Through the Digital Door: Lunar New Year 2024

February 2024 ushered in the Year of the Dragon amid vibrant Lunar New Year festivities across Ireland. If any 'new year, new you' aspirations are flagging these days, let us rally them with...

Kevin O'ConnellO to be a Dragon

A set of seven songs in all, the text for each is taken from the poetry of Marianne Moore. In his programme notes for the premiere of the work, which we retrieved from the Archive, the composer writes that the poems are "drawn freely from all periods of Moore's output. What attracted me in her poetry... was her side-on view of things, at once objective and emotional." He goes on to describe his endeavour "to match their quickness of thought and free-ranging association with music that is ever flowing and changing."

'O to be a dragon' captures this aspect well and in particular plays on Moore's sense of 'baroque vision', suggesting, in Kevin's words, 'by the flame-like darts in the piano part, that it is not without humour also.' Composed between 1998 and 1999, this work was premiered by Conor Biggs (baritone) and David Adams (piano) in November 2000 as part of the 'Mostly Modern' series at the Bank of Ireland Arts Centre, College Green, Dublin.

"...O to be a dragon,

a symbol of the power of Heaven - of silkworm

size or immense; at times invisible.

Felicitous phenomenon!

- Marianne Moore. Source:

Another 'felicitous phenomenon' you may wish to attend is the premiere of Kevin's recent work, Encuentro, by the Sherman Petcu Duo. This will take place on March 16th in Derry as part of the Walled City Music Festival. Read more about it, and the other works to be performed by the Duo, here. This concert will also feature a pre-concert discussion about the work.

John McLachlan - Here be dragons

Speaking of baroque visions, ‘here be dragons’ is a phrase that quickly springs to mind in this context and one whose etymology is rooted in the Age of Exploration. Maps such as the Psalter Map (c. 1250 CE) and the Hunt-Lenox globe (c. 1510 CE) quietly hinder all hubris with ‘hic sunt dracones’, warning any would-be explorers away from dangerous territories.

Photo credit: Psalter Map, British Library
Photo credit: Hunt-Lenox globe, New York Public Library.

John McLachlan's eponymous work for organ explores the full, thrilling magnitude of what this warning could mean. In this excerpt perhaps you, too, can hear the bellowing dragon and the immediate spiral of self-doubt that ensues! 

Performed here by David Adams, it premiered on September 2nd, 2001, in St. Michael’s Church, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, and you can find the score for the work here.


Elaine Agnew - Fire

It is only logical that fire follows the dragon’s bellows! ‘Fire’ was composed in 2003 by Elaine Agnew and evokes how fire can be just as frightening as the dragon that delivered it. 

The text was written and sung by the choir of St. Joseph’s Primary School, under the guidance of Kate Newmann. Alongside the wind bands of Ballymun Comprehensive and St Joseph's Primary School, they were conducted by Ron Cooney in concerts at the AXIS Community Arts Centre, Ballymun, Dublin, on April 10th and 11th, 2003.

Deirdre McKay - Ice Etchings

If the subject matter has been too hot to handle, let us conclude with a Robert-Frostian counter-balance to the above in Deirdre McKay’s ‘Ice Etchings’ for violin, piano and percussion.

Photo credit: Brian Cahill

Those of us in the northern hemisphere may be currently experiencing increased levels of begrudgery that the beginning of Spring feels suspiciously similar to Winter. The opening of this work reminds us of the beauty to be found in those crystal clear, icy days with its effective combination of piano and percussion. 

In this recording, it is performed by Crash Ensemble on October 26th, 2002, at the Helix Theatre in Dublin City University as part of RTE Living Music Festival, by whom it was commissioned.