Darragh Kearns-Hayes, When We’re Both Cats Composition
Photo: Bríd O’Donovan
Darragh Kearns-Hayes of Cork band Fear Stalks The Land got in touch with news of a composition of his for full orchestra. Interesting, we thought, so we asked him to tell us more. It turned out to be more than interesting, even dare we say, a heartwarming tale for Christmas…
I was delighted to be awarded a bursary from Lyric FM and IMRO to compose a piece for the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in May of this year. I was mentored during the composition process by composer Linda Buckley and also got great advice from friends and lecturers in the Cork School of Music where I studied for the last four years.
I had written for large ensembles before but nothing as big as a full symphony orchestra and relished the opportunity of having so many talented musicians to play my music. It’s a very different experience to working in a band situation where I like to let things sit and develop in their own time according to the players. When dealing with an orchestra you have to have all of your work done well in advance and try to know in your head how everything should sound. You write what’s in your head and then see how successful your translation is when they play it. When We’re Both Cats has a lot of different lines happening simultaneously across the orchestra, so one of the biggest challenges that I found was estimating the dynamic levels of each instrument to get the balance desired; it’s a bit like mixing a track just watching your mixer and not listening to it. There was a little time for adjustments during the recording session but when you’re dealing with musicians of that standard they can pretty much just play whatever you put in front of them straight away so they don’t need to spend too long getting it together as an ensemble. I’m very glad I don’t have the conductor’s job anyway…I couldn’t handle the stress of having to get a whole orchestra making sense of a new piece of music in such a small amount of time. I was lucky to have Gavin Maloney conducting and I think he did a fantastic job.
My piece When We’re Both Cats is about a romance only possible in another life where both parties are of the feline disposition. The rest I’d like people to figure out for themselves. The last section is meant to be a big party and in the last bar I managed to convince the whole orchestra to make purring noises.
It was recorded on October 29th and received its first broadcast on the 15th of December on Nova with Bernard Clarke on Lyric FM. I learned a lot from the experience, not least how long it takes to print and bind music for a whole orchestra and how awkward I sound on the radio.
Go to 1hr 36m for Darragh’s piece –