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Londonderry Air: Theme and Variations

Duration: 8'


Solo Organ (2019)
Brass Band (2021-22)
Wind Orchestra / Concert Band (2022)

Programme note:

The iconic and emotive melody known as Londonderry Air has different connotations for different people, an aspect which lends itself well to a theme and variations form. This is partially due to the use of many diffferent texts in different settings and surroundings in conjunction with the melody. The melody of Londonderry Air can be traced back to at least 1855. It first became known as Londonderry Air after the Irish poet Katharine Tynan Hinkson composed the words of Irish Love Song to the melody in 1894. Only in 1913 did it become associated with the more commonly known words Danny Boy. Besides use as a folk song and a hymn other uses have included at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and to represent Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games.

The opening harmonisation of the theme and the six variations explore a range of colours and emotions. These explorations mainly involve differing uses of texture, register, rhythmic variation and melodic embellishments. The most melodically abstract variation, the third, presents the theme in inversion.

DJLB (May 2019)


St Mary the Virgin, Henley-on-Thames, 25th July 2021
Sebastian Thomson, organ

St Martin's, Gospel Oak, London, 26th November 2022
Symphonic Wind Orchestra of North London
Dwight Pile-Gray, conductor


Awards / Prizes:

Organ version awarded 3rd Prize in the Angels of Creation Commissions
Composition Competition 2019


Page last updated: Friday 24 June, 2022