Charles Villiers Stanford wrote A Welcome March
(‘Céad míle fáilte’) for the State Visit to Ireland of Edward VII between 21 July and 1 August 1903, and with appropriate royal permission it was duly dedicated to the king. Having embarked on the Royal Yacht from Holyhead, the king arrived at Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) with a welcome of 101 guns. His day in Dublin was packed with events including visits to Dublin Castle, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Maynooth College and Trinity College, a review of troops in Phoenix Park and a command performance at the Theatre Royal. On 25 July the royal party travelled to Belfast by train and then on to Bangor and Londonderry before taking the Royal Yacht around the coast of Donegal to Bundorragha and then a car to Galway. At Galway they were once again met by the Royal Yacht to be taken to Castletown Berehaven before sailing on to Queenstown (Cobh), from where on HMS Vivid the king and queen made their way to Cork. The intention behind the Welcome March
was that it would be played during the royal progress by such ensembles as regimental bands (which may account for the surviving manuscript short scores for piano and orchestra Stanford completed in May). Stanford completed the version for large orchestra on 18 July, only a few days before the royal visit was due to begin and no doubt giving his copyists a major challenge. An admirer of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance Marches
(having heard the premieres of Nos 1 and 2 at Queen’s Hall), Stanford used this royal occasion to compose his own ‘Irish’ version—a bold, vigorous march contrasted with a more noble pentatonic melody for the ‘trio’—and also lost no opportunity to quote such quintessential Irish tunes such as ‘Oh for the swords of former time’ and (as an apotheosis at the end) ‘Let Erin remember the days of old’ which he had used in his ‘Irish’ Symphony so effectively.
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2019