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shi-an costello 世安

Purchase Fairies score and parts HERE.

Instrumentation: violin, cello and piano

Duration: 9 minutes

Year: 2018 (rev. 2023)

Audio Recording:


Program Note:
Fairies is a piece that attempts to capture the small but ferocious essence of fairies. While fairies are almost too small to see, Irish legend warns us to never underestimate them. Fairies have no natural allegiance to humans. Based on how you treat them, their powers can either brutally punish or generously protect.


The music moves with a somber whimsy, quickly from section to section throughout the whole piece. Some specific fairy tales are referenced in the piece, such as The Legend of Knockgrafton (m. 58), while others are more open ended themes, such as Legend (m. 35) and Ghost Story (m. 68).


The opening section (mms. 1-34) floats up and out, as if it has been going on long before it reached the threshold for our senses to pick it up. It then leads into the main Legend theme (mms. 35-58) which features a repeating minor plagal cadence, which is followed by a series of episodes (mms. 59-87) that highlight the darkness and whimsy of fairies. The Finale section (mms. 88-127) marks the furious return of the main theme, showing the awesome power of the small creatures. And finally, the piece falls into an introverted, time-stretching section (mms. 128-end), suggesting that perhaps all these fairy tales were just a dream all along, and that perhaps fairies don’t exist after all.


More broadly, this piece represents, to me, as a mixed race person of Irish heritage on my father’s side (last name: Costello), a tribute to the art of Irish storytelling. I find Irish storytelling so powerful because of the unique Irish ability to achieve a special narrative tone that is both playful and humorous, yet grim and harsh. I attempted to capture some of that Irish magic in this piece.

Performance History:

June 5, 2023: Elmhurst University, Recording Session, Missing Piece Duo and Shi-An Costello

00:00 / 08:50
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