The Valiant Green Company is a march in the American military march style composed out of much inspiration, with the country of Ireland in mind.
An island in the North Atlantic, Ireland features coastal mountains in the west and interior agricultural lowlands, with numerous hills, lakes, and bogs. The Republic of Ireland occupies about 83 percent of the island of Ireland—Northern Ireland, in the northeast, belonging to the United Kingdom. Irish, or Irish Gaelic (a Celtic language) is the country's first official language and is taught in schools, but few native speakers remain. English is the second official language and is more common. Ireland's culture comprises elements of Celtic traditions and later immigrant and broadcast cultural influences. Ireland is regarded as one of the Celtic 'nations' of Europe with Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man and Brittany. Understanding the meanings behind the elements associated with the island of Ireland helped me gain a broader understanding of its culture. The main elements that I had in mind when writing this work, came in the form of symbols.
A definite symbol of Irish tradition, the harp represents cultural appreciation of music and of the Bardic tradition. Despite many tragedies and hardships, songs and stories have supported and preserved Irish culture and language. Today, the harp is still heard as an accompanying instrument in many Celtic arrangements. It is featured prominently on the 'Erin Go Bragh' flagh, presented as gold on a green field.
Anyone who sees this three-leafed plant automatically thinks of Ireland. The shamrock is a three-leafed clover that grows abundantly in Ireland. Today, the shamrock is the most recognized symbol of the Irish, especially on St. Patrick's Day, when all over the world, everyone is Irish for a day!
In the “trio” section of this march, listeners will know that I incorporated an Air that is perhaps, the most popular Air among the Irish diaspora and widely known throughout the world. This Air originated from County Londonderry in Ireland (now Northern Ireland) and was collected by Jane Ross of Limavady. Ross submitted the tune to music collector George Petrie, and it was then published by the Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland in the 1855 book The Ancient Music of Ireland, which Petrie edited. The tune was listed as an anonymous Air, with a note attributing its collection to Jane Ross of Limavady. This led to the descriptive title "Londonderry Air" being used for the piece; the title "Air from County Derry" or "Derry Air" is sometimes used instead, due to the Derry-Londonderry name dispute. For those of you that might not know this Air, I am also talking about the famous song, “Oh, Danny Boy.”
Although initially written to a tune other than "Londonderry Air", the words to "Danny Boy" were penned by English lawyer and lyricist Frederic Weatherly in Bath, Somerset in 1910. After his Irish-born sister-in-law Margaret (known as Jess) in the United States sent him a copy of "Londonderry Air" in 1913 (an alternative version has her singing the air to him in 1912 with different lyrics), Weatherly modified the lyrics of "Danny Boy" to fit the rhyme and meter of "Londonderry Air". Weatherly gave the song to the vocalist Elsie Griffin, who made it one of the most popular songs in the new century; and, in 1915, Ernestine Schumann-Heink produced the first recording of "Danny Boy". As mentioned before, because of its strong affiliation with the Irish community, I felt most appropriately to incorporate this beautiful Air to give this composition its last and final touch.
After composing this piece, I realized the following: Coincidently, the “Green” Band Association commissioned this composition, bringing a “valiant company” of musicians to perform at the Performing Arts Center at John F. Kennedy High School. The 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was of Irish descent and of course, the mascot of the school is the “Fighting Irish.” Whether it might be imagining leprechauns dancing jigs up and down, or imagining an Irish parade, I believe this composition truly speaks “Ireland.”