Bill Whelan – Composer

Bill Whelan has composed music for theatre, film and orchestra.

His 1997 Grammy Award winning music Riverdance continues to be performed around the world and the show is about to embark on a 25th anniversary tour of the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom.  To date, 22 million people have seen Riverdance The Show live.

To coincide with the 25th anniversary tour, Bill completed a new studio recording of the music from Riverdance with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. The new recording features many of the young musicians who have been playing the music live with the show, some of whom weren’t even born when Riverdance was first composed.

His orchestral work, The Seville Suite was specially commissioned for Expo ’92 and continues to be widely performed with the most recent performances, by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra,  at the NCH Dublin and the Clifden Arts Festival in Connemara.

The Spirit Of Mayo, written for orchestra and choir was first performed in 1993 at Dublin’s National Concert Hall.

His musical settings of the literary works of Irish writers have been performed widely at home and abroad and include the poetry of WB Yeats, Paul Muldoon, Derek Mahon, Tom McIntyre, Frank McGuinness and Paul Durcan.

As a producer in the studio he has worked with U2, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, Richard Harris, The Dubliners, Planxty, Andy Irvine, Davy Spillane and Bulgarian/Irish band, East Wind.  His music for film includes scores for “Dancing At Lughansa” starring Meryl Streep, “Some Mother’s Son” featuring Helen Mirren and “Lamb” with Liam Neeson.  

The Connemara Suite, a trilogy of pieces composed for chamber orchestra premiered in Carnegie Hall by the Irish Chamber Orchestra in March 2005.  He was commissioned by RTÉ Lyric FM to write a concerto for flute for Sir James Galway in 2014. Titled Linen & Lace it was performed by the Irish National Symphony Orchestra and subsequently by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The Train musical was inspired by the contraceptive train and the Irish Woman’s Liberation Movement of the 1970’s.  With music by Bill Whelan and lyrics by Arthur Riordan, it was performed as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2015 and returned to the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and The MAC in Belfast in 2017.

He wrote a piece for solo cello which was performed at the Cellissimo Festival as part of the Galway 2020 celebrations.

Bill has also composed the soundtrack to the film ‘Riverdance – The Animated Adventure’  with a host of stars including Pierce Brosnan, Brendan Gleeson, and Aisling Bea. It is available on Sky Atlantic in Ireland and the UK and Netflix for Rest of the World.

Bill is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music and holds two honorary doctorates and is a member of Áosdána.  

He is an Honorary Freeman of the City of Limerick, where is was born.