Through the Digital Door: Nollaig na mBan

Nollaig na mBan, Women’s Christmas, is an Irish festival that celebrates women and women’s work on January 6th - a perfect moment to celebrate some recent and older musical works from women composers represented by the Contemporary Music Centre. 

As Nollaig na mBan also marks the end of the Christmas festivities, it is a moment of balance when we can reflect back on times past, as well as look forward into the new year. With that in mind, we have selected a variety of works that we hope will ease you into January.

Anne Marie O’Farrell: A Winter’s Prayer

This track, taken from the album Vox Feminina, was recorded by St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral Girls’ Choir, under the direction of Blánaid Murphy. Composed in 2010, it is a short work for SSAA choir. 

For further details of this work and the music score, click here.

Siobhán Cleary: Air from Ábhartach

This piece is an extract from music composed for a recent collaborative film project, titled ‘Ábhartach’, with the artist David Smith. Taken from CMC's news item about the project at the time:

The music evokes the dark tale of a tyrannical warlord who developed a taste for blood and couldn’t be killed. A neighbouring Chieftain, Cathán, with the help of his wolfhound and a druid attempts to end the supernatural rampage. The film responds to the dark atmosphere of Cleary’s music with solo harpist Úna Monaghan and shifts away from a linear narrative, instead, leaning into abstraction, horror and experimentation.

Aoife Kavanagh (CMC Emerging Composer 2021-23) : Awakening for live aerial performance

This evocative piece for piano and electronics came about as a collaboration with San Diego aerial hoop artist, Kristine Cannon. CMC asked Aoife about the project:

Kristine reached out to me because of my previous work with Irish-based aerialists Jenny Tufts and Aisling Ní Cheallaigh. She asked me to create an original piece of music for a short hoop act which she has been funded to develop. The act was filmed professionally in early 2023 and was later performed at the San Diego Aerial Dance Festival in August 2023. 

Because of the travel and time distance between us, the entire collaborative process was done remotely, via Zoom and email, exchanging videos of choreographic ideas and musical sketches. Writing for dance is a form of collaboration that I really love, and this project was definitely a rewarding experience, especially seeing how we could make it work without being in the same room physically.

Jane O’Leary - Forgotten Worlds

Composed for piano in 1987 and premiered in 1988 by pianist Gillian Smith. Jane O'Leary writes:

‘Forgotten Worlds’, was originally written in a version for speaker, flute, cello and piano as part of a set using texts by the Galway-based poet, Moya Cannon. The music relating to the setting of Inis Oírr spoke strongly to me and suggested an expanded version for piano solo. Something of the mystical nature of the poem and its link with the past as well as the close connection with the sea and the soft weather associated with the islands off the West coast of Ireland are caught up in the music. Pianistically, the piece requires occasional use of the strings inside the piano for special effects. These should be seen as an integral part of the piece, enhancing its texture and colour.

The work was featured by pianist Amy Wurtz in a video series for Women's History Month in 2023; Amy performs the piece and discusses some of the techniques used on Youtube.

This piece was also recorded by Isabelle O’Connell and can be found on the album Reservoir, which you can find in the CMC shop here.