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5 Aifreann Eoin na Croise: Peadar Ó Riada 146 Introduction T his third mass setting of the Ó Riada cycle, an oral composition by Peadar Ó Riada,1 represents both elements of continuity and, as we shall see, significant development along the musical continuum. While the compositional traditions of Gregorian chant remain as general reference points for the common liturgical elements of the mass, specific settings from Ceol an aifrinn and more particularly Aifreann 2 emerge as more potent and influential models for Aifreann Eoin na Croise which, notably, lacks a Kyrie and Gloria. The composer’s use of the ancient Muscraí prayer ‘An marnabh’ as the backdrop for the opening chant signals from the outset a very particular cultural context, the characteristic musical expressions of which will be shown to sustain the musical composition. Different in scale is the prose content of the mass, which almost equals that of the combined settings of Ceol an aifrinn and Aifreann 2, the dimensions of the text and Ó Riada’s compositional approach to it prompting useful initial and ultimately illuminating comparisons with the tradition of oral epic. The melodic setting of the extended Opening Chant, itself a significant conceptual development, raises questions relating to the compositional craft of large-scale melodic construction, and here also we encounter the first examples of the highly controlled, organically derived keyboard accompaniments provided by the composer throughout the mass. The Opening Chant’s textual canvas is characterised by a series of litanic passages, and the oral influence of parallelism dominates the textual structure of the extended Salm setting, the first to appear in the combined Ó Riada corpus. Other liturgical developments in Aifreann Eoin na Croise centre on the ritual elements involving priest and people, thus building on the liturgical advances of Seán Ó Riada’s second mass. The Aifreann 2 concepts of bi-modality and structural oscillations between the tonic, fourth and fifth scalar degrees find strong echoes in the tonal landscape selected by Peadar Ó Riada to sustain this large-scale composition, whose extremely wide range of two octaves seems to be naturally divided by the composer into a series of tetrachords. Tetrachordal divisions also provide the tonal context for the issue of motivic construction which emerges, as the analysis progresses, as the central compositional 147 AIFREANN EOIN NA CROISE: PEADAR Ó RIADA question of Aifreann Eoin na Croise. Such is the significance of motivic construction for the mass itself and for broader issues surrounding the generation of vernacular liturgical music, that a full chapter (chapter six) is devoted exclusively to it. Contents This Mass originated out of a desire to draw people into a more meditative form of worship. The music, prayers and chants of the liturgy prepare us to become attentive and receptive to the word of God. The opening chant chosen here is ‘An marnabh’, the oldest prayer in Muscraighe Uí Fhloinn. The five short prayers sung simultaneously with the opening chant are meant to awaken in us that which we have inherited from our people – the linking of past and future – the present. Time is transformed in the House of God. Thus we hope to find the ‘Cosán Draíochacht’ (The Secret Ladder) to the presence of God. (Peadar Ó Riada)2 S o reads the introduction to Peadar Ó Riada’s Aifreann Eoin na Croise (Mass of John of the Cross), commissioned in 1990 by the Carmelite Community of St Teresa’s, Clarendon Street, Dublin, for a mass marking the quatercentenary of the death of St John of the Cross. Having composed the mass and taught it to his choir, the composer, whose normal medium is oral transmission,3 was eventually persuaded to produce a hand-written score which was then integrated into the mass booklet for the occasion.4 The mass setting, conceived as a unified entirety,5 contains musical settings for the following elements: 1. Opening Chant (combining ‘An marnabh’ and five native prayers): 1a. Go mbeannaíthear duit 1b. Umhlaím duit 1c. Im’ chroí ’tá ’n t-olc 1d. Bronnaim m’anam ort 1e. Admhaím do Dhia mhóir THE MASSES OF SEÁN AND PEADAR Ó RIADA 148 2. Salm 139 3. Aililiúia 4. Guí an phobail6 5. Is Naofa 6. Rúndiamhair an chreidimh7 7. Is tríd/ Amen mór 8. Ár nAthair–Síocháin 9. A Uain Dé 10. An cosán draíochta New liturgical developments within the combined Ó Riada corpus include the Salm, Guí an Phobail (Prayer of the Faithful), the Communion Rite sequence...


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