Unity of Being

© By Deirdre Gribbin

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Written for the Ulster Orchestra’s 35th Anniversary Series Unity of Being was completed in June 2001 and programmed for performances in Belfast and New York City. The piece’s inherent spirit was one of unification, of healing rifts, of reclaiming values and I subtitled it “a peace anthem for Northern Ireland”. We were all set for the American premiere at the opening concert in a Festival called UK in New York in October, then 9/11 happened.

I was unsure whether or not the performance was going to happen. Few were flying at that particular time, but miraculously it went ahead. Being in New York just three weeks after this horrible catastrophe was a great reminder of the fallibility of the human spirit There was such a sense of despair. The Festival was renamed UK with New York and the concert itself renamed Unity of Being, a testimony to how music - as a non-verbal universal language - can communicate, embrace and allow for personal emotional response far greater than any words. The poet W.B. Yeats talked about always looking for a balance in life and art. He searched for “infinite feeling, infinite battle, and infinite repose” and this is the essence of my work.

The music opens with linear material shared between vast sections of the orchestra dominated with cuts and inserts from the brass. Staggered resolutions occur whilst new beginnings overlap. The opening is raucous, angular and primeval with sweeps upward in shifts of sound culminating in brass fanfares. The next section embodies references to folk harmony and is tonal. The sense of dramatic tension and resolution depends on how the blocks of orchestral passages are defined and separated. Coming out of the brutal tirade for drum and timpani I revert to the stillness of the central chorale with the cello and basses reserved and introspective, guiding the listener to reflect on the enormity of one’s own state of being.

Recording courtesy of Deirdre Gribbin and RTE

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