'Stolen Dreams' - In Loving Memory of Leona Harper
The Background to Stolen Dreams
Last October, two weeks after the Creeslough tragedy, my cousin, Anne Nicholls asked if I would write a piece of music for her son’s friend who was tragically taken from this world on the 7th of October. I promised I would.
Earlier this year between February and April, I wrote a piece titled ‘olldáimh’ in honour of Creeslough, the community, the families and also the 10 people whose lives were taken on that fateful day. This piece was a gift from the Donegal Association Dublin who honoured the people of Creeslough with their Donegal Person of the Year Award.
Denise Roper and I performed ‘olldáimh’ in Dublin at the Donegal Association Dinner in April.
That night I met Leona’s parents, Hugh and Donna.
A week later I visited them at their home and told them I had been asked to write a separate piece in memory of Leona. I learned about Leona from them. Leona was an amazing young lady. She was brave, talented, artistic, conscientious, full of empathy. She had many interests from art to music, to cars, engines, fishing and rugby and sport. She lived a full life. She looked out for her friends and others. She was caring and thoughtful.
I left the house inspired by this young, beautiful and incredible person.
I began writing the piece the following week.
I didn’t get back to it until the end of August. I was playing at a wedding and met Anne and I promised her I’d finish the piece before October. That night I got home and spent the night finishing the piece until 7 am.
The piece of music became a song, and it became a duet.
I had two singers in my head for the song and when I asked them they had no hesitation in learning and recording it.
Sophie Gallagher is from Manorcunningham and attends Deele College in Raphoe. I knew Sophie from Deele College when I wrote a school anthem for them in 2022.
Chris McLaughlin is from Ballybofey and I worked with him in a musical over ten years ago, but I remembered his voice and knew he’d be the right voice for this song.
Four lines from the song are taken from a print of a painting Leona & Donna bought before Christmas 2021. Leona loved art and the painting is of two horses. When they got the print home they noticed writing on the top right and bottom left corners.
“Though my soul has set in darkness,
It will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly,
To be fearful of the night.”
These lines are originally from a poem titled "The Old Astronomer" by English poet Sarah Williams (1837-1868).
We recorded the song and I gave the recording to Leona’s parents.
The song was for them and their family. Whatever would happen to the song would be their decision.
Hugh & Donna decided they wanted to share the song and wanted to use it to raise money in Leona’s name.
We recorded a video in the Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, with Bradas Video Productions with the help of Brendan O’Donnell and Sinead Breen.
Gareth Wilkinson from UTV Live offered to help launch the video on the UTV news.
Special Thanks to:
Sophie Gallagher and Chris McLaughlin for their time and talent.
Caitriona Bonner (Deele College)
Terry McGinty, Valley Music Studio
Video Produced & Directed by Brendan O’Donnell (Bradas Video Productions)
Coordinator Sinead Breen (Bradas Video Productions)
Filmed on location in The Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny.
Gareth Wilkinson (UTV)
Donna & Hugh Harper and their family, for having the strength and courage to share this song with others, and for sharing the memory of Leona’s incredible life with us all.
In memory of and inspired by Leona Harper.
Sophie Gallagher & Chris McLaughlin
Music & Lyrics
Stolen Dreams, © Matt McGranaghan 2023