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Thesis 1

Thesis Title: The sacred choral commissions of the Cork Annual Seminar on Contemporary Choral Music: tradition and modernity
Degree Type: MA
Degree Specialism: Musicology
Supervisor(s): Dr Patricia Flynn
Thesis Status: Accepted
Date Submitted / Accepted: Accepted June 2005
Institution Submitting / Submitted To: St. Patricks College, DCU
No. of Volumes (no. of pages): 1
Thesis Location / Link: Cregan Library, St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Genres / Musical Instruments: Contemporary sacred choral music
Abstract: This research investigates the thesis that in Ireland, recently composed unaccompanied choral music which uses sacred texts, draws significantly in its techniques and characteristics, on earlier traditions, in particular the techniques and characteristics of Gregorian chant and 16th century polyphony. The Annual Seminar on Contemporary Choral Music in Cork was established in 1962 as part of The Cork International Choral Festival and to date is has commissioned over 100 composers, both Irish and International. A significant number of the Irish composers chose sacred texts to set and so the sample pieces to be studied were drawn from the commissioned pieces. The following are the pieces which were studied in this research:

'Gloria' (Eric Sweeney, 1973)
'Magnificat' (Seamus de Barra, 1989)
'Exaudi Voces' (Eibhlis Farrell, 1992)
'Rorate Caeli' (Rhona Clarke, 1994)
'An das Angesicht des Herrn Jesu' (Patrick Zuk, 1998)
'Maranatha' (Micheal O Suilleabhain, 2000)
'Quis est Deus' (Michael Holohan, 2002)
'Stabat Mater' (Grainne Mulvey, 2003)

This research first provides an overview of the Choral Festival and its Seminar. After establishing the context of the commissions it was necessary to give a general outline of the unaccompanied choral tradition and the musical characteristics which encompass sacred expression. The various sacred texts used by the composers in their compositions were also studied with a view to establishing their particular significance within the choral tradition. Using these conceptual tools it was then possible to analyse the pieces and identify the elements of tradition and modernity in each. The research has found that, with the exception of one of the pieces, each of the composers has drawn on the techniques of earlier traditions and reinvented these to create a sense of modernity in their pieces. It is interesting to note that the youngest composer chose to draw the least amount of inspiration from the tradition. This suggests that the trend observed in the thesis has begun to change, leaving potential for modification of the thesis in the future.

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