Duration : 3’30
Poem of W. B. Yeats
Comissioned by the Cork International Choral Festival
First performance on 3rd may 2002 in Cork (Ireland), National Chamber Choir, direction Celso Antunes.
Recording : CD 48th Cork International Choral Festival
Patrick Burgan, Toulouse France: Composer Commissioned in 2002
I like the idea that a work should always include an element which links it to the circumstances of its origination.
So when John Fitzpatrick contacted me to commission an a capella piece to be performed within the framework of the Cork Festival by the National Chamber Choir of Ireland I considered it almost indispensable to set to music a work by an Irish poet. Very quickly my search brought me to focus on one of the most emblematic: W. B. Yeats w,hom I knew merely by name and whose poetic riches I am delighted to have discovered.
When I had already devoured a good portion of his work my choice fell upon the poem which through its images, gestures and dramatic quality evoked a musical reverberation: ‘The Sorrow of Love’; this is how ‘Cry’ was born, because this word, with which two of the three stanzas of the poem end, appeared to me so revealing of the musical essence that it provided an ideal title. It was a beautiful discovery I made in the literary genius of W. B. Yeats.
As yet I did not know what quite unexpected emotions the journey to the festival and the experience of the performance of my work were to bring me. Of course, the labour of rehearsing, the workshops in which one conveys to the public how a piece music springs into being, the magic of the concert – where the work is truly born – all this creates a special emotion, but it is familiar, even predictable though very intense. Here I would like to speak of what touched me deeply as an artist and a human being during the few days I spent in a country to which I had come for the first time.
Above all – and not even dwelling upon the organization, the reception of the guests, all of which were absolutely faultless – I was struck from the very beginning by the friendliness and warmth of the Irish, their humour, their pleasure in self-irony, their unpretentious generosity. Likewise there was this finely tuned taste for the ceremonial (the competition, the concerts, the Lord Mayor’s adresses) the post-concert gatherings with singing, diabolically complicated and sprightly dancing, Irish guinessing and whiskying: in a word, this visit was bliss!
Artistically the shock was all the more powerful as unforeseen. As it happened, I attended many of the performances of different choirs, guests and competitors. I was never disenchanted because excellence was omnipresent. But the first time I watched the children of the Irish dancing school on the stage of the City Hall at the closing of the concert was a revelation to me. I did not know this kind of dance. What near-surrealist beauty, these bodies cut so to speak in halves, rigid and unyielding the upper, astoundingly agile the lower, and moreover performed by youngsters between 12 and 15 years. This dynamism made a lasting impression on me.
Another thing caught me by surprise: in the lobby of a hotel, in the corner of a theatre, on the corridors of the City Hall young musicians to whom no audience was paying special attention played Irish medodies in duos and trios (violin, flute, accordion, baurón, etc.). Again I became aware of the unrepressed energy that released itself in their mesmerizing excursions from and returns to the same key all in bright and cheerful improvisation. I could have spent hours listening to them.
There you are: delirious legs under a statue-like body and groups of young performers with nobody listening to them playing their music for its own sake and for the joy of communication are the two powerful images of an unforgettable stay. Having scarcely arrived home, I was already planning to return to Ireland. I have come back since and hope to do so in future as often as possible.
 This text was translated from the French by Rainer Würgau
The Sorrow of Love (William Butler Yeats)
The brawling of a sparrow in the eaves,
The brilliant moon and all the milky sky,
And all that famous harmony of leaves,
Had blotted out man’s image and his cry.
A girl arose that had red mournful lips
And seemed the greatness of the world in tears,
Doomed like Odysseus and the labouring ships
And proud as Priam murdered with his peers;
Arose, and on the instant clamorous eaves,
A climbing moon upon an empty sky,
And all that lamentation of the leaves,
Could but compose man’s image and his cry.