Granuaile (Grace O' Malley)

Composed Shaun Davey / Soloist Rita Connolly


Composed by Shaun Davey Granuaile is based on the life of 'Pirate Queen' Grace O'Malley, the 16th century Irish woman chieftain whose galleys dominated the seas off the Mayo coast. With all its passion adventure, drama and pain, Shaun Davey found an ideal subject for his lyrical, evocative, highly human work. In Rita Connolly, with a voice of the purity of crystal, he found the ideal Grace O'Malley. Together they have made the legend of 'Granuaile' (Grace O'Malley in Irish) come vividly to life. 'The Granuaile Suite' (1985) sets an episode of Irish history in the context of wider European history through a work which appeals to music lovers of all ages. One song in the cycle, 'Ripples in the Rockpools' quickly became a popular classic and is now in the official Irish school syllabus.

Granuaile Belfast 2001
Nollaig Casey, Gearoid Grant & Rita Connolly, Waterfront Hall, Belfast March 2001.
'Granuaile' distills the essence of this indomitable woman whose galleys ruled the seas off Western Ireland during the times of Elizabethan conquests. Curiously enough, no contemporary ballads celebrating her story have come down to us. The suite fills this gap in traditional musical history, portraying her defence of her territory, her seafaring exploits, he dismissal of her husband, the death of her lover in battle, her compassion for the men of the Spanish Armada who perished in the sea along the coast of Western Ireland. It tells of her persecution at the hands of the notorious Governor of Connaught and of her daring voyage to England to protest that persecution in a confrontation with Queen Elizabeth I.

The sound of 'Granuaile' is unique, produced by a chamber orchestra comprised of 35 classical musicians joined by uilleann piper soloist Liam O'Flynn, acoustic guitar, Irish harp and percussion. For the most recent performance of this work in Belfast's Waterfront Hall in March 2001, Shaun added a part for fiddle which on the night was performed by the incomparable Nollaig Casey. Over and above the fusion of classical and traditional musicians, soars the pure voice of Rita Connolly.

The reception of 'Granuaile' by critics and public has been overwhelming.

"It's hard to describe the euphoric atmosphere at the end of Shaun Davey's concert at the Queen's Hall without going over the top. The reaction of the audience was just about the most spontaneously enthusiastic I can remember at any Edinburgh event....Rita Connolly's voice was a sheer delight to listen to." | Folk Roots

"A truly wondrous and exciting work. Left the audience ecstatic, the Ulster Orchestra obviously enjoying the experience as much as the raving, cheering audience." | Belfast Newsletter

"Irish folk and orchestra blended with brilliance" | Irish News

"Specially written for Rita Connolly, this work sets off her spellbinding voice." | Liberte du Morbihan-France

"Davey's forceful score succeeds in suggestion the wildness of the sea and Mayo landscape as well as the turbulence of the era...a very enjoyable musical experience." | The Record Roundup, Mass. USA

"A wild and magnificent song cycle," Libby Purvis, writing in The Observer, UK

" Granuaile is an astonishingly beautiful work," | Staten Island Advance, NY

"The suite for singer, piper and orchestra, which was transmitted live on radio, was received enthusiastically. The audience demanded two encores." | Sunday Tribune-Dublin

"Granuaile is one of the enduring classic sleepers of the 1970s. Symphonic, poetic, popular, blazingly inspired, Granuaile, a song cycle for Rita Connolly’s dreamily perfect and raspingly memorable voice is unmatched in all the hoo-hah around the Celtic commercial revival. It stands head and shoulders above the rest. " - Rob Barnett - Film Music on the Web