Thesis submission ID 924 | created | last updated

Patrice Keegan, From ancient to avant-garde: The evolution of the organ in Ireland and a performer's analysis of five contemporary pieces for solo organ
DMusPerf, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2022

Volumes, pp.: 1 vol (vi, 201 pp.)   
Supervisor(s): Denise Neary
Repository (online):
Repository (hard copy): Royal Irish Academy of Music Library

General specialism: Musicology: Performance Studies
Key terms, concepts: Analysis
Key terms, persons: Jonathan Nangle; Eric Sweeney; Fergus Johnston; Sebastian Adams; Rose Connolly
Key terms, places: Dublin
Key terms, institutions: Christ Church Cathedral; St Patrick's Cathedral
Key terms, genres, instruments: Organ; Irish solo organ compositions

This thesis explores the role of the organ in contemporary society and looks at the various ways in which the organ is currently being used. The use of the organ within a religious context is inevitable. These instruments have been used in sacred buildings for centuries with a vast amount of solo organ music being based on religious themes. This connection with religion has served to enhance the repertoire but has also influenced perceptions of the organ as an instrument, independent from these religious venues. This thesis examines these perceptions of the organ in contemporary society and looks at the various ways in which the organ is currently being used to challenge these preconceived ideas. New compositional styles are investigated and analysed with a view to presenting a fresh perspective on the organ. The role of technology is also considered with a view to demonstrating the modernisation of this historic instrument. Solo organ compositions by Irish composers through the years are examined, with specific detailed reference to three works. These works convey a modern approach to composition for the organ as well as utilising many of the unique extended techniques the instrument can offer. A recording of these works is included with the thesis. The topic of the future of the organ and the exciting possibilities this instrument presents to the musician, is explored and expanded in this thesis.

The organ is an instrument with a lengthy and diverse history. Woven into the very fabric of the venues in which they are situated, organs envelop listeners in a world of sound and resonance. Much has been written on the history of the organ and its development by such scholars as Nicholas Thistlethwaite, Peter Williams and Stephen Bicknell. This historical knowledge has given vital insight into the beginnings of the organ and the various traits in different countries with regard to the progression of the instrument. This historicism, as well as the inexorable link between the organ and religion, has had both advantages and disadvantages for the perception of the instrument. This thesis explores these resulting perceptions and provides context for the subsequent critical investigation of five solo organ compositions by Irish composers.

These five contemporary pieces – Toccata L’Homme Armé by Jonathan Nangle, The Secret Rose by Eric Sweeney, Karanfilo Mome by Fergus Johnston, 2019.7 by Sebastian Adams, and Strength by Rose Connolly – are examined in detail with a focus on the challenges each piece presents and the approaches that can be taken to overcome these difficulties. The extended techniques utilised in these pieces use the organ in new and innovative ways, while the compositional styles highlight the capabilities of the instrument as well as the possibilities it can offer the composer. Sound recordings of all pieces are included, a world premiere performance in the case of Strength by Rose Connolly, to enhance the discussion of these pieces and to serve as research artefacts. The evolving role of the organ is the central focus of this dissertation. This examination of a selection of contemporary pieces for solo organ, within the context of the history of the organ in Ireland, demonstrates the full potential this unique instrument offers to composer, audience, and performer.
Thesis submission ID 924