By Strangford Water
By Strangford Water
An original harp solo
by Janet Harbison for Ronnie Buchanan, Strangford
Level 4 - Air
Composed for and dedicated to Professor Ronald (Ronnie) Buchanan, retired director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen's University, Belfast where the composer was a Junior Research Fellow in the early 1980s. On the occasion of Ronnie's 80th birthday in 2011, all his former fellows gathered for a colloquium in his honour, where each offered something from their specialism - and this piece of music was my offering.
Ronnie had announced to us that, from his birthday, he would fully retire and from now, “sit in his favourite chair at his sitting room window to watch the tide ebb and flow (in Strangford Lough) and wait for the geese in Spring".
Ronnie Buchanan was a geographer, and many times, we Research Fellows walked with him in the Northern Ireland countryside where everything we saw was just the beginning of a story. We didn’t just see 'rolling hills', we saw Pleistocene drumlin fields, the cliffs in the north are of volcanic basalt - and the waters of Strangford Lough where he loved to sail, is of immense international importance for nature conservation. He informed us that Strangford Lough is the largest sea lough in the British Isles covering a vast area from the Irish Sea to the sand-flats at its northern end. It is one of only three designated Marine Nature Reserves in the UK with a wealth of wildlife and variety of habitats between seabed and shoreline ….
This was the inspiration for Ronnie’s tune – with all harmonies enriched with 6ths and 7ths – always promising more and deeper layers of being. The suspended cadence at early section ends are in tribute to the memory of Ronnie's deceased wife Gwen who was also a warm and wonderful hostess to us at many garden parties. The ‘high water-like’ motif later in the piece represents the lough waters lapping against the bow of Ronnie’s beloved traditional sailing boat….
My love and thanks to you Ronnie for sharing your knowledge, kindness and concern and for the revelation of a much deeper version of the fascinating world around us.