FOR players and conductors hungry for new wind band repertoire, the Contemporary Music Centre's library and sound archive is a good place to start any search. The Centre holds a large collection of scores and recordings of band music, with many of the scores and parts available direct from the Centre.
What can you expect when browsing through band repertoire in the Centre's library? In a word, everything! The earliest works date from the 1950s by such composers as Aloys Fleischmann (1910-92) and A. J. Potter (1918-80), whose vivid arrangement of Finnegan's Wake (1956) has become a favourite with many concert bands. Brian Boydell (1917-2000) also wrote several works for band, including Fred's Frolic (1977), a work written for the then conductor of the Irish Army No. 1 Band, Commandant Fred O'Callaghan. Also on the lighter side of the repertoire is Marche Bizzare (1985) by Gerard Victory (1921-95) described by the composer as 'a novelty piece with a mock serious style'.
The Irish Youth Wind Ensemble (IYWE) has long been a committed exponent of Irish band music and has commissioned and performed many works by Irish composers. Where the Wind Blows, a CD recently issued by the ensemble, comprises a whole programme of works by Irish composers. The title comes from a work commissioned by the IYWE from John Buckley (b. 1951). Where the Wind Blows (1989) combines vigorous and intensely expressive passages and is a real test of virtuosity.
Another ensemble which has added to Irish band repertoire is the DIT Conservatory of Music Concert Band. Alembic (1992), a challenging work for the most accomplished of wind ensembles, was commissioned from Raymond Deane (b. 1953) by the ensemble and has received many performances since, including one at the ISCM World Music Days in Manchester in 1998. Another work commissioned by the ensemble is Soundshock (1992) by Eibhlis Farrell (b. 1953). This evokes the spirit of the late sixteenth-century polychoral antiphonal style and is, in the words of the composer, 'a work of affirmation and a coalescing of elements of old and new'.
Among the other composers who write regularly for band is the British-born composer Michael Ball (b. 1946). Ball, who is now based in Dublin, has received many commissions for band, among them from the British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles and the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. Vincent Kennedy (b. 1962) is also an active band composer and his Soliloquy and March in Memory of Michael O'Hehir (1997) won the 1998 RTÉ Micheál O'Hehir Composition Competition.
Other works of interest include Dreamworld (1994) by Declan Townsend (b. 1938). This was premiered by the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra and was recently published by Maecenas Music as part of their Millennium Series for wind bands and ensembles.
The renowned Netherlands Wind Ensemble (NWE) has commissioned works from both Kevin Volans (b. 1949) and Roger Doyle (b. 1949) in recent years. The ensemble recorded a disc of Volans' wind music on the Chandos record label in 1997. One of the works from this disc, This is How it is (1996), is included as the opening track on the recent CMC CD, Contemporary Music from Ireland Volume Three. Roger Doyle, whose commission from the NWE arose as a result of the ensemble hearing one of his works on the CD, Contemporary Music from Ireland Volume Two, composed Tradarr for the ensemble in 1999. This unusual work, for traditional sean nós singer, uilleann pipes, wind ensemble and electronics, reflects on the relationship between Irish folklore and composed 'art' music. Tradarr was premiered by the ensemble as part of a highly successful concert tour of Doyle's music in the Netherlands in 1999 and was later released on the ensemble's CD, Under the Green Time.
It is apparent from the ever-increasing list of Irish works for band that there is a lot of challenging and stimulating music to be discovered and, in some cases, rediscovered. So if you're someone who wants to take up some fresh, interesting repertoire for band, look no further than the CMC!
The following is a selected list of band and wind ensemble recordings available from CMC:
Buckley, Deane, Farrell, Kelly, Potter, Victory, Where the wind blows. Irish Youth Wind Ensemble CD, 2001.
For further information on repertoire for band and wind ensembles, please contact the Contemporary Music Centre.
Doyle, Roger: Under the Green Time. Nederlands Blazers Ensemble NBECD001. 1999.
Volans, Kevin: Volans Premier Recordings. Chandos CHAN 9563. 1997.