Through the Digital Door: Bealtaine 2024

Through the Digital Door Bealtaine 2024

This issue of Through the Digital Door highlights Bealtaine and (finally!) the start of Summer. The Bealtaine festival has been taking place across the country and celebrates creativity in older adults nationwide throughout the month of May.

In response to this, we have chosen a selection of chamber pieces that are readily accessible for anybody thinking about returning to an instrument that they enjoyed playing when they were younger.


Marian Ingoldsby - Two Pieces for Clarinet and Piano (1984)

This work comprises a pair of complementary atmospheric and characterful pieces. The clarinet part is written mostly in the middle and low registers and is therefore about grade 4 level, whereas the piano part is a little more difficult with some changes in register and a few chordal passages. However, rhythmic notation is very straightforward and these would be lots of fun to play together.

Photograph of music score cover and concert programme

Composed in 1984, it premiered in the Aula Maxima, University College Cork. The following extract is performed by Patricia O’Keeffe, clarinet, and Marion Ingoldsby, piano.

To see more information about the piece and to purchase the score, see here.


Frank Corcoran8 Irish Duets for Cello and Piano (2015)

Frank Corcoran’s Duetti Irlandesi - 8 Irish Duets for Cello and Piano - are attractive arrangements of known Irish airs, the first four of which are suitable for intermediate players: Séan Ó Duibhir an Ghleanna, A Úna Bháin, Na Conneries, and I m’Aonar Seal. 

The opening page of a music score against the backdrop of an archival storage box

The work was premiered in July 2015 by Martin Johnson, cello, and Fergal Caulfield, piano, at Ridotto, Teatro Mancinelli, Orvieto, Italy. Here is an extract from the duo's studio recording of the work made in October 2016.


Rachel Holstead - Dissolving into light (2002)

This is a beautifully evocative piece for clarinet, viola and piano in 3 movements. In the composer’s note from the score, she writes:

Dissolving into light is based on three episodes from my mother's days at primary school in Northern Ireland. The title describes the blurring of childhood memories and the clarity with which certain memories stand out over others, often for no apparent reason.

I - Dawning: A child stands in the middle of a large, empty space, alone, lost, not knowing where to go or what to do. 

II - Catching up: You are listening outside the door to someone else's piano lesson. When the room is empty, you sneak in and copy what you have heard, hoping that no-one will catch you. 

III - Chasing ghosts: Playground games in certain schools in Northern Ireland included a version of 'chase' where the people being chased were called 'Sassenachs'. It was often years later that children learned that 'Sassenach' means 'Englishperson'.

The opening page of a music score alongside a concert programme

Let’s hear from Robert Plane, clarinet , Philip Dukes, viola, and Sophia Rahman, piano, in their 2003 premiere at the Harty Room, Queen's University, Belfast.

If you’re curious about dipping your toes (or fingers) into some contemporary techniques, this might be the work for you with some extra breathy effects in the clarinet, and a full array of pizzicato, glissando, tremolo and even harmonics on the viola! Have a look at the score here.


Gareth Williams - Black Marks on White Paper (2007)

We’ll wrap up this month’s selection with this set of three short pieces for Viola and Piano Duet: Two is company, Three is a crowd, One is a wanderer. The 1st movement is for Viola and Solo Piano, with the 2nd and 3rd movements for Viola and Piano Duet. The 1st and 3rd movements would be unproblematic to put together, whereas the 2nd might take a little extra rehearsal time as the piano duet part is more involved.

This is an interesting set of pieces to try out if you are lucky enough to know (or be!) a viola player, as it explores some harmonics and double stops. Take a look at the score here.

Music score lying against the backdrop of an open grand piano

Premiered in March 2007 in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow, the following extract features soloist Emma Peebles on viola.