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  • Writer's picturepetermcaleer5


Notes on the birth of a new work

If you've seen me on SoundCloud you may have noticed an upload of mine called Saor, a new work-in-progress for orchestra. If you were feeling adventurous enough you may even have played the track. Here it is:

The word 'saor' is a Gaelic word meaning 'free' or 'unrestrained' and was always just a fancy working title for my new work. I was originally inspired by Debussy's La Cathédrale Engloutie, from his first set of Préludes for piano; Debussy's starting point was the legend of a submerged cathedral which rises magnificently from the ocean, complete with bells clanging and organ thundering.

But my own piece was having a very troubled birth. I started with another working title Engloutie, my personal homage to Debussy's prelude and my sketches contain no less than 9 fully worked out openings, some a hundred bars or so in length, with many considerable and weighty sketches. But my musical thinking was changing, my style evolving; I simply could not get off the runway with this music any more. So I mothballed the project, fully intending to pick it up after I'd finished my choral work When We Awake.

In the mean time, at the start of 2021, I started a new orchestral scrapbook. I was still fascinated by the Debussy story but the essence of this fascination was now becoming clearer to me; my subconscious had been distilling the notion of rebirth, of coming up for air after submersion - baptism if you like - of being made free and flying high.

Would you believe it. This very first sketch, the one and only sketch so far in Scrapbook 2021, suddenly took on a life of its own; it was almost as if my subconscious had been waiting for this moment. Thinking of the concept of rebirth and freedom as I was writing it I chanced on the wonderful word 'soar'. I knew it wouldn't be the final title of this new piece, but it at last gave me the focus I needed. And I had an idea where my music was now evolving.

Now the real title for this new work can be revealed: Nova

And in case you think I've given the game away about the meaning of this piece, there may be more to it than you think!

Keep checking back here, leave a comment or see me on social media.

Peter McAleer

April 2021


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