s aims was to secure the Irish premiere of Sir Arnold Bax’s orchestral work In Memoriam. This is the first-known piece of classical music commemorating Pearse and 1916. The execution of Pearse had a profound impact on Bax (Bax had met Pearse) and he wrote the work in 1916. Following Bax’s death, the manuscript was presented to Éamon de Valera in 1955. However, the work has never been performed in Ireland until now. The musicological investigation into this period and the research developed under the auspices of this project has led to the commissioning of a programme for RTÉ lyric fm’s ‘The Lyric Feature’, Bax, Ireland and 1916.

Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953) was from an affluent background but was seen a non-conformist who developed a lifelong affection for Ireland. He was also a poet who went under the name, ‘Dermot O’ Byrne’. He was the author of a collection of poems banned by the British Censor with the title ‘A Dublin Ballad and other poems’ (1918). Bax learnt Irish (in Glemcolulmcille and Morar in Scotland) and named his two children, Dermot and Maeve. He was a regular visitor to Ireland and he died in Cork in 1953.

Listen to the concert

Listen to the Lyric Feature programme