By Charlie Brigden
Many people may not know who Patrick Cassidy is. To be honest – and this is pretty terrible – I’d heard the name but I wasn’t amazingly familiar with his work until I popped onto Google and read that he’s had a working relationship in and out of film with Lisa Gerrard, and while he has contributed to soundtracks for pictures such as LAYER CAKE and VERONICA GUERIN, probably his most famous contribution is ‘Vide Cor Meum’ from 2001’s HANNIBAL. His most recent score is for CALVARY, an Irish black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson.
To me, CALVARY feels like a gorgeous musical embodiment of the Irish country and culture. I haven’t seen the film, I’ve never been to any part of Ireland, so I could just be going from an assimilation of all the representations from film and TV. But I don’t really care. Cassidy himself is a student of Irish mythology, and you can tell – there’s a massively spiritual, quasi-religious atmosphere throughout the score, and from that comes beauty and power.
CALVARY opens and closes with ‘Na mBeannaiochtai (The Beatitudes)’, with part I at the beginning and II at the end. Named after a set of teachings from the Gospel, both feature a gorgeous and lush string sound with a wonderful male solo vocal, presumably singing from the teachings in Irish Gaelic. It’s a stirring way to start the record, and is followed by the main theme, a reverential piece for strings that is simply lovely. And it’s this kind of dreamy sound that permeates the score – it’s like a warm blanket, and you just want to let it envelop you.
Vocal is used throughout the score, with the female voice of Aya Peard heard in the first half of the score, while the male vocal of Iarla O Lionaiird bookending the album. Both are extremely effective, with the haunting ‘Memories Fade’ and ‘Fiona Awakens’ both beautifully utilising Peard’s talents. Lionaiird’s contributions feel greater due to the weight of the opening and closing tracks, as well as the incredible ‘Say Your Prayers’, which combines the male vocal with a delicate piano and a wordless female chorus to give the score an unbelieably wonderous and stirring climax.
There does seem to be a dichotemy at hand here, with the gorgeous landscape punctuated by more mysterious passages, such as ‘Ben Bulben’ and ‘Freddy Joyce’, both which use the low piano register to suggest a sense of darkness, and perhaps judgement. ‘Your Church Is On Fire’ is a strong piece using echoing percussion and chugging strings to suggest urgency, but the intensity is allowed to fade to make way for more of the beauty of the score, such as the inspirational ‘But I Will Go On’ and the powerful ‘A Lone Figure’, the latter of which has a foreboding nature and a sense of finality, reflecting in the church bells that feature.
One of the major discussion points in regards to film scores is the difference between the music in the film, and the music away from the film. When I have my soundtrack reviewer hat on (as I do currently), I am required to look at the latter, which often presents the work as being less effective (hence the amount of times you’ll see the sentence ‘I’m sure it works in the film…’). CALVARY is an absolutely stunning piece of music that works absolutely away from the film. I’m sure it works in the film, but in the short run, I don’t care. I’m too wrapped up in the discovery of this beautiful score, one which I can truly say is the finest I have heard so far this year.
CALVARY is released on May 13th from Varese Sarabande Records