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The birth of a new work


Wind Quintet

Recently I was invited to sit in on the first rehearsal of a new composition. There’s something very special about watching musicians working out how to approach a new work. It’s even more special when that work is still in the process of being written and the composer is also present.

Last year the wind quintet, Cassiopeia Winds, decided that they would like a new work and John Buckley was their composer of choice. John, who is one of Ireland’s leading composers, instantly agreed and so (with the aid of a very welcome grant from the Arts Council) he started work this June on what is his second wind quintet.



The rehearsal was taking place in St. Patrick’s Teachers’ Training College where John Buckley lectures. It was a very wet Wednesday afternoon and the rain was drumming on the windows of the rehearsal room as the musicians arrived. The five members of Cassiopeia Winds are among the top wind players in the country and have played together in different ensembles for many years. Two of the players have actually been playing music together since they were in 11 year olds and so the banter between them is always amusing.


John Buckley passed around the scores of the first movement, said a few words about it, asked for some feed-back on the layout and then left the players to work through the four pages of the first movement. As an observer, this part of a first rehearsal is like watching a very intricate jigsaw being assembled. At first there are just notes and very gradually patterns emerge. From the time the music is placed on the stands, the banter gives way to serious discussion – “what speed will we rehearse this movement at?”; “how are you counting that 5/8 bar – is it 2 and 3 or 3 and 2?”; “let’s take that again from bar 15”. Eventually, John Buckley is invited back in to hear his first movement…


I wish I could have stayed on to hear the rest of the rehearsal but duty called and I had to get back to my office. However, despite the rain and appalling traffic I got back to my desk in high spirits. Watching the birth of a new work is wonderful and this particular new work is vibrant and exciting and I feel very honoured to have been given the experience.

Cass 2




Cassiopeia Winds will take John Buckley’s new quintet on tour this autumn with performances taking place in:

Birr Theatre and Arts Centre on Saturday 7 November at 8pm

Tullynally Castle, Castlepollard, Saturday 14 November at 8pm

The Black Abby, Kilkenny, Sunday 29 November at 3pm

Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise, on Tuesday 8 December at 8pm

St. Peters Church of Ireland, Drogheda Thursday 11 February (2016) at 7.30pm

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