by John Donohoe
Michael McGoona, the former junior conductor of Navan Silver Band, may not realise it, but it seems he is responsible for giving a kick-start to one of Navan’s most talented musical sons.
Golden Globe-nominated composer Brian Byrne was back in town last week for the launch of ‘The Royal County Air’, Navan Silver Band’s entry in the National Band Championships, which take place in the town next month.
At an airing of part of his composition at the Tara Mines Sports and Social Club, where the band is rehearsing, Brian recalled his first time playing with the band, as a youngster. He couldn’t read music, but as one of the renowned Byrne musical family, it was expected that he could. But he didn’t know where to come in on the piece.
McGoona pointed at him to come in, and he couldn’t. The music was stopped. “We’ll start again,” said Michael.
Again, he pointed at Brian. Nothing. The young Byrne got such a roasting that he started crying and vowed that he would never let it happen again, and learned how to read music properly.
‘The Royal County air’ was commissioned by Meath County Council’s arts office and Navan Silver Band, and on Tuesday of last week, Brian presented copies of the work to Cllr John V Farrelly of Meath County Council and the band chairperson, Denis O’Halloran. Brian, who was home for Los Angeles for some film work, directed the band in part of the piece, ‘Where the Silver Band Played’, following on from his brother, band musical director Paul’s conducting of the opening section.
There are eight movements in the work, ‘Meeting the Waters’, ‘The Royal County Air’, ‘Down by the River Boyne’, When the Silver Band Played’, Auld Bosco’s Hat’, ‘The Navan Races’, The Centenary Cup’ and the ‘Royal County Air Reprise’.
The Meeting of the Waters is based on the flowing into each other of the Boyne and Blackwater river in Navan, and Down by the River Boyne recalls Byrne’s childhood along the river, where he spent time with his mother as she wrote songs and listened to them on tape recorder. Auld Bosco was a character who lifted beer kegs into Clem’s Pub in Navan, while The Centenary Cup is a nod to the county’s GAA tradition, and the Navan Races the horse racing theme. When the Silver Band Played is influenced by his own time in the band, while he says he hopes to eventually make The Royal County Air into a song.
Byrne says: “ As a former member of Navan Silver Band it was an honour to be asked to write a brand new brass band piece. The Navan Silver Band was vital to my musical education when I was a kid in Navan and I hope that this in some way pays back the debt owed to such a long running and respectable organisation that has given many musical memories to so many generations - it is heartily dedicated to Boscos everywhere!”
Byrne was in Dublin for prt of his work on ‘The Price of Desire’, a movie on the life of famed Irish modernist designer Eileen Gray.
“Orla Brady is playing Eileen Gray, and Alanis Morissette is playing her lover, while Swiss actor Vincent Perez plays Le Corbusier, the architect who defaced the interior of E.1027, the seminal house designed by Gray, by painting sexually graphic murals over its walls,” Byrne explains. E.1027 was built at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French coast in 1929.
Byrne is working on the music and is returning to LA to work with Morissette on the song for the closing credits. He is also working with Julian Lennon, who has done all the stills for the movie.
Byrne is also delighted with how ‘Heartbeat of Home’, the successor of Riverdance which he composed for John McColgan and Moya Doherty.
“It opened in Toronto, and is now doing very well in Chicago, and goes on to Detroit and Boston, before going on a full tour.”
Byrne was accompanied by his wife, Casey, and son, Asa, on his trip to Navan last week, and it will be a busy few months for the family, as another baby is expected in May.