Composed by Shaun Davey Granuaile is based on the life of 'Pirate Queen' Grace O'Malley, the 16th century Irish woman chieftain whose galleys dominated the seas off the Mayo coast. With all its passion adventure, drama and pain, Shaun Davey found an ideal subject for his lyrical, evocative, highly human work. In Rita Connolly, with a voice of the purity of crystal, he found the ideal Grace O'Malley. Together they have made the legend of 'Granuaile' (Grace O'Malley in Irish) come vividly to life. 'The Granuaile Suite' (1985) sets an episode of Irish history in the context of wider European history through a work which appeals to music lovers of all ages. One song in the cycle, 'Ripples in the Rockpools' quickly became a popular classic and is now in the official Irish school syllabus.'Granuaile' distills the essence of this indomitable woman whose galleys ruled the seas off Western Ireland during the times of Elizabethan conquests. Curiously enough, no contemporary ballads celebrating her story have come down to us. The suite fills this gap in traditional musical history, portraying her defence of her territory, her seafaring exploits, he dismissal of her husband, the death of her lover in battle, her compassion for the men of the Spanish Armada who perished in the sea along the coast of Western Ireland. It tells of her persecution at the hands of the notorious Governor of Connaught and of her daring voyage to England to protest that persecution in a confrontation with Queen Elizabeth I.
The sound of 'Granuaile' is unique, produced by a chamber orchestra comprised of 35 classical musicians joined by uilleann piper soloist Liam O'Flynn, acoustic guitar, Irish harp and percussion. For the most recent performance of this work in Belfast's Waterfront Hall in March 2001, Shaun added a part for fiddle which on the night was performed by the incomparable Nollaig Casey. Over and above the fusion of classical and traditional musicians, soars the pure voice of Rita Connolly.
The reception of 'Granuaile' by critics and public has been overwhelming.