January 27, 2016—Pro tempore musicology faculty member Eliot Grasso is one of the founding members of the Celtic music trio known as Dréos. The group’s October 2015 debut album, The Clearing, has a very special connection to the School of Music and Dance; Grasso’s original composition “Boundless” is dedicated to former SOMD Dean Anne Dhu McLucas.
McLucas and her partner James Gillette died in September of 2012, victims of domestic violence.
Grasso, who completed his PhD in musicology at the UO in 2011, says he composed “Boundless,” a sweet and rather sad original air in the Irish style, to remember his fallen mentor. The song in its entirety is available below as a YouTube video.
“The part of the tune that reminds me most of her is the cadential measure of the A and B parts,” Grasso explains. “It's kind of a wandering, but conclusive, melodic phrase that descends a major tenth. I suppose it reminds me of her because there is a touch of absent-minded professorship to it in the dotted rhythms, but also a groundedness as the phrase comes to a close.”
Dréos will perform a local album release concert on Friday, Jan. 29 at the New Hope Center Auditorium, and will also offer a simultaneous live-stream of the event. The group includes Grasso on uilleann pipes, Brandon Vance on fiddle, and UO Professor of Economics Glen Waddell as accompanist on multiple instruments.
Grasso says that when he first learned of McLucas’s passing, he immediately raced to campus to be near friends and colleagues.
“I returned home a few hours later, picked up the pipes, and tried to cope with the reality that my dear friend and mentor was taken suddenly from me,” Grasso recalls. “I was thinking of her, what she had meant to me for so many years. I was thinking of what kind of person she was, and tried to transmute that into sound. ‘Boundless’ is the result of that attempt.”
McLucas was a professor of music, specializing in ethnomusicology and musicology. She served as dean of the UO School of Music and Dance from 1992 to 2002. While her performance career led in the direction of Baroque and Classic period chamber music, McLucas’s musicological studies began to focus on the traditional folk music of Britain, Ireland, and America.
In 2010 McLucas published her monograph The Musical Ear: Oral Tradition in the USA.
“I chose to compose this piece because I wanted to create a musical attachment to Anne, something that I could play for myself and for others that would help us remember and reflect on the beauty of her personality,” says Grasso. “Anne was remarkable in so many categories: intelligence, compassion, communication, passion, musicality; hence the title, ‘Boundless.’”