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While goin' the road to sweet Athy

for two pianos, 8 players, and electronics

premiered February 3, 2007

15th Annual Ussachevsky Festival
Lyman Hall, Claremont, CA

Garwen Chen, Cynthia Fogg, Rachel Glassberg, Christian Heath, Genevieve Lee, Lucie Mcgee, internal pianists
Victoria Brown, Megan Kaes, Elisha Nuchi, external pianists

While goin' the road to sweet Athy is based on a tune familiar to most as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” which was first published in London in 1865. It is believed that the tune predates that by another 60 years or so as an Irish folk song. While “Johnny Comes Marching Home” is mixture of patriotic pride and regret over injuries sustained in war, “goin' the road to sweet Athy” is a bitter lament over what soldiers lost in conflict:

Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that were so mild
When my heart you so beguiled

Why did ye run from me and the child
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.
Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo

Where are your legs that used to run
When you went for to carry a gun
Indeed your dancing days are done
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.


Many surmise that the tune’s original words refer to the Irish soldiers of Athy, County Kildare, who for some reason fought for British interests in Eastern Asia at the beginning of the 19th century.

This piece consists of straightforward variations of the tune played in a piano six-hands arrangement, a team of players coaxing sound from the inside of a second piano, and an electronic recording of manipulated piano sounds. Most of the pitches, from all sources, are derived from the tune.

 

External pianists
Internal pianists