We know the Score
The Táin Score
“Setanta” by Eibhlís Farrell is a 30 – minute piece in five sections, scored for solo soprano, mixed choir and orchestra.
It is not a narrative of the Táin, but an atmospheric work which highlights the main themes running through the story.
Read on to learn how Eibhlis, the composer has used elements of the Táin in the music.
1. Setanta…. Choir
2. None like Cúchulainn
These two opening pieces sing the praises of the hero, Cúchulainn.
In this section of theTáin, Maeve has asked who is the warrior who dares to oppose her army single-handedly.
Fergus, a former king of Ulster now exiled in Connacht, tells her about the great feats which Cúchulainn has achieved in his young life.
Despite the curse of Macha which has laid low the rest of Ulster’s warriors Cúchulainn will guard Muirtheimne Plain and save Ulster.
Eibhlís is Head of Music and Creative Media and Director of Ionad Taighde Ceoil, the Centre for Research in Music.
A leading contemporary composer she is a graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, the University of Bristol and Rutgers University New Jersey, and studied composition with Raymond Warren and Charles Wuorinen.
Her output includes orchestral, vocal, chamber and opera and music theatre works. Her music has been widely performed and broadcast at home and internationally and has represented Ireland at the UNESCO International Composers’ Rostrum.
3. The Morrígan
Morrígan, known as the Queen of Demons, is one of the three goddesses of war. She can assume the shape of a raven and has the gift of prophecy. In this piece she addresses the Brown Bull of Cooley and alerts him to the great slaughter which is to come. This causes him to move to Sl. Cuilinn for safety.
4. Imbas Forasnaí
(The Light of Foresight)
Before Maeve set off on her raid she asked a beautiful woman poet named Fedelm who had trained in “verse and vision” in Alba how her army would fare.
Fedelm warned her of dire things to come. Maeve was sceptical because she was aware of the effect of Macha’s curse which had left the men of Ulster powerless at that time but Fedelm said that it was Cúchulainn who opposed her and that he would defeat her.
A member of AOSDÁNA, the state-sponsored Academy of Creative Artists, Eibhlís Farrell she also on the Toscaireacht and board member of An Foras Feasa, the Institute for Research in Irish Historical and Cultural Traditions.
The most poignant episode in the Táin is recalled in this final chorus. It is the great fight lasting several days between Cúchulainn and Ferdia at the ford.
They had been friends together in the boy troop in Emain Macha and later trained with Scáthach in Scotland. Cúchulainn remembers that it had been “all play, all sport” in those days but thanks to “cruel Cruachan” (Maeve’s home in Co. Roscommon), they had been pitched against one another in battle.
Many significant battles took place at fords and boundaries where the normal rules of society were seen to break down and so this was an appropriate setting for the fight between two former friends.