Hey all, I thought I'd put this up and see if anyone likes it. It's long been finished, recorded and released, so if you *don't* like it then we'll all just have to live with it, but I hope you do.


Some of my marketing blurb I wrote at the time:

"Hiraeth' is a Welsh word for homesickness - not only for a home you’ve left, but a home you cannot return to or never existed at all. Having moved house shortly before I began composing the work, and being prone to crippling nostalgia for places not just months but decades in my past, this concept of extreme homesickness immediately caught my attention. Thus Hiraeth became a tone poem for my old homes and haunts, trees and rivers - places I’ve walked and never will again.

Compositionally, Hiraeth is centred round a five-note theme first established (0.45) after the work’s ominous, divided low strings opening. At first played without harmonic support, bass and cello divisi are introduced before the theme’s darker four-note variant is introduced (1.12), both joining for the piece’s crescendo (4.38). A second, more romantic and mournful theme acts as a counter to the bitter triumph of the first, played initially by violas and cellos (1.52) and returned to later with double bass, cello and finally unison violin octaves (3.46). The piece closes as it opens, ending with a flourishing if slightly dissonant swell.

A highly tonal piece, the orchestration is appropriately traditional - themes often played in unison across octaves between either cellos and violas, or violins I & II, with the other sections providing harmonic support. To achieve the wide, lush sound I love in string music, these supporting sections are generally divided; tremolo is often used for texture in quieter moments, and themes are passed between sections to be explored and evolved."

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  • I listened to this with enjoyment and thought it was very accomplished and successfully evoked the mood you've described.

    I made me think of the classic John Ford film How Green Was My Valley, with its astonishing opening shot of the coal mine scarred Welsh landscape dissolving into the idyllic hills and fields before the mines were there.

    Well, even apart from the Industrial Revolution, Wales, like Ireland, is a vanished kingdom.

    Some time ago I wrote a simple arrangement of a traditional Welsh lullaby; audio file (demo, with choral ah for vocals) if anyone is interested:  Welshlullaby.mp3

    I recently read something I had not known before:  that Shakespeare had a Welsh grandmother.  Maybe that explains the strain of wild fancy that runs like a red gold thread through his works.

    Well as usual I digress ...

  • I'm slightly in two minds about this. It's beautifully scored and indeed achieves the "lush wide sound" you like. And after a slightly sedate opening, the emotional pace certainly starts to quick after the introduction of the fine second theme and indeed reaches a greater level of intensity at the climax than in many of your works I've heard. Any yet there's perhaps still something a bit too "safe" and about this (for instance I find popular Vaughan Williams works like the "Lark Ascending" and Tallis Variations but NOT the marvellous 3rd symphony really boring) for my emotional or musical needs -- which probably says more about me than your own compositional abilities.

    • I consider the Tallis Fantasia to be one of the greatest pieces of string writing ever accomplished, so if I'm as safe and boring as that I'll take it! But thank you for the positive comments as well. 

    • Precisely-- I suspect you've achieved exactly what you set out to do. Pay no attention to me!


  • When I saw the this post, I thought I had seen the word Hiraeth before, and I now remember that it is the title of a recording by Robin Huw Bowen, an outstanding traditional Welsh harper whose work ought to be better known.  The piece is, I think, one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have heard:



    • "Hiraeth" is one of those words, like "petrichor", that goes through phases of having composers discover and use it as a pithy title. I only regret I didn't get there first.

    • I didn't know about petrichor, but now that I do, I realize I know the phenomenon.  It was common in California, which has a climate which is paradoxically both wet and dry.


  • Hi, Dave- this link Sparks Vol 2 takes you to a promotional video where you can watch the recording session for about a third of Hiraeth. I was happy to find and watch it as I was taken by the three-dimension quality of this recording (in headphones, at least) and I was searching therefore for information on the recording space. I thought it was probably in a studio when I first listened. Getting right to your point, yea, I like this.... very much so. I gave it several listens, the first about a week ago, but it was the second listen that brought me in. ThIs string orchestra and the engineers gave you (and us) an outstanding recording. Thank you for sharing this terrific and moving work. -Ray

    Sparks Vol II – Navona Records
    The album SPARKS VOL. 2 couldn't be more aptly named, as bows bend and sparks fly in this vibrant collection of pieces for string orchestra.
    • Thanks a lot, Raymond - yeah, I was a little frustrated to find they'd only filmed about a third of the session after the fact. But the main thing was the recording itself, and the players, conductor and my session go-between (I'm in UK and they were in Europe, so it was remote) were great. I always get nervous before a session but this was a good one; I've had some very bad ones!

  • Finally found some time to listen to this.  This is great!  The recording really brings the music to life, and brings out the tearful emotions really well. You seem to excel at sad music. ;-)  Kidding, this is great stuff, like some of the other orchestral stuff you've posted before back in the bad ole days of the old forum.  (No hiraeth for that, I'm assuming. ;-))

    While the music and tone is completely different, the idea of hiraeth seems to match the kind of feeling I was going for in my fugue in E minor. Well, that's all I'll say, don't want to hijack this thread to talk about my own work. :-P

    Do you have the score for this by any chance?  For my own learning in orchestration.

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