W B Yeats’ The Adoration of the Magi
(1897) is a short prose essay that concludes with the prayer, written in Gaelic with which Timothy Stephens opens his choral composition. Yeats introduces the prayer thus: '[…] when I pray against the demons I repeat a prayer, which was made I know not how many centuries ago to help some poor Gaelic man or woman who had suffered with a suffering like mine.' Although Yeats’ prose text makes no explicit reference to the visit of the Magi to the stable at Bethlehem, it does relate a dream in which three old men 'in armour studded with rubies', 'under the roof of a manger', 'bowed very low in front of the woman and the child'. Stephens follows his setting of the prayer, with Yeats’ poem The Magi
(1914). This echoes some of the imagery found in his earlier prose text and refers more explicitly to Christ’s second coming, Calvary’s turbulence and 'the uncontrollable mystery / On the bestial floor'. For the Paidir
, Timothy Stephens captures the style of an old traditional Irish melody and writes for upper voices in unison supported by a solo violin. This leads directly into his beautiful choral setting of Yeats’ poem, underpinned by strings and pianoforte with occasional reminiscent flourishes on the solo violin.
from notes by Máire Egan-Buffet © 2020