In his novel, Trinity, Leon Uris paints a haunting picture of the beginning of the Irish revolution at the end of the nineteenth century. Uris describes Ireland as “A Terrible Beauty,” a country of beautiful landscapes and rich history plagued by poverty and political and religious division. This duality provided the inspiration for the music. The melodic material of the piece is derived from an Irish folk song of the revolution and appears in many forms, some beautiful and some violent. Drums also play a vital role in the piece, from the opening chorus of funeral drums to the end of the piece where they represent the thrashing of lambeg drums, which were sometimes used to incite mob violence. The piece is organized into three continuous movements and is scored for six percussionists playing a wide array of percussion instruments. A Terrible Beauty was premiered in 1991 by the Eastman Chamber Percussion Ensemble and won the 1994 Phi Mu Alpha New Music Award.
Player 1: Bass Drum, Bell Plate, Medium Suspended Cymbal, Congas, Crotales Player 2: Vibraphone, 5 Steel Pipes, Splash Cymbal, 4 Tom Toms, Bowed Cymbal Player 3: Marimba, 3 Gongs, Tam Tam, 2 Bender (Chinese Opera) Gongs, Bongos Player 4: Tenor Drum (lowest), Chimes, Finger Cymbals, Shaker (caxixi preferred), Small Suspended Cymbal, Triangle, Tam Tam (with chain), Crotales (may share with player 1) Player 5: Tenor Drum (lower), 4 Brake Drums, Bells, Chinese Cymbal, Large Suspended Cymbal, Snare Drum Player 6: Tenor Drum (low), Splash Cymbal, Small Bass Drum, Sizzle Cymbal, Glass Wind Chimes