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Interview, Gerald Peregrine on Folk Tales

Gerald PeregrineIrish cellist Gerald Peregrine continues to explore the influences of folk music in the music of British and Irish composers of the twentieth century - musicians who looked to nature and folksong for an alternative to the more conservative approaches adopted by their predecessors.

His second volume of Folk Tales for cello and piano also draws on his experiences putting on over two thousand 'Covid Care Concerts' in a variety of medical settings around Ireland during the pandemic - performances which inspired him to make his own arrangements of well-loved Irish folksongs, which here sit alongside works by Vaughan WIlliams, Ireland, Bridge and others.

I spoke to Gerald about the influences that helped shape this album, and what makes the music on it so unique.

The first volume of Folk Tales was released back 2019, while this one incorporates several arrangements that you made for performance in your ‘Covid Care Concerts’ over the course of the pandemic; was the desire to record these part of the impetus for making a second album?

I had always wanted to record a follow up album, as there was such wide variety of composers and pieces that I was interested in performing.

I grew up surrounded by a large family of successful professional musicians, many of whom had already recorded their own versions of the most popular Irish Airs.

I had the chance to play these pieces very often during the pandemic, with some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians, and this gave me the confidence to finally commit my own version to disc.

Do you find that performing ‘wordless’ versions of vocal music (such as the Vaughan Williams Songs of Travel) allows you more interpretative freedom, or do you try to stick close to what the original words were about?

I am inspired by the words of the songs, as they give a certain amount of context. However, when performing songs on the cello, I mainly focus on the melody and look for nuances to highlight the beauty of the song.

Máire Breatnach, whose The Swans at Coole is featured on this album, has done considerable research into the melismatic, sweeping ‘sean-nós’ singing associated with western Ireland. It’s a real contrast with most other traditional folk-styles of Britain and Ireland. Is there any evidence of that style having crept into the classical sphere, maybe via folksong collectors?

Many Irish classical composers have been inspired by and incorporated traditional Irish music into their work. I was most inspired by a song called ‘Mise Eire” recorded by my cousin Sibéal. The work was written by my cousin Patrick Cassidy and highlights the unique beauty of the sean-nós style of singing.

More broadly - how much distinction do you find between British and Irish composers in this period, in terms of style or the influences they draw on?

There is quite a lot of difference in tone and style. Much of the traditional Irish music that I am drawn to, has a melancholic element, which feels incredibly connected to the past and the history of Ireland. The British composers I chose to record were more inspired by nature and the natural world.

Are there plans for further volumes in this series? There must be plenty more miniatures of this kind out there to explore…

I hope to be able to record a follow up album, if this one is well received. There is so much wonderful music that gets left behind, and it is such a joy to be able to rediscover these works and bring them to a wider audience.

Gerald Peregrine (cello), Antony Ingham (piano), Lynda O'Connor (violin)

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Gerald Peregrine (cello), Antony Ingham (piano)

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC