It is difficult for me to accurately document when Peadar Townsend and I first came to know one another. In the same way that Ireland’s personality is far greater than its size, so is the case with many Irish personalities. Although from time to time we encounter characters who are big big.
Many established performers have spoken of what it feels like to be in the early stages of their performing careers. In life, many people find that emotions can feel much different when you are younger – perhaps more intense than those we feel in later life? For me, this was certainly the case regarding my early professional performances. Looking back, I think this could be because I was moving from being a student in training modules to a being in a position where the quality of my performance had a more direct consequence for the prospect of future employment.
There was always tension before performances, especially big ones – tension that needed to be contained and managed in order for things to run smoothly. The greater the tension, the greater the reward at the end of a successful completion. I recall being 25 years old, and feeling total elation after many concerts, high as a kite for all the right reasons, a happiness that could not be bought with all the money in the world. With close friends and colleagues, I would often head off to a pub after a concert, such as Houricans, which has now closed, but was formerly on Lower Leeson Street in Dublin, just off Saint Stephen’s Green.
Many musicians would meet at Houricans after concerts and the mood was generally buoyant. In 2005, Ireland was still in the midst of an incredible economic boom (The Celtic Tiger) and there really was a sense that the good times would go on forever.
It was in pubs after concerts that the name and face of Peadar Townsend became familiar to me. He is a popular individual who is full of warmth and fun.
Peadar is from Cork. Like many Cork people, he is quite proud of this fact. Considered by many of its citizens to be ‘The Real Capital’, Cork has a vibrant cultural scene which has produced some brilliant artists, writers, thespians, TV presenters, musicians and more.
Back in the 00s we would often perform together, mostly in one of the two wonderful RTE (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) orchestras. When I met him, Peadar was a member of the Army Band in Dublin where his role as a percussionist took him the length and breadth of Ireland. He had been a student at the Royal Northern College (RNCM) of music back in 1993 until 1997. I was also a student at this wonderful conservatoire, and when I was there, I’d often find myself spending time with a number of lovely Irish contemporaries. I was happy to find myself working alongside a brilliant Irish musician who was also an RNCM alumnus.
Peadar has tons of experience working with world class musicians and orchestras. In one of our first conversations, I remember him telling me a little about his professional playing experience and also his desire to fulfil his compositional ambitions. He was passionate about creating new music and he had a strong interest in the film industry. I often thought of this conversation in subsequent years. As time passed, I kept track of his achievements and was happy for him and for various, mostly work related reasons we met up regularly over the years.
Back in 1997, I heard a BBC interview with the late Philip Jones about his famous symphonic brass ensemble. Ever since then, I’d wanted to set up my own brass group. It was with this ambition in mind, that I’d moved to Ireland back in the summer of 2005.
When I came to produce the first Dublin Brass Ensemble album ‘Brass Warriors’ in 2009, that conversation with Peadar from a few years earlier returned to my thoughts. I contacted him and asked if he could write a piece lasting 10 minutes or so for about 10 brass musicians with percussion.
He wrote ‘Conversations’ for us: a very enjoyable work that explores different moods and which contains some interesting rhythmic and harmonic patterns. I was really pleased with it, particularly the many interesting compositional ideas it demonstrates. When we premiered his work in Saint Mary’s Pro Cathedral back in October 2009, it was very well received.
About two years ago, I was thrilled when Peadar agreed to write another new piece, a trumpet concerto for me to record with the RTE Concert Orchestra which we recorded back in June this year. The concerto will be released on my debut solo album in 2020. From a brass-playing perspective, it is a right smash in the face, which is fun for some of us brass players who thrive on both a physical and artistic challenge. As well as areas of the work which require physical endurance, there are also sections which delicately explore a more sensitive side to the trumpet. The orchestration is top-notch and makes excellent use of the wonderful orchestra. Peadar has put his very big heart and soul into his trumpet concerto which gives emotional insight into the many shades of his personality.
As I’m currently off the sauce this year, Peadar and I will not be meeting in a pub for a while, however, he visits Dublin quite often and I’m very much looking forward to our next meeting.
If you want to read Peadar’s biography, I advise you to visit his website:
You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
I extend a huge thank you to Peadar, for letting me feature him in this blog, writing me some fabulous music and for being my friend.