seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Classical Guitarist John Feeley

John Feeley, classical guitarist, and a teacher and editor of guitar music, is born Ballinasloe, County Galway, on May 24, 1955.

Feeley starts playing guitar in popular music, and at age seventeen is recognised as one of Europe‘s best electric guitarists. After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, with a first class degree in music, he moves to the United States to study with Oscar Ghiglia, Angel Romero, and David Russell, completing a master’s degree at Queens College, City University of New York. In the following years he teaches at Memphis State University in Memphis, Tennessee. He now teaches at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Conservatory of Music and Drama, Dublin. His past students include all current members of the Dublin Guitar Quartet, along with Redmond O’Toole, Michael O’Toole and Alec O’Leary, director of the Guitar Festival of Ireland. Composers Benjamin Dwyer, Ciarán Farrell, David Fennessy and David Flynn, all of whom have written music for Feeley, are also guitar students of his.

In 2006 Feeley completes a doctorate (Doctor of Philosophy in Music [Performance]) at Maynooth University, which involves a major thesis in three volumes with the title Classical Guitar Music by Irish Composers: Performing Editions and Critical Commentary.

Feeley has appeared at such festivals as the Guitar Festival of Ireland, Bath International Music Festival, the Dundee International Guitar Festival, and the Wirral International Guitar Festival. He has won numerous awards including the Special Award for interpretation in the 1984 Mauro Giuliani competition, Italy. He has appeared as a soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Contempo Quartet. He performs regularly in duet with the flautist William Dowdall.

Feeley is an enthusiastic champion of contemporary Irish music and in this capacity has commissioned works from many of Ireland’s leading composers including Seóirse Bodley, John Buckley, Jerome de Bromhead, Jane O’Leary, Brent Parker and Eric Sweeney. He also has a great interest in traditional Irish and Scottish music and has recorded with The Chieftains and published his own arrangements of traditional melodies.

Feeley has been described by The Washington Post as “Ireland’s leading classical guitarist” and by Michael Dervan in The Irish Times as “a trailblazer … when it comes to the guitar and guitar-playing in Ireland.”


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Birth of Composer Siobhán Cleary

Siobhán Cleary, composer, is born in Dublin on May 10, 1970. Her most successful compositions are her orchestral works Alchemy and Cokaygne and her choral piece Theophilus Thistle and the Myth of Miss Muffett. Her opera Vampirella is first performed in Dublin in March 2017. She is a member of Aosdána.

Cleary starts to compose from an early age, often writing pieces while she is supposed to be practising at the piano. When she begins to study music at Maynooth University, she is initially inspired by Luciano Berio‘s Sinfonia, and soon afterwards by the works of the Irish composer Gerald Barry, the Frenchman Olivier Messiaen and the Hungarian György Ligeti. She continues her studies at Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College, Dublin. In addition, she follows courses in composition with the Italian composer Franco Donatoni and the Dutchman Louis Andriessen and receives private tuition from the American Tom Johnson and the South African Kevin Volans. She also studies film scoring with the Italian composer Ennio Morricone and the American Don Brandon Ray.

Inspired by the alchemists’ Opus Alchymicum which describes how cheaper metals are transmuted into gold, Cleary’s orchestral work Alchemy (2001) is, like the stages in the Opus, presented in four parts: it evolves from the slow nigrendo, the moderate albedo, the strong citronatus, and the burning rubedo. The work is performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in January 2002.

Cleary’s tone poem Cokaygne (2009), which, like Alchemy, is commissioned by RTÉ for the National Symphony Orchestra, is based on a poem and old sources which evoke a land of extreme luxury and contentment. The elaborately orchestrated piece is performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in November 2009, Vladimir Altschuler conducting. It is performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra once again in June 2016, this time under the baton of Alan Buribayev.

Cleary’s choral work Theophilus Thistle and the Myth of Miss Muffett (2010), commissioned by the Cork International Choral Festival, is first performed in April 2011 by Chamber Choir Ireland directed by Paul Hillier. The work is based on a series of tongue twisters and other strange combinations of words popular in various European languages and dialects, moving from Italy, through Germany and Spain, finishing in Ireland. In 2013, it is performed twice by Chamber Choir Ireland in Dublin and Cork in connection with Ireland’s presidency of the European Union. The journalist and music critic Terry Blain comments on the choir’s “dazzingly virtuosic performance” in Belfast in 2013, qualifying the piece as “a tour de force of 21st century vocal chicanery, a clever and richly entertaining composition.” Theophilus Thistle is also performed the same year in the United States as part of the “Imagine Ireland” festival.

The chamber opera Vampirella with a libretto by Katy Hayes is first performed by students from the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre in March 2017. Based on a short story by Angela Carter telling how a young English soldier is seduced by a vampire countess, it is directed by Conor Hanratty and conducted by Andrew Synnott. Michael Dervan of The Irish Times finds the electronic sounds in the score particularly effective, commenting, “Perhaps this is a case of a genuinely electronic opera trying to break out of a more conventional mold.”

In 1996, Cleary receives a young artists award from Pépinières européennes pour jeunes artistes, followed in 1997 by the first prize in the Arklow Music Festival Composers’ Competition. In 2008, she is invited to become a member of Aosdána, an Irish association of creative artists.


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Birth of Irish Composer John McLachlan

Irish composer John McLachlan is born in Dublin on March 5, 1964.

McLachlan is the son of the writer Leland Bardwell, and studies at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Conservatory of Music and Drama (1982–86), the Royal Irish Academy of Music (1989–97), and Trinity College Dublin (BA 1988). He studies composition with William York, Robert Hanson and Kevin Volans. He holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Trinity College (1999) for a study of the relationship between analysis and compositional technique in the post-war avant-garde.

McLachlan writes numerous articles for The Journal of Music in Ireland (2000–10). He is executive director of the Association of Irish Composers (1998–2012), and in 2007 he is elected to Aosdána.

McLachlan is the featured composer in the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra‘s “Horizons” series in 2003 and 2008. He also represents Ireland at international festivals, including the ISCM World Music Days in Slovenia in 2003 and Croatia in 2005. In 2006, his work Grand Action is commissioned as a test-piece for the AXA Dublin International Piano Competition.

McLachlan’s musical aesthetic is largely shaped by a desire to impart a sense of narrative and expectation to his music without recourse to pastiche rhetorical devices. A critic writes of a recording of McLachlan’s piano piece Nine: “The style of each little piece sends one’s imagination and musical memory reeling, some of them evoking French Impressionism, some jazzy in feel, some reminiscent of the miniatures for piano of Webern, and none of them in any way, shape or form derivative.” Much of his music is structured in contrasting and suddenly changing block-like sections of homogeneous material. The material within these sections is propelled by a rigorous focus on subtle rhythmic and melodic permutations, which result in both surface opacity and gradually increasing tension.

McLachlan’s works have been performed in the United States, Peru, Japan, South Africa, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Moldova, Slovenia, Croatia, and around Ireland, with broadcasts in several of these countries. Performers who have played his music include the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Opera Theatre Company, the National Chamber Choir, Concorde, Sequenza, Traject, Archaeus, the Pro Arte Orchestra, Antipodes, Ensemble Nordlys, The Fidelio Trio, The ConTempo Quartet and Trio Arbós as well as many prominent soloists including Ian Pace, John Feeley, Mary Dullea, Darragh Morgan, Satoko Inoue and David Adams.

McLachlan is also known as a broadcaster and writer on contemporary music, with many published articles.

McLachlan now lives in Inishowen, County Donegal.


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Birth of Albert Rosen, Czech/Irish-Naturalized Conductor

Albert Rosen, Austrian-born and Czech/Irish-naturalised conductor associated with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the Wexford Festival Opera, the National Theatre in Prague and J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzeň (Pilsen), is born in Vienna on February 14, 1924. He has a strong affinity with the works of Czech composers such as Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Bohuslav Martinů, and Leoš Janáček.

Rosen’s mother is Czech, while his father’s family is Austrian-Jewish. After Anschluss of Austria in 1938 they move to Bratislava, and after the Slovak version of Nuremberg Laws comes to force in September 1941, he escapes discrimination and genocide via the Danube and the sea to Israel (then Mandatory Palestine). There he works in the Shaʽar_HaGolan kibbutz, manually and as an amateur chorus master, until 1945, when he returns to Bratislava.

In 1946–47 Rosen studies piano, composition and conducting at the Vienna Academy of Music with Joseph Marx and Hans Swarowsky, and continues to study conducting at the Prague Conservatory under Pavel Dědeček and Alois Klíma (1947–48). He starts his career in J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzeň (Pilsen) as a correpetiteur, assistant conductor and chorus master (1949–52) and conductor (1953–59), participating on the production of 11 operas, 19 ballets and, as the composer of stage music, 17 dramas. In 1960 he is engaged by National Theatre in Prague, to be appointed in 1964 the chief conductor of Smetana Theatre, the National Theatre’s opera stage. He holds this position until 1971, conducting 11 ballets and 9 opera productions.

In 1965 Rosen comes to Ireland for the first time to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra (under its former name, the Radio Telefís Éireann Symphony Orchestra) at the Wexford Festival. This leads to regular appearances at the festival until 1994, conducting 18 Wexford productions, more than anyone else. In 1969 he becomes the orchestra’s chief conductor, until he becomes principal guest conductor in 1981. In 1994 he is honoured with the title Conductor Laureate of the orchestra.

Rosen’s operatic repertoire includes standard works such as Carmen (Bizet), Tosca and Madama Butterfly (Puccini), Il trovatore and Don Carlos (Verdi), Lohengrin (Wagner), Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti), Otello and L’italiana in Algeri (Rossini), Káťa Kabanová (Janáček), La Wally (Catalani), The Bartered Bride (Smetana), and Salome (Richard Strauss). He also conducted unusual works such as Smetana’s The Two Widows and The Kiss, and Dvořák’s Rusalka, The Devil and Kate and The Jacobin.

In October 1978, in Dublin and Cork, Rosen conducts the National Symphony Orchestra in only the second and third performances of André Tchaikowsky‘s 2nd Piano Concerto, Op. 4, which are the first performances with the composer as soloist. He is to record the work in 1982, again with Tchaikowsky at the piano, but the composer becomes ill and the recording is cancelled. His other work with the NSO includes standard orchestral repertoire as well as major pieces such as Olivier Messiaen‘s Turangalîla-Symphonie and Gustav Mahler‘s Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand). In 1992, the orchestra tours ten cities in Germany, having a major success with Die Fledermaus in Stuttgart.

Rosen makes his American debut at the San Francisco Opera in 1980, in Janáček’s Jenůfa. In Australia, he is chief conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra from 1983 until 1985, and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in 1986. He conducts the British premiere of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov‘s opera Christmas Eve with English National Opera in 1988. He becomes music director of the Irish National Opera in 1993.

Rosen often conducts the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland during the 1990s, in challenging works such as the tone poems and An Alpine Symphony of Richard Strauss. Other opera orchestras he conducts included those of the Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Vancouver Opera, San Diego Opera, and the Dublin Grand Opera Society.

Rosen becomes an Irish citizen by naturalisation. His own conducting students include John Finucane.

Rosen dies at the age of 73 in Dublin on May 23, 1997, of lung cancer.

(Pictured: Albert Rosen conducts the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra in St. Patrick’s Training College in Drumcondra, Dublin, in 1972)


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Launch of RTÉ Lyric FM

rte-lyric-fmRTÉ Lyric FM, an Irish 24-hour classical music and arts radio station owned by the public-service broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), is launched on May 3, 2016. The station, which is based in Limerick, County Limerick, is available on FM throughout Ireland, on Sky UK digital satellite in Ireland and the United Kingdom, and via the Internet worldwide.

RTÉ Lyric FM develops from FM3 Classical Music, which begins broadcasting on November 6, 1984. FM3 broadcasts classical music on the RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta (RnaG) network at breakfast time, lunchtime and in the evenings. The station is rarely marketed, except via promotions on RTÉ Radio 1, and has low listenership ratings. It is probably best known for occasionally simulcasting the stereo sound track of movies being shown on the RTÉ television channels prior to RTÉ’s deployment of NICAM digital stereo.

As Raidió na Gaeltachta expands broadcast hours, FM3’s service hours changed to 7:30 PM until 1:00 AM and 6:30 AM until 8:00 AM. Eventually it stays on air until breakfast time when RnaG comes back on.

On May 1, 1999, RTÉ puts in place an additional national FM transmitter network, and it is decided to separate FM3 from Radio na Gaeltachta, and expand its remit to include other types of minority music. The resulting station is Lyric FM (currently styled RTÉ lyric fm). It also moves from Dublin to Limerick as part of a policy of regionalisation. At the time of the station’s launch, RTÉ lyric fm’s digital studios in Cornmarket Row, Limerick, are the most advanced in the country.

RTÉ Lyric FM wins PPI National Station of the Year for the second time in 2004.

In May 2009, the station celebrates 10 years broadcasting. This is celebrated with a concert by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and RTÉ Philharmonic Choir. Current presenters include Marty Whelan, George Hamilton, John Kelly, Liz Nolan, Paul Herriott, Niall Carroll, Lorcan Murray, Bernard Clarke, Aedín Gormley, and Ellen Cranitch.

RTÉ Lyric FM attracts an audience share of 1.6%. The current head of the station is Aodán Ó Dubhghaill.

Recent schedule changes have caused some dissent amongst listeners and the station has been accused of dumbing down. A petition is also launched to save the Sunday early morning programme “Gloria” presented by Tim Thurston.


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Opening of the National Concert Hall

national-concert-hall-dublinThe National Concert Hall is opened in Dublin on September 9, 1981. It is a concert hall located on Earlsfort Terrace, close to St. Stephen’s Green, and is the principal national venue for classical music concerts in Ireland.

Originally built for the Dublin International Exhibition of Arts and Manufactures of 1865, the structure is converted into the central building of University College Dublin (UCD) at the foundation of the National University of Ireland in 1908. When UCD begins to relocate to a new campus at Belfield in the 1960s, part of the building is converted, and reopened as the National Concert Hall in 1981. Since then, the structure has been shared with UCD. In 2005 it is announced that UCD is to relocate all of its faculties to Belfield in the near term, allowing the NCH to develop a major expansion plan on the entire site, bringing it in line with international peers.

Today the National Concert Hall is one of Ireland’s National Cultural Institutions, under the aegis of the Irish Government‘s Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and, as such, is grant-aided by the Irish Government. The National Concert Hall is a statutory corporate body, with a management team, and a Government-appointed Board.

Although its facade is quite impressive, the venue’s architectural acoustics have been criticized. It is also unsuitable for large-scale opera stagings, lacking full stage facilities. Consequently, calls for a purpose-built venue are made from time to time.

Due to its central location, lunchtime concerts and recitals are common and attended by many workers from nearby office buildings. During the summer, outdoor recitals are given in the adjacent Iveagh Gardens. The resident orchestra is the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. Other regular performances are made from the rest of the RTÉ Performing Groups.

The National Concert Hall generally makes a small surplus, unlike most of Ireland’s National Cultural Institutions. This is despite the fact that although it has a high level of attendance, it has only a small public funding element, especially compared to the Abbey Theatre.


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Birth of Irish Composer Gráinne Mulvey

grainne-mulveyIrish composer Gráinne Mulvey is born on March 10, 1966 in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin. Her music is timbrally and rhythmically complex — a legacy of her work in the electroacoustic field. Her microtonally-inflected language derives ultimately from the natural harmonic series, placing her somewhat in the spectral tradition.

Mulvey studies with Eric Sweeney at Waterford Regional Technical College, Hormoz Farhat at Trinity College Dublin and Agustín Fernández at Queen’s University, Belfast. In 1999 she gains a DPhil in Composition at the University of York under Nicola LeFanu. In 2001 she is appointed Head of Composition at Dublin Institute of Technology Conservatory of Music and Drama.

Mulvey is appointed as one of the Course Directors of the IMRO Summer School of Composition in 2014. In 2001, 2010 and 2011, she was on the adjudicator’s panel for the Guido d’Arezzo Composers’ Composition Competition in Italy. She has curated concerts for the Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland in 2011 and 2012, the Association of Irish Composers in May 2016 and a retrospective concert of her work at The Carlow Arts Festival in June 2016.

Mulvey’s music has been widely performed both in Ireland and abroad and her works have been broadcast by radio stations across the globe. One of her earliest works Étude, for piano (1994), is selected for that year’s International Rostrum of Composers in Paris, an honour that is to be repeated with 2004’s orchestral work Scorched Earth, and in 2015 with Diffractions for orchestra, in Slovenia. She is a featured composer in the 2007 Horizons concert series, with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, conductor Robert Houlihan, performing three of her orchestral works. She has the distinction of being selected for the ISCM World Music Days in consecutive years with Akanos (Vilnius, Lithuania, 2008 and Växjö, Sweden, 2009).

In April 2010, Mulvey is elected to membership of Aosdána, the State-recognised affiliation of creative artists in Ireland. A CD Akanos & Other Works, dedicated to her recent work, is released in February 2014 on the Navona label.


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Birth of Singer/Songwriter Eleanor McEvoy

eleanor-mcevoyEleanor McEvoy, one of Ireland’s most accomplished contemporary singer/songwriters, is born in Dublin on January 22, 1967. McEvoy composes the song “Only A Woman’s Heart,” the title track of A Woman’s Heart, the best-selling Irish album in Irish history.

McEvoy’s life as a musician begins at the age of four when she begins playing piano. At the age of eight she takes up violin and, as a teen, she joins the Junior Irish Youth Orchestra. Upon finishing school she attends Trinity College, Dublin where she studies music by day and works in pit orchestras and music clubs by night.

McEvoy graduates from Trinity with an Honors Degree in music and spends four months busking in New York City. In 1988, she is accepted into the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra where she spends four years before leaving to concentrate on songwriting.

During a solo date in July 1992, she performs a little-known, self-penned song, “Only a Woman’s Heart.” Mary Black, of whose band McEvoy is a member, is in the audience and invites her to add the track to an album of Irish female artists. The album is subsequently titled A Woman’s Heart and the track is released as the lead single. The album goes on to sell over three-quarters of a million copies in Ireland alone and remains the biggest selling Irish album of all time. The record’s success makes McEvoy a superstar virtually overnight.

Eleanor McEvoy, the self-titled debut offering, recorded in Windmill Lane Studios, is released in February 1993, and tours in the United States, Asia, and Europe follow. Back on Irish soil, McEvoy is awarded Best New Artist, Best New Performer, and Best Songwriter Awards by the Irish entertainment and music industries.

McEvoy signs a contract with Columbia Records and begins working on a new, edgier second album, which is eventually entitled What’s Following Me? The album is released in 1996 and the sound is louder and grungier than her debut.

McEvoy releases her third album Snapshots in 1999. Her primary goal is to make Snapshots her most song-oriented album to date. Toward that goal, she hooks up with legendary producer Rupert Hine, who has worked with Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, Suzanne Vega, and Duncan Sheik, and records the album at Rupert’s “Chateau de la Tour de Moulin” and then in Metropolis Studios in London.

As the century closes, McEvoy has had enough of major-label involvement, making the decision to take the fourth album and head down the independent road. Yola was a turning point in McEvoy’s musical direction. Released in 2001, it reflects the acoustic, jazz-influenced style she had developed on stage with Brian Connor.

March 2004 sees the release of Early Hours, produced by McEvoy and Brian Connor. The style differs from McEvoy’s previous work, taking on a jazz/blues feel for many of the songs. She continues to tour with Brian Connor until April 2005. She then begins performing solo, accompanying herself on bass guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, and violin.

McEvoy continues to release new albums almost on a yearly basis with Out There (2006), Love Must Be Tough (2008), Singled Out (2009), I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010), Alone (2011), If You Leave… (2013), and Stuff (2014).

Naked Music (2016) is McEvoy’s twelfth studio album. It is recorded at the Grange Studio in Norfolk, UK. McEvoy records the tracks by “studio-performing,” in other words, playing the songs as she would in a live performance. The album features exclusive artwork by famed painter Chris Gollon.