The RTÉ Concert Orchestra is back in the recording studio tomorrow, Tuesday 26 February, to record Patrick Cassidy’s music for John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary. After the success of The Guard, this eagerly awaited new McDonagh film again stars Brendan Gleeson, this time as a priest in a role described as the flipside to The Guard’s Sergeant Gerry Boyle.
Mayo-born Cassidy, based in Los Angeles, was approached in the summer by a music supervisor there who told him that McDonagh wanted him to write the music. The composer and director talked by phone, then met face to face at the end of the summer to discuss the project and what was needed. As well as the script, McDonagh sent Cassidy some examples of music he liked, to give him a steer – one of the films he sent, for instance, was Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.
This is just the latest project in a film career of distinction for Patrick Cassidy. Notable film credits to date include Hannibal, Veronica Guerin, Salem’s Lot, King Arthur, Layer Cake, Che Guevara, Ashes and Snow, L’Aviatore and Kingdom of Heaven. His aria Vide Cor Meum from Hannibal has appeared in multiple top-ten lists and essential collections throughout the world; it was the only piece by a living composer on the Warner Classics CD the 40 Most Beautiful Arias. His Funeral March was used in the trailer for Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life and his Elegy features in the trailer for the upcoming Superman film Man of Steel.
Cassidy’s parallel career as a classical composer has included The Children of Lir, the first major symphonic work written in the Irish language which stayed at No. 1 in the Irish classical charts for over a year, and Famine Remembrance, commissioned to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Famine.
Patrick Cassidy and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra collaborated last year when the orchestra and the Tribal Chamber Choir gave the European premiere of Famine Remembrance to great acclaim in the composer’s native Claremorris. He was delighted with the result, and also enjoyed reconnecting with an Irish orchestra for the first time since he left the country 12 years ago. Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s recording session, he says: ‘The RTÉ Concert Orchestra is an excellent orchestra with a great attitude – the musicians really give it their all.’
Describing the difference between the two styles of working in his career, Cassidy observes that while a composer works alone on classical pieces, writing music for a film is a very much a collaboration. He is always conscious that he has to give the film-maker what he needs, though he pays tribute to the leeway and trust he enjoyed in his relationship with McDonagh. ‘And Calvary is a very good movie, very inspiring – that lends itself to creating good music!’