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PREMIERE: Donegal & Colmcille-inspired Ryan Vail Commission

A NEW Donegal-inspired composition by an award-winning Irish electronica artist and composer celebrating Colmcille premieres online this afternoon (Thursday), 7th April.

Ryan Vail was invited by the Regional Cultural Centre (RCC), Letterkenny and Glebe House & Gallery, Churchill to create a new piece of music that would re-imagine Benjamin Britton’s Donegal-inspired ‘A Hymn for St. Columba’.

The Re:Work Electronic Music Commission, which was funded by the Arts Council of Ireland, was commissioned in 2021 as part of Colmcille 1500, a year-long commemoration to mark the 1500th anniversary of the birth of Colmcille.

Originally commissioned in 1962, and dedicated to Glebe Gallery founder Derek Hill, Britton’s composition was premiered outdoors in Churchill, where Columba is said to have preached, but the recording was not easily audible due to the strong wind.

Vail used Britton’s piece as a ‘jumping off point’ and created a complete reinterpretation in a contemporary style using a mix of electronic and traditional instrumentation.

The Derry artist blends the worlds of electronica, folk and classical, always experimenting combining classical instruments with unique methods of recording and composition.

This commission, Vail said for him, was about connecting with his friends and the countryside of Donegal.

“When I heard about the stories surrounding the Glebe Gallery and Benjamin, I could not help but be inspired by their stories.

“I invited my good friend Laura McFadden to play Cello and my friend Elma Orkestra to capture Drone footage of the surrounding lands.

“The finished piece is a musical & visual journey that travels through various parts of Donegal where I reimage parts of the landscape that inspired ‘THIS OPEN SPACE’.”

Jeremy Howard, the RCC’s Acting Art Centre Manager, said they were delighted to be awarded funding from the Arts Council of Ireland to commission this new work and quickly made shortlists of leading neo-classical and electronic composers from throughout Europe.

He said: “We were even more delighted when a composer from the North West of Ireland was at the top of everyone’s shortlist.

“Ryan finds inspiration for this work in the same rugged Donegal landscapes that originally inspired Benjamin Britton.

“The music beautifully meanders through vast melodic valleys but also incorporates dissonant angular edges that work well in capturing the essence of contemporary Donegal.”

Adrian Kelly, Curator at Glebe House & Gallery, said: “We do a lot of work with the Regional Cultural Centre and it was great to be working with them again on this project and it was nice to be working with local talent and continuing that tradition of fostering the arts in the north-west.

“Vail’s new piece of music which re-imagined Benjamin Britton’s 1962 Donegal-inspired ‘A Hymn for St. Columba’ is absolutely beautiful, I was very moved by it when I first heard it. I love the gentleness and energy of the new piece.”

Ryan Vail’s Re:Work Electronic Music Commission, This Open Space, will premiere on the Regional Cultural Centre’s YouTube Channel on Thursday, 7th April, at 3pm.

The Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny is proudly funded by Donegal County Council and Arts Council Ireland.

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