“Air From Ancient Ireland” is a setting for symphonic band of an Irish melody now known as ‘St. Columba.’ The melody is often heard in the hymn ‘The King of Love My Shepherd Is.’ The tune’s origin in Ireland seems to be unknown; it is one of numerous Irish tunes collected by Dr. George Petrie in the 1800’s. Charles Villers Stanfords, the imminent Irish composer and professor of music at Cambridge University, edited the 1903 edition of Petrie’s complete collection of Irish melodies, and it is simply listed as melody #1043, “an Irish hymn sung at the dedication of a chapel, county Londonderry.” It is a beautiful melody like ‘Slane’ or ‘Londonderry Air,’ but not heard as often. This setting of ‘St. Columba’ is more or less a set of free variations on the tune. The architecture of the piece is fairly symmetrical; it begins in E-flat and goes as far as ‘a minor’ before eventually returning to E-flat.
I hope you will enjoy “Air From Ancient Ireland.”