Paul Lovatt-Cooper: Donegal Bay


Donegal Bay was the first work for brass band that Paul Lovatt-Cooper composed when he was just 18 years old. Written for a solo baritone and brass band, Donegal Bay has become a staple in many band rooms around the world. It is a homage to an Irish lyrical style that has become even more popular in recent years.  Lovatt-Cooper’s warm harmonies and lyrical baritone solo makes Donegal Bay a true delight to listen to and to play.

The Music

Opening with sonorous muted cornets, followed by warm lower band chords, the band set up a serene atmosphere for the soloist. The baritone enters with a nostalgic melody that hones in on the Irish Air style that Lovatt-Cooper was aiming for.  The accompaniment is sparse, but each part that comes in and out adds to the overall shimmering effect. Muted cornets fluctuate underneath the soloist, with the basses playing a constant sequence of pedal notes.

As the melody begins to build traction, so do the dynamics written in the score.  More of the band join into the mix, which leads to the cornets taking their mutes out and playing a lyrical response to the main melody. The baritone enters once more to play an obbligato line that is still very much lyrical in style. As the soloist begins to push into its upper register the harmonies below begin to cleverly knit together, creating a wholly warming experience.

The melodic material here soon leads back to the original opening theme. The baritone soloist and soprano cornet begin to intertwine their melody lines, creating a sense of sweetness together. Although the music begins to drop in dynamic, the warm harmonies and rich texture remains, creating that spine-tingling feeling before the emotionally-driven final few notes led by the baritone. 

Final Thoughts

Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Donegal Bay is a straightforward, no-nonsense work for a solo baritone and brass band. The simplicity in the harmonic movement adds to the feelings of nostalgia and sereneness. The solo line is lyrical, and demands much control from the soloist. Donegal Bay is a classy work that does not require gimmicks and other lavish techniques to make it effective.

This blog is dedicated to Kevin Broadhead.

Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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