For SATB Chorus.
Jointly commissioned by the National Chamber Choir and the Cork International Choral Festival for the seminar 'from composition to performance, the seminar on choral music'.
This work was premièred at the Cork International Choral Festival on 2nd May 2008 by the National Chamber Choir of Ireland conducted by Bo Holten.
Text: Acallam na Senórach (12th century)
After the battles of Commar, Gabair, and Ollarba, the Fían was destroyed. The survivors scattered
across Ireland and, by the time our story begins, only two of the nobles of this ancient Fían were
still alive: Oisín and Caílte. Sixteen of the Fían warriors travelled with them across the wooded and
flower-covered slopes of the Fews.
Patrick was reciting his office. Then, his priests, seeing Caílte and his men approaching, were
seized with fear and horror at the sight of these warriors of an earlier age. Then Patrick, apostle to
the Irish, arose and sprinkled holy water on these great men, for a thousand legions of demons had
been above their heads. The great men then sat down.
‘Well, my friend, there is something I would ask you,’ said Patrick to Caílte. ‘Find us a well of pure
water close by, so that we might baptize the peoples.’ Caílte took Patrick by the hand and together
they went over the ramparts of the fortress. Just nine steps from the portal they saw a lovely crystalclear
spring. Then Caílte recited these lines:
A thoibur Trágha dhá bhan
àlaind do bhilar barrhglan.
ó ro tréigedh do chnuas ort
nír’ léiced fás dot fochlocht,
Is uait dochuadar in Fiann
dar’ marbad Coinchend coimfial,
dar’ cuiredh ár Feinde Find.
isin mhadain ós Maolghlind.
A(r) marbadh chon ocus fer
ar n-athchuma laoch láingheal
co cuala glaodh Gharaidh ghlain
adhaigh re taobh in topair.
(‘O spring of Tráig Dá Ban,
lovely your bright cress sprigs;
Since your pruning was neglected,
your brooklime has multiplied.
‘From you the Fían set out,
when generous Coinchenn was slain,
When Finn’s Fían was slaughtered,
in the morning above Maelglenn.
‘After the slaughter of dogs and men, after the
wounding of shining warriors,
Garad’s cry was heard at night
beside the spring.)
‘You have lightened our spirits and our mind, even though our religious life is being disrupted and
our prayers neglected,’ said Patrick. Aibelán and Solusbrethach, his two guardian angels, then
came to Patrick and he asked them if it were the wish of the King of Heaven and Earth that he
listen to these tales of the Fián.
The angels answered him with one voice: 'Dear holy cleric, those old heroes tell you no more than
a third of their stories, because their memories are faulty. Have these stories written down on
scribes' tablets in the language of poets; the hearing of them will provide entertainment for the
lords and commons of later times.'
The angels then left them.
Originating translation of the Acallam na Senórach by Ann Dooley and Harry Roe (Tales of the
Elders of Ireland, Oxford University Press, 1999); adapted for this musical setting by Geraldine
Parsons and Tarik O’Regan.