Three Robes


Three Robes


soprano and piano

  • Premiere: 7 March 2003 / St. Peter's Church, NYC / Prism Projects Concert Series / Gilda Lyons, voice; Bathsheba Marcus, piano
  • Instrumentation: soprano and piano
  • Duration: 16'
  • Text: Nuala Ni Dhomnaill

Program Note

As I read the work of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, I feel that I am being allowed to witness the very private birth of some new mythology.  Her poems have the weight of a world of Irish folklore, myth and tradition behind them, but they exist in this modern time.

What is born is strange, wonderful and powerful.

As a composer, I am moved to consider the balance that I strike between modernity and tradition.  My study of music has been shaped by the rich world of contemporary musical language.  Long before I ever began my studies though, music was for me about singing traditional Irish and Nicaraguan folk songs in my home with my mother and father.  There is a place between both spaces that I look for now and that I sought out in writing Three Robes.

The poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill bears the distinction of being one of the few contemporary female poets writing exclusively in the Irish language today.  Her work has been translated into English by many of Ireland's leading poets - including Paul Muldoon, translator of the poems included in this cycle.  The five poems in Three Robes are taken, out of order, from a larger set of eleven poems entitled "Feis" (translation: "Carnival") from Ní Dhomhnaill's book, translated by Muldoon, The Astrakhan Cloak.