August 2020


To celebrate the 75th birthday of the legendary Van Morrison, which takes place on August 31, Hot Press is publishing a special issue, packed with loads of exclusive content. It is a moment in which Hot Press, and the music community, say a heartfelt thanks to Van for his extraordinary contribution to music on the island of Ireland – and across the world…

Rave On, Van Morrison – in which 75 Irish artists contribute covers of 75 Van Morrison songs – continues nightly on the Hot Press YouTube channel. Already there have been numerous scintillating performances – we refuse to pick out any favourites! – and there are lots more to come, including the mighty Hozier, Sinéad O’Connor, Bob Geldof, Glen Hansard, Damien Rice, Mick Flannery, The Academic, Malaki, Eleanor McEvoy, Wyvern Lingo, David Lyttle with Liam Neeson, The Mary Stokes Band – and loads more…

There is also a stirring performance of the Van Morrison spoken word piece ‘Rave On, John Donne’ by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. The musical backing is arranged and produced by Bill Whelan, who wrote Riverdance, and the musicians include Bill (who plays organ, piano and sequencers), Tara Howley (low whistle and vocals), Derek ‘doc’ O’Connor (Saxophone) and Mal O’Brien. The music was recorded and engineered by Brian Whelan.

President Higgins’ recording of ‘Rave On, John Donne’ is one of ten videos scheduled to be broadcast, in a special extravaganza, on Van Morrison’s birthday, Monday August 31st.


May 2020

Riverdance Together Apart
From their homes in Ireland, UK, USA, Canada, Spain, Australia, Moldova, Ukraine & Russia as well as those dancers who have swapped their dancing shoes for scrubs the Riverdance cast have come together while being apart to say ‘thank you’ to all frontline and essential workers, as well as the people at home who continue to do their part in the fight against COVID-19

For more details

February 2020

Bill Whelan celebrates the launch of his album which he went back into studio to re-record twenty-five years on

Read More

Sunday Times
Bill Whelan: Irish rebel’s story kick-started my Riverdance Score

Read Article

November 2019

LIFT THE WINGS No1 in China!

Cai Chengyu, the 2018 winner of China’s Hunan TV television programme Super Vocal goes #1 with Bill Whelan’s song from Riverdance “Lift The Wings”. 

Cai appears on the Chinese version of the Riverdance 25th Anniversary: Music From The Showalbum singing “Lift the Wings”. 

The song and went straight in at #1 on the QQ Music chart.  QQ Music is one of the leading Chinese music platforms with over 8 billion users. 



3Arena, Dublin 6 – 9 February 2020

The SSE Arena, Belfast 19-23 February 2020

Decca Gold announces the forthcoming release of Bill Whelan’salbum Riverdance 25th Anniversary: Music From the Show on December 6. 


Celebrated around the world for its Grammy-Award winning score, thrilling energy, and passion of its Irish and international dance, this release is the powerful and stirring reinterpretation of Bill Whelan’s mesmerizing soundtrack to Riverdance.  

Twenty-five years on, composer Bill Whelan went back into the studio to re-record the soundtrack to the show. He says “The music has moved into a very different position from when we first recorded it. A lot of the players on the original recording would have only heard the music a day or two before whereas in this case, the music has almost been in the ether for a lot of the musicians, many of whom weren’t even born when I first wrote the score. As a result, these players come to this recording with a unique virtuosity – distinguished with both a familiarity and an energetic freshness”.

Riverdance 25th Anniversary: Music From The Show features many of the world’s finest young musicians including: Mark Alfred who injects and different kind of excitement to this album with his drumming, world renowned Mandolin player Avi Avital, traditional and classically trained Fiddle player Zoe Conway, award winning multi-instrumentalist Tara Howley (Uilleann Pipes & Low Whistle), emerging Spanish Guitarist Amos Lora, two time All Ireland Fiddle Champion Pat Mangan, International soloists Emma McPhilemy and Emma Frampton (Soprano Sax), Damien Mullane (Accordion), finest Eastern European musicians Nedyalko Nedyalkov (Gadulka) and Peyo Peev (Kaval), teenage sensation Haley Richardson on Fiddle, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and singers Lynn Hilary and Múireann Nic Amhlaoibh who makes her Riverdance debut with a stirring performance of the show’s principle song Lift The Wings.

Riverdance began its journey as the interval act in the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. This electrifying and innovative seven-minute dance piece was then developed into a full-length stage show by Producer Moya Doherty, Composer Bill Whelan, and Director John McColgan. With its fusion of Irish and International music and dance, the show broke all box office records during its world premiere run in Dublin in early 1995. When the show transferred to London, the reaction was unprecedented. There followed a hugely successful tour starting in New York in March 1996, where 8 sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall heralded the start of two decades of touring by Riverdance companies throughout North America. 

Since its inception, Riverdance has packed theatres throughout North America, Oceania, Asia, Europa, South Africa, and South America. See tracklist and tour dates below. 

Twenty-five years on, while composer Bill Whelan has reinterpreted the soundtrack, the original team have reimagined the ground-breaking show with innovative and spectacular lighting, projection, stage, and costume designs. 

Since it began, Riverdance has been seen live by over 27.5 million people. 


  1. Reel Around The Sun 
  2. The Heart’s Cry 
  3. The Countess Cathleen/Woman of the Sidhe 
  4. Caoineadhe Cú Chulainn 
  5. Firedance 
  6. Shivna 
  7. Slip Into Spring/The Harvest 
  8. Riverdance 
  9. American Wake (The Nova Scotia Set) 
  10. Lift the Wings 
  11. Trading Taps 
  12. Macedonian Morning 
  13. Marta’s Dance/The Russian Dervish 
  14. Andalucía 
  15. Traditional Set 
  16. Heartland 
  17. Home and the Heartland

September 2018

Bill Whelan Presents: Featuring Emily Flack and Séamus Flaherty
Irish Arts Center @ 8pm
16 & 17 November 2018

Grammy award-winner Bill Whelan introduces some of the most dynamic artists emerging out of Ireland and North America

Bill Whelan’s eminence as the Grammy-winning composer of Riverdance is well known. Perhaps less popularly understood—but deeply appreciated among artists—is his role as a champion of the next generation of Irish talent.

This season we are proud to welcome Whelan back to Irish Arts Center for a new series, Bill Whelan Presents, featuring the composer at the piano alongside some of the most dynamic young singers, dancers, and musicians emerging out of Ireland and North America.

Join us in the intimate Irish Arts Center theatre as Whelan is joined by Canadian singer-songwriter and step-dancer Emily Flack and the multi-talented sean-nós singer, dancer, and harpist Séamus Flaherty from Connemara, along with special guests.

For more information

Irish Art Center Box Office 866-811-4111
For tickets online

August 2018

with guests Bill Whelan, Donal Lunny and Mick O’Brien

Presented by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra
Friday 17th August, 7.30pm

RTÉ Concert Orchestra 
David Brophy, conductor
Zoe Conway 
John McIntyre 
with guests Bill Whelan, Donal Lunny and Mick O’Brien 

The RTÉ Concert Orchestra brings the magic of the Drogheda Fleadh to Dublin with a wonderful evening of traditional music lead by fiddler Zoe Conway. She will be joined on stage by her partner John McIntyre – together they have been described by the BBC as simply one of the best folk duos of the planet.

For more information

Behind the Scenes interviews with Bill Whelan, David Brophy and footage of the RTE National Symphony Orchestra recording ‘Riverdance Symphonic Suite’, ‘Linen & Lace’ and ‘Inishlacken’ for the new Lyric album release.

RTE Lyric FM album release (CD155)

International Dublin Choral Festival – St Patrick’s Cathedral

Saturday 24th March at 8pm

Bill  has written a choral piece titled Music of  a Lost Kingdom which will be performed by 3 choirs, Cor Fingal, Sligo Orpheus Choir and the Episcopal Chorale Society from the US.  Aonghus McAnally is hosting the evening.

New RTE Lyric FM album of the orchestral music of Bill Whelan performed by the RTE National Symphony Orchestra and soloists Sir James Galway and Helena Wood & Zoe Conway. Conducted by David Brophy.
Bill Whelan created the music for Riverdance in 1994 as an interval act for RTÉ’s hosting of the Eurovision. It was one of those seismic moments of culture in which his use of traditional idioms in a completely new composition reframed the way Irish music and dance was viewed not just by people outside of the country but also at home. The show has been seen by over 24 million people in more than 450 venues worldwide. This premiere recording of three of Whelan’s major compositions, performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Brophy, again reveals his ability to create original and accessible new music, this time in an orchestral context. 
He wrote Linen and Lace, a flute concerto for Sir James Galway as a work that musically unites their respective home cities of Belfast (linen) and Limerick (lace). In three sections, the first two begin briefly with melodies associated with that city but then quickly move into a virtuosic celebration of powerful human force intrinsic to any true sense of place: flute, harp and orchestra variously duet, brass fanfares and marches conjure the industrial life and energy of Belfast and Limerick before the work concludes with a solo flute cadenza. 
Inishlacken is a concerto for two violins (one in the classical style played by Helena Wood and one traditional played by Zoe Conway), named after a deserted island off the Galway coast. This first movement imagines a trip in a currach out to Inishlacken before a beautifully evocative middle section in which the two violins mimic the whirling flight of restless seabirds as they wheel and swirl around the island. Finally, evening on Inislacken is conjured in memory of the departed inhabitants as the quiet sunset is replaced by the music and dance. 
The third work on the CD is Whelan’s symphonic setting of the music of Riverdance. He has kept the rhythmic energy and melodies that make the work so popular but presents all the themes in a way that is playable by the majestic sweep of a full orchestra, without the traditional musicians. 
The RTÉ lyric fm label is dedicated to promoting Irish musicians and composers worldwide. Our CDs have been critically acclaimed nationally and internationally from Australia to Germany and the United States of America. 

RTE Lyric FM album release (CD155)

Jan 2018DOLORES O’RIORDAN – a message of tribute and condolence.
When a fine artist and performer departs suddenly, her home city feels the grief intimately. When that artist was at the height of her powers with much left to do, then that grief is more sharply felt. But nothing equals the wrenching loss felt by her children, her loved ones, family and friends. Dolores you have left warm memories and a legacy which will keep growing in the coming years, and a city which is proud to have been your birthplace and your home.
Bill Whelan
Composer, Freeman of Limerick

November 2017

IN THE NAME OF PEACE:  JOHN HUME IN AMERICAA Film written, directed and produced by Maurice Fitzpatrick
Belltable TheatreMonday 4th December at 8pm

Narrated by actor Liam Neeson, the film charts how the political created the framework for peace in Northern Ireland.  The documentary includes wide-ranging interviews with former US Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama and UK Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair.  Original music by Bill Whelan.

For more information and tickets;

July 2017

IN THE NAME OF PEACE:  JOHN HUME IN AMERICAPremiere screening at 29th Galway Film Fleadh11th – 16th July 2017
In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America is a feature documentary, made by Maurice Fitzpatrick, which includes interviews with

President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, many US Senators and Congressmen, as well as Irish leaders and British Prime Ministers Tony Blair an John Major.  The film is narrated by Liam Neeson and scored by Bill Whelan.For more details and ticket information;

April 2017THE TRAIN Rough Magic Theatre Co’s musical The Train premiered in Ireland in 2015 with successful seasons in Limerick and at Dublin Theatre Festival. This April it has returned to perform on the main stage of the Abbey Theatre and The MAC Belfast.
Directed by Lynne Parker, with book and lyrics by Arthur Riordan and music composed by Bill Whelan, the nine strong cast includes, Lisa Lambe, Clare Barrett, Kate Gilmore, Danielle Galligan, Sophie Jo Wasson, Darragh Kelly, Louis Lovett and Karen McCartney.
In an environment where gender equality in theatre has never been more pertinent, The Train is a fictional celebration of actual events surrounding the legendary Contraceptive Train, the remarkable media coup orchestrated by the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement in 1971 that changed the social landscape of Ireland.
Determined to challenge the restrictive laws of the Irish State, a group of trailblazing women take a train to Belfast and return to Dublin with forbidden contraceptives.
The Train continues at The Abbey until April 15th and moves to The MAC Belfast from 19th – 23rd April.
Reviews from opening night at The Abbey:

May 2016THE MUSIC OF  BILL WHELAN GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING COMPOSER OF RIVERDANCE TO BE PERFORMED AT  THE KENNEDY CENTER (DC) MAY 17 LINCOLN CENTER (NY) MAY 19 ASHLAND POPS (OR) JULY 4  While internationally-acclaimed Irish composer Bill Whelan’s music for Riverdance has continued to thrill audiences around the world for the past 20 years, his more recent original orchestral compositions are now sought after on both sides of the Atlantic.  The Grammy Award-winning composer has written for theatre, film and orchestra and now fields requests to not only allow his works to be done by major institutions and festivals, but to perform them himself.   Whelan recently returned from France where he performed with the Breton Symphony Orchestra. On Tuesday, May 17 – Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington, DC, two of his pieces, “Carna” (from The Connemara Suite) and “Firedance” (from Riverdance) will be performed at the opening of The Kennedy Center Festival “Ireland 100: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts & Culture.”  Directed and hosted by Olivier Award-winning actress Fiona Shaw, the concert reveals the talent, soul and enthusiasm of the Irish, showcasing a small slice of what the new Ireland has to offer. The performance will feature former Riverdance star Colin Dunne and others along with the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Irish conductor David Brophy. On Thursday, May 19 at Lincoln Center’s Bruno Walter Auditorium, New York, Conor Linehan, acclaimed pianist and composer with the Abbey Theatre (Ireland’s National Theatre), offers a musical exploration of Irish history. In this informal concert, Conor performs music from the period of the 1916 Easter Rising, when Ireland began their revolution against British rule, up to contemporary music from Ireland in 2016, including the music of Bill Whelan. On Sunday, May 29 The Schull Fastnet Film Festival in Dublin, Whelan will discuss “Music in Film” in conversation with Maurice Seezer. He’ll discuss his approach to composing for film, referring to his work from Dancing At Lughnasa for Pat O’Connor, Some Mother’s Son for Terry George and Poitín for Bob Quinn among others.

On Monday, July 4 in Ashland, Oregon, 200-plus members of the American Band College master’s degree program will join together for the 28th annual Star Spangled Spectacular “Ashland Pops” at the Ashland High School Stadium. The group includes band directors from over 35 states and 5 countries performing this multi-faceted show that includes the music of Bill Whelan – “The Seville Suite” and highlights from Riverdance.

Bill Whelan received the 1997 Grammy Award for his music for Riverdance. More than 22 million people have seen Riverdance live.  The CD has been certified platinum in the United States. His orchestral work, The Seville Suite was specially commissioned for Expo ’92 and continues to be widely performed, 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 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 film work includes music scores for “Dancing At Lughnasa” 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 at Carnegie Hall by the Irish Chamber Orchestra in March 2005.  He was commissioned by RTE Lyric FM to write a concerto for flute for Sir James Galway in 2014. Titled Linen & Lace it was commissioned to celebrate the city of Limerick as the National City of Culture.   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. Bill serves on the boards of Berklee School of Music in Boston, the University of Limerick Foundation, and Music Generation.  He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music, holds two honorary doctorates and was recently elected to Aosdána, the prestigious Academy of Irish artists.

25th-29th May 2016

The Fastnet Film Festival takes place every year in the picturesque fishing village of Schull on the south-west coast of Ireland. Bill Whelan will be in conversation with Maurice Seezer on Sunday 29th May as part of this years festival. Discussing “Music in Film”, the talk takes place in the Plaza Cinema from 3pm – 5pm. Tickets can be booked on

APRIL 2016

Orchestra Symphonic de Bretagne
Danses De L’ile Emeraude

Bill Whelan will join the Orchestra Symphonic de Bretagne in Rennes, Quimper & Ploermel for a series of concerts on April 27, 28, 29 & 30. The programme will feature compositions such as Inishlacken, Jazzical Cyclebike, Carna, Riverdance, Hymn to a Broken Marriage and Humours of Barrack Street. Derek Gleeson will conduct the orchestra and other soloist to appear will be Athena Tergis, Fionnuala Hunt and Mick Donegan.

For more information

NBC New York – “Ireland Rising” Concert

Bill Whelan discusses the Ireland Rising Concert for the Irish Arts Center with Pei-Sze Cheng of NBC New York


Benefit Concert Hosted by Composer Bill Whelan and Poet Paul Muldoon Celebrates Ireland’s Centenary and Launches Capital Campaign for Irish Arts Center’s New Home

Extraordinary Lineup of Artists Includes Paul Brady, Anne Enright, Mick Moloney, 
Liam Neeson, Declan O’Rourke, Panti Bliss, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, 
Cassandra Wilson and More

On April 22nd, the eve of the 100th anniversary of Ireland’s 1916 rising, Grammy Award-winning composer Bill Whelan and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon will host Ireland Rising: Words and Music for a New Century, a celebration of new beginnings for Ireland, Irish America and Irish Arts Center. The evening is a statement of intent for Irish Arts Center as it begins a new century and looks forward to the construction of its heralded new home. Ireland Rising will take place at 8pm in the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Symphony Space (2537 Broadway, NYC). Tickets, starting at $125 and can be purchased at

The Ireland Rising lineup, like Irish Arts Center, represents the dynamism and diversity of contemporary Irish culture, with appearances by singer-songwriters Paul Brady, Loah, Nicole Maguire, Liam Ó Maonlaí and Declan O’Rourke; actors Lisa Dwan and Liam Neeson; authors Anne Enright, Nick Laird, Zadie Smith and Colm Tóibín; Irish traditional musicians Mick Moloney, Athena Tergis and Joanie Madden; drag queen and activist Panti Bliss; vocalist and guitarist Becca Stevens; jazz guitarist Andreas Varady and singer Cassandra Wilson; and Women of the World; in addition to Muldoon and Whelan.

Ireland Rising will coincide with the launch of Almost Home, the public phase of Irish Arts Center’s capital campaign for its new facility, at 726 11th Avenue, adjoining the Center’s existing building at 553 West 51st. The Center expects to complete the campaign this year—Ireland’s Centenary—and to begin construction in 2017.

Aidan Connolly, Executive Director of Irish Arts Center, said, “The New Irish Arts Center is so much more than a state-of-the-art new building. It’s about sharing Ireland’s great legacy of innovation and creativity with artists and audiences of all backgrounds, and looking forward to the next hundred years of Ireland and Irish America.”

A Nation’s Voice

The RTE National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Brophy, perform an open-air concert at Collins Barracks on Easter Sunday as part of Ireland 2016. The concert featured more than 1000 singers who performed an RTE special commission by Paul Muldoon and Shaun Davey. Zoe Conway, Helena Wood and Colin Dunne performing excerpts from Bill Whelan’s The Connemara Suite features.

Available to watch on the RTE Player;

MARCH 2016


The RTE National Symphony Orchestra celebrates St Patrick’s Day with a concert of Bill Whelan and Shaun Davey’s orchestral works fusing Irish traditional music with symphonic sound.

For more details


A number of appointments have been made to theatre’s in Limerick including Bill Whelan’s appointment to the Board of the Limetree Theatre.

Full story


Dublin Theatre Festival

Dublin Theatre Festival, Review by Sinead Gleeson, The Irish Times – The Train, Project Arts Centre

JULY 2015


Music by Bill Whelan and Lyrics by Arthur Riordan
Directed by Lynne Parker
Produced by Rough Magic Theatre Company

A new musical by Arthur Riordan and Bill Whelan inspired by the contraceptive train and the Irish Woman’s Liberation Movement of the 1970’s.

The Train premieres at the Lime Tree Theatre Limerick (29 September to 3 October) and transfers to the Dublin Theatre Festival at the Project Arts Centre (6 – 11 October)

First stop: The Lime Tree Theatre 29 Sept – 3 Oct
Second stop: Dublin Theatre Festival 6 – 11 Oct @ Project Arts Centre

20 years after it premiered in Dublin in February 1995, Riverdance returns for its 12th summer season at the Gaiety Theatre from 23 July – 30 August 2015.
For more information
Riverdance has joined with Trinity College to launch a 6 day summer school that will feature lessons with professional dancers who will show participants iconic choreography from the show aswell as all aspects of being a professional dancer.  Running over 3 weeks in July, courses are available with either residential or non-residential options.
For more information

3rd DUBLIN INTERNATIONAL PIANO FESTIVALSaturday 25th July – Sunday 2nd August
Featuring performances, master classes and seminars from world renowned musicians.  Held over a period of ten days in various venues across Dublin City, the festival hosts internationally renowned concert pianists and educators, masterful pianists whose credentials include prestigious University positions, prizes in international competitions and acclaimed recordings.
As part of the Festival, Bill Whelan will host a Seminar on Wednesday 29th July at 1.05pm in the John Field Room of the NCH titled “Composition, Improvisation – Who has the rights and does it matter?”
For more information and


Opening address by Bill Whelan

Before proceeding to the very pleasant task of formally launching the 37th Clifden Arts Festival, I would like to take a few minutes to reflect on the meaning of this festival within the context of what is happening in the wider world of the Arts today. 

I don’t think that there has ever been a time in the history of civilization to compare with what we are experiencing today in terms of the rate of change as a result technological advances. When the first poem was printed by Johannes Gutenburg in 1450, we seemed to be at the doorstep of a Brave New World in terms of publishing and the widespread dissemination of ideas. And when the Industrial Revolution kicked off in the mid 1700s, it was to herald two centuries of massive upheaval, redefining our social and political structures, our methods of production, and how we used our leisure time. Those of us here in this hall who are old enough to remember the 1960s will recall the sense of heady excitement that surrounded the various Civil Rights movements, Flower Power and the Hippies, and the youthful challenge to authority, to censorship, to sexual mores which had been inherited from the great political and ecclesiastical institutions from Queen Victoria to the Church of Rome. 

What strikes one today about all of these great changes was how long they took. The industrial revolution took centuries to take effect, as innovation led to further innovation and the associated ideas seeped into the fabric of society and slowly spawned further invention. Alvin Toffler, the great futurist, wrote a book in the late 1960’s called “Future Shock”. In it he drew attention to the acceleration of change that the 20th Century was living through and suggested that we were suffering from a condition where the future was arriving faster than we could cope with as humans. He prophesied that 

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

There is much truth in this, and from our perspective here in 2014, the Industrial Revolution seems like a rather leisurely affair when measured against the velocity of change we are experiencing today. Even the relaxed and chilled hippy movement seems out of place in our world of turbulence, clamour and noise.

So, how does all this relate to the Arts, and in particular to the Clifden Arts Festival? The artist’s position in society has often been seen as prophetic. This might raise images of crystal ball gazing and mumbo-jumbo pronouncements about the future. I tend to see the role of the Arts as being a far more subtle and at the same time more practical one. It is our way of explaining ourselves to each other, of interpreting what is happening around us, of questioning our beliefs, and of presenting a visionary image of our future. The Arts is prophetic not insofar as it predicts the future, but more inasmuch as it can become the engine for that future. When it does its job well, it is essentially transformative.

There are a number challenges that face us in our technology-drenched world where I believe the Arts can deliver some solutions and perhaps give consolation to those who are suffering from our 21st century version of “future shock”.

The first relates to isolation. It is highly ironic in a world where we have created the most extraordinary tools of communication since the log-drum, that we often now increasingly speak of “isolation”. Those of us who have embraced the technology may on occasion find ourselves retreating into the ostrich world of our iPhones and Androids as we sit with our friends or family in restaurants or while watching TV. In an elevator or on the bus everybody reaches for their mobiles or tablets rather than engaging with those around them. Our “social media” might justifiably be seen as our “anti-social media”. The world of Facebook is filled with people posting “selfies” and Twittering on about what they had for breakfast. The whole thrust of it all is to tell the world what you feel about everything, rather than asking how they are feeling. All the traffic flow is outward with little time for either inward reflection or direct human engagement. It is hardly surprising then that we would start to speak of isolation. A world obsessed with “self” can hardly be expected to generate any real response from the “other”.

Let me pause here for a moment to stress that I feel extremely positive about all the technological advances to date and I am as excited about the future as I was when I bought my first computer and got my first Internet connection in the early 1990s. I do not have a dystopian or negative view of what is happening to us, but I do believe that we are living through a period where, simply put, we just haven’t had the time to get comfortable with all the changes and challenges being presented to us. We haven’t had the time to understand it all, to grow a set of responses to it, and we certainly have neither the time nor the energy to navigate through the Tower of Babel that is the Internet.

It is not surprising then that another challenge that faces us relates to how we value our artistic endeavours, or as the Internet calls it – our creative content. With so much of everything clamouring for our attention, it was perhaps inevitable that we would arrive at a stage where one of the greatest rock-acts in the world consented to having their music given away free. It was perhaps the logical endgame in the decay of the relationship between an artist and their audience. In U2s deal with Apple the audience were completely written out of the equation and it became about a deal between a wealthy corporation and a group of musicians. It affirmed that the value of recorded music had arrived at ground zero, and that its real worth was seen as a promotion for something else, in this case a mobile phone. 

Astra Taylor has written the most incisive book on the current state of culture that I have read. It is called “The Peoples Platform” . In it she says

“wealth and power are shifting to those who control the platforms on which all of us create, consume, and connect. The companies that provide these and related services are quickly becoming the Disneys of the digital world—monoliths hungry for quarterly profits, answerable to their shareholders not us, their users, and more influential, more ubiquitous, and more insinuated into the fabric of our everyday lives than Mickey Mouse ever was. As such they pose a whole new set of challenges to the health of our culture.”

May I say that here in Clifden over the next 10 days and at over 100 wonderful events, we will see a series of powerful responses to all these challenges. Here we will see the Arts doing what they do best – engaging, informing, transforming, entertaining, relaxing, un-relaxing, bothering, consoling, evoking, comforting, discomforting, enlightening, interpreting, uplifting, reminding, confusing, confirming, but most of all bringing us together and requiring us to sit up, pay attention, and take note. It is time to put away our ear-pods, put our phones on silent, re-enter the world by leaving it, and look around, as Paul Simon says, all you’ll see is sympathetic eyes. This festival is 37 years a-growing in the heart of the community here, springing from and linked intimately in a very special way to the education of the young people of Clifden – those young people who will make the art of the future. It is an annually blooming and a precious flower. It is a gift to Clifden and it is a measure of how it is valued that it is a gift that keeps on giving. 

I am proud to formally ignite the fuse under the next two weeks of fun and enlightenment and I have great pleasure in declaring the Clifden Arts Festival 2014 well and truly launched.


BBC Proms 51 – Monday 25th August

Bill Whelan’s “Riverdance” Suite will be performed by the Ulster Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms. The matinee concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio . Tune in at 4.20pm to listen. 


JULY 2014

Chicago Symphony Orchestra will link with James Galway at Ravinia Festival

Read More

Review – Classical: James Galway, NCH, Dublin

Irish Independent Read Full Article

JUNE 2014


On the 20th anniversary of Riverdance, composer Bill Whelan looks back at the phenomenon he gave birth to, recalls the fateful decision to sack Michael Flatley, discusses the Limerick City of Culture controversy and shares his thoughts on the future of music in an era when fewer and fewer people pay for records.
Niall Stokes, 23 June 2014

Read full article on Hot Press


Bill Whelan’s stroll down memory lane for Nationwide

Read full article Limerick Leader

Ulster Orchestra perform Riverdance at the Royal Albert Hall
BBC Proms – Monday 25th August 2014 

The Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Jac van Steen, will give the UK premiere of “Riverdance: A Symphonic Suite” as part of the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 25th August 2014.

For more details on this year’s Free Prom can be found on

Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Sir James Galway to perform US premiere of Linen and Lace, RTÉ lyric fm’s new commission from Bill Whelan at Ravinia Festival following world premiere performances with RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and Sir James Galway in Dublin and Limerick in June.

The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Sir James Galway and conductor Gavin Maloney will give the world premiere performances of the RTÉ lyric fm commissioned Linen and Lace in Dublin and Limerick at the Bill Whelan Gala concerts this June. Two weeks later, one of the world’s leading orchestras, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sir James Galway and conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya will give the US premiere of the piece at the renowned Ravinia Festival in Illinois on Tuesday 8 July.

In Dublin and Limerick Linen and Lace will be heard as part of an evening which brings star performers from the worlds of classical and traditional music — Sir James Galway flute, Zoë Conway fiddle, Catherine Leonard violin and Colin Dunne dancer — together with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and Gavin Maloney to perform some of Whelan’s best known music: the colourful Riverdance Symphonic Suite, the evocative Inishlacken and the exhilarating An Chistín from the Connemara Suite, Whelan’s playful interaction between fiddle, feet and orchestra. The Bill Whelan Gala concerts will take place in Dublin on Friday 20 June as part of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Season and, in association with Limerick City of Culture 2014, in Limerick on Saturday 21 June.

With Bill Whelan’s wish to create a piece linking his native city of Limerick with James Galway’s home city of Belfast, Bill took as his starting point what he describes as ‘a beautiful image’ in ‘An Unborn Child’ by the Belfast Poet Derek Mahon. ‘With the image of ‘the child awaiting its birth, and the mother sewing in expectation of the infant arrival, I pictured the mother fingering the filigree of Limerick Lace and grasping the supple strength of Belfast Linen. Somehow this image, and the anticipatory life of the womb, became the affirmative force which inspired this piece.’

Having recently completed the work, Bill says: ‘While writing Linen and Lace, I was constantly conscious of that powerful human force that drives the cities of Belfast and Limerick – the working men and women. Growing up in Limerick, I was very aware of this internal engine as the citizens went about their daily lives in the factories, around the docklands, in the shops and the offices. With its massive shipbuilding and other industries, Belfast shared this kind of pulsing life with Limerick, and it is no accident that a kind of wry humour is common to both locations. In Linen and Lace, I have tried to celebrate this urban life and I am honoured that a son of Belfast, the legendary James Galway, will give this piece its premiere performances.’

News of the US premiere has been greeted warmly by both Bill Whelan and RTÉ Lyric fm Head, Aodán Ó Dubhghaill:

Bill Whelan:
‘I am delighted, of course, that Linen and Lace will receive its premiere performances in Limerick and Dublin with our superb RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, but it is an unexpected pleasure for me as composer that the Chicago Symphony will also perform it in July at the Ravinia Festival. I am greatly appreciative of RTÉ Lyric fm’s role in bringing this piece into being.’

Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, Head of RTÉ lyric fm:

‘In 1999 RTÉ made the decision to base Ireland’s National Music and Arts radio station, RTÉ lyric fm, in Limerick, named City of Culture for 2014. To mark the City of Culture designation and to celebrate the city’s rich musical heritage, RTÉ lyric fm commissioned renowned composer and proud Limerick man Bill Whelan to write a flute concerto for the combined forces of Sir James Galway and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. We are delighted that Linen and Lace, Bill’s major new work, will be premiered in Dublin and Limerick – and that audiences around the world will be able to watch and hear the Limerick concert live through a live broadcast and web-stream on The importance of this RTÉ lyric fm commission is confirmed by the fact that the world famous Chicago Symphony Orchestra will premiere the work in the US at the renowned Ravinia Festival, Illinois within a couple of weeks of its Irish premiere.’

Detailed listings information:

Friday 20 June 2014, 8pm: Dublin National Concert Hall
Saturday 21 June 2014, 8pm: Limerick University Concert Hall*

Bill Whelan Gala with
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra
Sir James Galway, flute
Zoë Conway, fiddle
Catherine Leonard, violin
Colin Dunne, dancer
Gavin Maloney, conductor

Presented by RTÉ lyric fm and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra

An Chistín from the Connemara Suite
Riverdance Symphonic Suite
Linen and Lace World premiere performances. RTÉ lyric fm commission

Friday 20 June: Dublin: National Concert Hall, 8pm
Tickets: €20, €28, €38, €45 (concessions €18, €25.20, €34.20, €40.50)
Booking: 01 417 0000 | |

Saturday 21 June: Limerick: University Concert Hall, 8pm
in association with Limerick City of Culture
Tickets: €35 (concession €32.50) €30, €20
Booking: University Concert Hall | | 061 331549

RTÉ lyric fm and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra present

A Bill Whelan Gala with Sir James Galway, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and star performers in Dublin and Limerick

Saturday 21 June

Star performers from the worlds of classical and traditional music, Sir James Galway flute, Zoë Conway fiddle, Catherine Leonard violin and Colin Dunne dancer, join the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Gavin Maloney to celebrate the music of Grammy-winning Riverdance composer Bill Whelan with concerts in Dublin and Limerick in June. The Bill Whelan Gala concerts will take place in Dublin on Friday 20 June as part of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Season and, celebrating Limerick City of Culture 2014, in Limerick on Saturday 21 June.

The concerts will see the world premiere performances of Linen and Lace, Whelan’s new flute concerto for the internationally renowned flautist, Sir James Galway and symphony orchestra, commissioned by RTÉ lyric fm to mark Limerick City of Culture, and will feature some of Whelan’s most popular music:the colourful and dynamic Riverdance Symphonic Suite, the evocative Inishlacken and the exhilarating An Chistín from the Connemara Suite, Whelan’s playful interaction between fiddle, feet and orchestra.

On his new composition Linen and Lace, Bill Whelan says: “When Sir James Galway and I first spoke of working together towards the birth of a new flute concerto, we wanted to link our two native cities. Belfast and Limerick are renowned respectively for their linen and lace and it was a beautiful image in “An Unborn Child” by the Belfast poet Derek Mahon which lubricated my imagination. The child, awaiting its birth, muses on the mysteries relayed “through the dark network” of its mother’s body as she sews in expectation of the infant arrival. I pictured her fingering the filigree of Limerick Lace and grasping the supple strength of Belfast Linen. Somehow this image, and the anticipatory life of the womb, became the affirmative force which inspired this piece.

It has been over 20 years since I have had the opportunity to premiere a new piece with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, so it is a particular honour to bring this new concerto for James Galway to life for the first time with this orchestra. I am grateful to RTÉ lyric fm for making this happen, and I am especially delighted that it will form part of the programme of the Limerick City of Culture 2014.”

The performance in the University Concert Hall, Limerick will be broadcast live on RTÉ lyric fm and webcast on as part of the Limerick’s City of Culture 2014 celebrations.

Booking is now open for both concerts. Full details below:
Friday 20 June: Dublin: National Concert Hall, 8pm
Tickets: €20, €28, €38, €45 (concessions €18, €25.20, €34.20, €40.50
Booking (no fees): 01 417 0000 | |

Saturday 21 June: Limerick: University Concert Hall, 8pm
Tickets: €35 (concession €32.50) €30, €20
Booking: University Concert Hall | | 061 331549


Music by Percy French in new arrangements by Bill Whelan

Wednesday 2nd April & Thursday 3rd April, 7.30pm TICKET BOOKINGS

Room: Kevin Barry Room
Prices: €12 (concessions €10)

Music by Percy French in New Arrangements by Bill Whelan
Directed by Gerry Stembridge
Cast Includes: Brenda Brooks, Emmet Cahill, Mark O’Regan, Kate Stanley Brennan

A special showcase performance of the music of Percy French including the work of ten of Ireland’s most prominent writers. Songs include:

MARCH 2014


Music by Percy French in new arrangements by Bill Whelan

Wednesday 2nd April & Thursday 3rd April, 7.30pm TICKET BOOKINGS

Room: Kevin Barry Room
Prices: €12 (concessions €10)

Music by Percy French in New Arrangements by Bill Whelan
Directed by Gerry Stembridge
Cast Includes: Brenda Brooks, Emmet Cahill, Mark O’Regan, Kate Stanley Brennan

A special showcase performance of the music of Percy French including the work of ten of Ireland’s most prominent writers. Songs include:

The Mountains of Mourne
Phil the Fluter’s Ball
Are Ye Right There, Michael?
McBreen’s Heifer
Come Back Paddy Reilly
The Emigrant’s Letter
Abdul Abulbul Amir
Eileen Óg

During his lifetime, Percy French achieved great fame both as songwriter and painter and his most famous songs – including The Mountains of Mourne, Gortnamona, Phil the Fluter’s Ball and Are Ye Right There, Michael? – are still known all over the world.

Many of his songs gently satirised the world around him and it is tempting to wonder what Percy would make of Ireland and the world today. In bringing his music to a twenty-first century audience, ten internationally renowned Irish writers have been asked to respond to ten of French’s most famous songs. The writers include: John Butler, Paddy & Tom Cullivan, Barry Devlin, Declan Lynch, Pat McCabe, Belinda McKeon, Pauline McLynn, Paul Muldoon, Arthur Riordan, Gerry Stembridge.

Composer Bill Whelan has created new arrangements for each of these songs and this performance gives audiences an exclusive first glimpse of this work in progress. This workshop is directed byGerry Stembridge.

Presented by Barry Devlin, Brian Palfrey & Bill Whelan

Sponsored by The Bailey Bar & Café VAYU



Saturday 8th March, 3.00pm

Room: Kevin Barry Room
Price: €10

Therese Fahy, piano

Raymond Deane – Legerdemain
Benjamin Dwyer – Étude
Michael Holohan – The Forge
Grainne Mulvey – Calorescence
Bill Whelan – Waiting for Riad
Siobhán Cleary – Leda and the Swan
Handprint is an exciting recital programme by Irish pianist Therese Fahy, born of the realisation that much contemporary piano music seems to be composed for pianists with large hands. Therese has commissioned six major Irish composers to write new works for her, enriching the musical landscape by enhancing the piano repertoire with a highly innovative collection of piano pieces, the Handprint Collection, specifically designed for smaller hands – something which has never been done before.

Presented by New Music Dublin

Tickets available at



More details here


16th-19th January 2014

To mark the 20th Anniversary of this incredible production, Riverdance comes to Limerick from 16th-19th January 2014!

Of all the performances to emerge from ireland – in rock, music, theatre, film – nothing has carried the energy, the sensuality and the spectacle of Riverdance.

20 years ago in May 1994 Riverdance was first performed as the interval act in the eurovision Song Contest in Dublin before being developed into a full length stage show.

With its fusion of Irish and International music and dance, the show broke all box office records during its world premiere run in Dublin in early 1995 and has since become a global phenomenon, being performed over 12,000 times to a live audience in excess of 23 million and with three companies on tour at any one time.

To mark the Anniversary of this incredible production, Riverdance comes to Limerick before embarking on its 20th Anniversary tour.

It will be Limerick City of Culture’s inaugural flagship event and the homecoming for Limerick born composer, Bill Whelan.

The production will take place from the 16th-19th January 2014 at the Sport Arena in the University of Limerick and tickets can be obtained from the University Concert Hall Box Office on 061 331 549.


Irish Composer Bill Whelan in the MCC’s Agora Series: ‘Navigating A Music Career – No Map, No Route, No Destination’

Date: Wednesday 27th November at 6.30pm
Venue: Boydell Room, House 5, Trinity College, Dublin 2
Tickets: Free and open to the public. If you wish to reserve a seat, email

Bill WhelanThe Music Composition Centre is delighted to welcome acclaimed Irish composer and Trinity Music Department Adjunct Professor Bill Whelan to the Agora Series. This event will be a talk by the composer of approximately 20 mins to include one or two pieces of music (on CD) followed by a Q&A with Evangelia Rigaki and then a Q&A session with the audience.

As a composer, Bill Whelan has written extensively for theatre, dance, film and the concert stage. His film work includes’Dancing at Lughnasa’ starring Meryl Streep, ‘Some Mother’s Son’ featuring Helen Mirren and ‘Lamb’ with Liam Neeson. Music for television includes The Seven Ages, Sean Ó Mordha’s history of the Irish State. He was appointed composer to the W.B. Yeats International Theatre Festival at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 1989, writing original music for 15 Yeats plays. His adaptation of HMS Pinafore received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination.

The Seville Suite was commissioned for Ireland’s National Day at Expo ’92 and was performed at the Maestranza in Seville. It has since received performances around the world including La Coruna, Shanghai, Caracas and New York. The Spirit Of Mayo followed in 1993 and was performed by an 85-piece orchestra and chorus in Dublin’s National Concert Hall. The Connemara Suite, a trilogy of pieces written for chamber orchestra, premiered in Carnegie Hall in March 2005. Bill Whelan’sSymphonic Suite from Riverdance has just received its first performance in 2013. He is currently writing a flute concerto for performance in 2014 with Sir James Galway and is completing the recording of an album of choral music.

Bill’s production and arranging credits include U2, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, Richard Harris, Planxty, The Dubliners and many traditional world musicians and performers. He was honoured with the 1997 Grammy Award for ‘Best Musical Show Album’ for the lyrics and music of Riverdance. The album is a certified Platinum record in the US, Ireland and Australia. Riverdance The Show has been seen live by more than 22 million people and by a television audience of nearly 2 billion.

Bill is a member of the Boards of Berklee College of Music in Boston, The University of Limerick, Crash Ensemble and Music Generation, the newly established music education body for Ireland. He has completed a co-teaching course with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Paul Muldoon at Princeton University and was recently appointed adjunct Professor to Trinity College Dublin’s School of Drama, Film and Music. Bill Whelan is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music and is the recipient of many International Awards including the Spirit of Ireland Award in New York.

This public event in the Music Composition Centre’s Agora Series is presented in association with RTÉ Lyric FM.


Kaleidoscope Camino – CLIFDEN ARTS WEEK
Station House Theatre, Clifden
Thursday, 26 September 2013, 8pm
Tickets €10 from and 091-442730

The Kaleidoscope Camino, curated by musicians Clíodhna Ryan and Kate Ellis, continues this September and October after unforgettable recent performances to enthusiastic capacity audiences at Galway Arts Festival and Kilkenny Arts Festival. Catch up with the tour in Clifden, Cork and Waterford for a taste of this beautiful blend of music from ancient to contemporary and experimental — all presented in relaxed, intimate and beautiful settings.

Our first stop is the Station House Theatre, Clifden (Thursday, 26 September), as part of Clifden Arts Week. A world premiere features prominently, with local composer Bill Whelan(best known for his work on Riverdance) teaming up with poet Micheal Coady to explore the magical Connemara landscape, performed by the soprano Deirdre Moynihan and a host of Ireland’s finest string players. Continuing the literary theme, clarinettist Paul Roe performs a setting of Tim Burton’s The Melancholy Death of the Oyster Boy as well as Tom Johnson’sBedtime Stories, while Moynihan performs John Cage’s charming Experiences #2, a setting of an e.e. cummings poem. The programme also looks back to the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with music by Gabrielli, Biber and Beethoven, among others, performed by Anita Vedres (Baroque violin), Clíodhna Ryan (violin), Cian Ó Dúill (viola) and Aoife Nic Athlaoich (cello).


Kaleidoscope Camino — A night of music devised by violinist Cliodhna Ryan and cellist Kate Ellis

‘A life-saving,spirit-lifting, pioneering cultural venture’ –Irish Times.


Anita Vedres (baroque violin) and Aoife NicAthlaoith (cello)
Thomas Balthzar, Division on ‘John Come Kiss Me Now’
Domenico Gabrielli, Ricercar No. 7 for Solo Cello
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Sonata No. 1 from the Mystery Sonatas

Paul Roe (clarinet) and Nuala Hayes (voice)
Tim Burton/Paul Roe, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy
Tom Johnson, Bedtime Stories

Deirdre Moynihan (soprano), Clíodhna Ryan (violin), Anita Vedres (violins), Cian Ó Dúill (viola), Aoife NicAthlaoich (cello)
Jean Sibelius, Arioso Op. 3
John Cage, Experiences No. 2 (Text by ee cummings)

Clíodhna Ryan (violin), Cian Ó Dúill (viola), Aoife NicAthlaoich (cello)
Ludwig van Beethoven, String Trio in C Minor Op. 9 No. 3

Deirdre Moynihan (soprano), Clíodhna Ryan (violin), Anita Vedres (violin), Cian Ó Dúill (viola), Aoife NicAthlaoich (cello)
Michael Coady/Bill Whelan, A State of Light (world premiere)

Date 26/09/2013 Time 8:00pm Venue Station House Theatre Tickets €10

Mike Murphy interviews Bill Whelan

This is a new and expanded Public Interview: Mike Murphy interviews renowned musician, composer, producer, arranger (Riverdance, the Seville Suite, the Connemara Suite) and neighbour Bill Whelan. Mike, 4 times Jacob Award winner for Live Mike..12 years as presenter of Arts Show on RT radio and recently presented Ireland’s Favourite Painting. (RTE TV)

This public interview is being recorded by Arts on Air and will be broadcast at 6pm this evening on Connemara Community Radio on 87.8 and 106.1 fm or Thanks to Mary

Date 21 Sept Time 2:30pm Venue Station House Theatre Tickets €10

For more information

APRIL 2013

Top Irish Songwriters / Composers Paul Brady / Phil Coulter / Pete St. John / Ray Harman / Shay Healy / Jimmy MacCarthy To Be Inducted into the IMRO Academy

Monday 29th April 2013: Tonight The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) will honour 6 songwriters and composers by inducting them into the IMRO Academy. 

Paul Brady, Phil Coulter, Pete St. John, Ray Harman, Shay Healy and Jimmy MacCarthy will have their contribution to Irish music acknowledged at a ceremony in Dublin’s Conrad Hotel.

The IMRO Academy’s mission is to celebrate and mark the successes of Ireland’s iconic songwriters and composers who have made a very significant cultural and social impact in Ireland and/or internationally.

Launched in 2011, Bill Whelan, best known as the composer of Riverdance and Brendan Graham, co-author of the hugely successful song, ‘You Raise Me Up’ became the first inductees to the Academy. Both have contributed enormously to the recognition of Ireland across the world through their extensive music repertoire

Of the awards Keith Donald, IMRO Chairman, states, “Once again the IMRO Academy is honouring songwriters and composers who are at the forefront of Ireland’s great tradition of creativity. It is a very important ingredient in fostering our reputation of being a dynamic and culturally rich nation. The IMRO Academy shines a light on these iconic music creators who continue to inspire, entertain and make sense of the world in which we live.

“I am delighted to be part of this induction ceremony for some of Ireland’s most successful and revered composers and I welcome this talented expansion of the IMRO Academy” added Bill Whelan.

”The songs and music of these six Irish songwriters have sailed far beyond the shores of Ireland. They have touched hearts, engaged emotions, and brought joy to people everywhere. Recorded by some of the greatest artistes of our times, they have been heard – and sung along to – by millions of people. They have climbed the pop charts, rocked stadia and brought Eurovision victory to Ireland. On our TV screens they have had us at the edge of our seats and they have become anthems helping us to win many a football and rugby match! They have also given us moments of reflection, of spiritual understanding, of insight into ourselves. By reaching into their own hearts these six, gifted crafters of song have touched our hearts. Ireland and the world are the richer for what they have given us and tonight we, their fellow songwriters, salute and honour their gift… and its gifting” added Brendan Graham.

The induction ceremony will coincide with the IMRO sponsored Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) annual conference dinner which takes place tonight, 29th April in the Conrad Hotel. Following the ceremony, all 6 will perform a selection of their iconic hit songs live.

Works include:

Paul Brady – (The Island, Nobody Knows)

Phil Coulter – (Congratulations, The Town I Loved So Well, Ireland’s Call)

Pete St. John – (Fields of Athenry, The Rare Ould Times)

Ray Harman (Something Happens, Film and Television composition [Love/Hate])

Shay Healy – (What’s Another Year, At The Céilí)

Jimmy MacCarthy – (Ride On, No Frontiers, Missing You)

MARCH 2013

BILL WHELAN Berklee College Concert – April 11th 2013


Music and creativity at the gateway of Babylon.
Talk by BILL WHELAN as part of the RDS Speaker Series
13th February, 2013



Bill Whelan – Publish and Perish, Music and creativity at the gateway to Babylon

RDS Speaker Series
Wednesday, February 13th @ 6pm

In a wide ranging talk, Bill Whelan will explore the influence that the internet has had on music creativity and particularly how audiences experience music since the recent technological revolution began.

Free of charge and open to all. Advance booking is essential.
Event Website: /

DIGITAL BISCUIT – Friday 25th January
This is a free public event with ticketed events, talks and open exhibitions throughout the Science Gallery.

Cox to head up Limerick City of Culture in 2014


Pat Cox, Paul O’Connell & Bill Whelan to join governing group to drive Limerick City of Culture 2014 

By Alan Owens 
Published on Monday 7 January 2013 13:20

Pat Cox and Bill Whelan at the announcement of the group to chair Limerick City of Culture in 2014. Picture: Sean Curtin

FORMER European Parliament president and Freeman of Limerick Pat Cox is to chair the governing group that will drive the Limerick City of Culture initiative for 2014.

Mr Cox has gladly accepted the invitation to chair the group and was unveiled in the city this Monday morning, where it was also revealed that Munster and Irish rugby legend Paul O’Connell and Riverdance composer Bill Whelan – both Freemen of the city – will join him on the governing body.

City manager Conn Murray personally selected the trio to manage the programme for 2014, declaring that they were “chosen to represent the areas within which they have excelled nationally and internationally that symbolise a broad approach to the understanding of culture, not just of Limerick, but of Ireland”.

A draft programme of events for the year long City of Culture initiative is expected to be announced this June, with a definite programme in place by late Autumn, Mr Cox explained.

The former TD and MEP said he was “delighted and honoured” to chair the 2014 Limerick National City of Culture group.

“The aim of the National City of Culture initiative is to deliver a programme of cultural events and engagement in Limerick for 2014, but also a programme which has a longer term positive impact,” he explained.

“The designation is also an opportunity to showcase what we know to be the real Limerick in terms of its personality. Such a designation by Government for the city is historic, it will provide a new direction for Limerick more than 800 years after its original charter to embody the potential of a city of culture encompassing Art, Design, Technology and Sport in all their myriad interacting and creative forms.

“The delivery of a National City of Culture within a year planning window is demanding but achievable. Part of my role as chair will be to listen to the wider community and develop from the ground up a programme of international significance for Limerick, for Munster and for Ireland.”

Mr. Cox also confirmed that the Director of the Arts Council, Orlaith McBride, has also accepted a position on the driving group.

A large number of people working in the arts community in Limerick – and other areas of business – will be appointed to the governing group to advise the trio and the programme of events for 2014.

For more on this story see tomorrow’s Limerick Chronicle newspaper, and our weekend editions.


LIMERICK ON RECORD CD launch In Aid of Milford Hospice

‘Trojan effort’ to get Limerick On Record


By Alan Owens 
Published on Monday 3 December 2012 06:06

On record: Paddy and Geraldine Brennan with Mayor of Limerick Cllr Gerry McLoughlin and Bill Whelan at the launch and, below, The John Steele Band performing at the launch in Thomond Park. Pictures: Dave GaynorRIVERDANCE composer Bill Whelan has hailed the endeavour in assembling a compilation of Limerick music as “an extraordinary achievement”.

Limerick On Record, a stunning compilation that features the best of Limerick music from a 50-odd year period, painstakingly assembled by Corbally man Paddy Brennan, is a limited edition collection that aims to raise €20,000 for Milford Hospice.

The 62-track collection spans from 1965 right up to the present day and contains Whelan’s Riverdance, Richard Harris’ MacArthur Park, Grannies Intentions’ Sandy’s On The Phone, The Cranberries’ Dreams, Reform’s You Gotta Get Up and more from Limerick’s musical history.

“It is a stunning collection, an extraordinary project,” said Bill Whelan, speaking to the Limerick Leader at the launch in Thomond Park last Wednesday night, attended by many of the greats assembled on this definitive collection.

“I know myself because I have been involved in trying to clear music for use. What has happened here has just been unbelievable. The job of putting this together has been absolutely Trojan and it is an extraordinary achievement,” he explained.

The three CD collection is the result of over two years work by Corbally man Paddy and his wife Geraldine, with all of the artists and record companies – eventually – donating the use of their tracks in aid of Milford.

“When I got permission from the Limerick artists I had to contact all the record companies then. Lots of the recordings were not owned by the artists, rather the companies, licensing companies,” explained Paddy.

“It wasn’t easy because lots of them had been dissolved, taken over, amalgamated – it was a maze. I persisted and searched out the copyright – and got a lot of help from Jim Liddane, of the International Songwriters Association, a friend of mine all my life.”

Just 1000 copies of the album are available for sale, making it already a rarity. Places stocking Limerick On Record include: Savins, O’Mahony’s, Euro Empire, Milford and UCH.


Zoë Conway and John McIntyre new album launch. Go Mairir i bhFad – Long Life to You

Whelan’s, Monday 26th @ 8pm

The stunning new album by Zoë Conway and John McIntyre will be launched tonight in Whelan’s at 8pm. 

Their first album as a duo has already received excellent reviews, with the Irish Times 5 Star review saying “Conway and McIntyre are taking those same instruments (fiddle & guitar) around a series of hairpin bends, they’re acquainting us with a patchwork quilt woven from traditional, classical, jazz and Latin influences.” While The Journal of Music tells readers “this is an artistically powerful album, and includes many superb pieces of music that will undoubtedly live on long beyond this project.”

Full album reviews


September 28th, 2012

Bill Whelan will be performing at the Station House Theatre on Friday 28th September as part of the 35th Clifden Arts Festival. An Evening with Bill Whelan and friends will feature some of Ireland’s most talented and exciting performers. Joining Bill on the night will be, Zoë Conway on fiddle, John McIntyre on guitar, Robbie Harris playing bodhrán, uilleann piper Declan Masterson, dancer Mick Donegan and members of the Crash Ensemble Orchestra. Bill will be at the piano, playing some songs written over the years while also introducing his orchestral pieces. All in the intimate setting of the Station House Theatre.

For more information please go to

or to book tickets please go to or call 091-442730 or email

JUNE 2012

Lyric FM, Friday 29th June @ 7pm

Wolftrap, Filene Center, Vienna, VA
June 15, 16 & 17

They conquered North America in hard-soled shoes, short black skirts or slim black pants, this troupe of Irish dancers and musicians. Sweeping the continent by storm with jigs, reels and hornpipes, “Riverdance” grew into a millions-served phenomenon, resuscitating an interest in Irish culture and big, flashy arena-style shows showcasing dance and music. In its wake, it has left millions dazzled by heartbeat-quickening, Irish step-dance rhythms performed with the precision of a military drill team.

It started as a bit of a lark: In 1994, the producers of Eurovision Song Contest needed a seven-minute filler to bide time while judges deliberated. A composer, choreographer and producer came up with “Riverdance,” a music-and-dance number. It combined the pinpoint accuracy of a Radio City Music Hall Rockettes line with the heartfelt ballads and spritely jigs of Irish folk music, featuring Bill Whelan’s compositions.

Continue reading,1231718.html

MAY 2012

IRISH TIMES review of The Music of Bill Whelan at NCH, Thursday 17th May.

Today with Pat Kenny

RTÉ CO musicians, Bill Whelan & David Brophy rehearsing yesterday for a song they are doing with Eleanor McEvoy on Wednesday’s Today with Pat Kenny, RTÉ Radio 1.

Win Tickets To Riverdance Symphonic Performance

Win Tickets to see the World Premiere of Riverdance Symphonic Performance with the RTE Concert Orchestra


Bill Whelan is joining Marty Whelan each day this week at 9.40am for conversation and favourite music selections. 
Listen here on

Riverdance: The Music of Bill Whelan

RTÉ Concert Orchestra
David Brophy conductor
Thursday 17 May, 8pm
National Concert Hall

With guests Bill Whelan, fiddle player Zoë Conway, accordionist Máirtín O’Connor, vocalist Eleanor McEvoy, uilleann piper Maitiú Ó Casaide, dancers Yolanda Gonzalez Sobrado and Mick Donegan, Crash Ensemble and UCD Choral Scholars
Programme includes the world premiere of the Symphonic Suite from Riverdance,Caracena from The Seville Suite, The Currach and Evening Céilí from Inishlacken, An Chistin from Carna, Jazzical Cyclebike, Seabird, Flying Blind, Lift the Wings, Shivnaand The Heart’s Cry
Following the sell-out success of A Celebration of Bill Whelan in 2010, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra returns with what is sure to be another spectacular collaboration with Grammy Award-winning composer Bill Whelan.

The RTÉ CO gave the electrifying first performance of Riverdance as the interval act in the 1994 Eurovision and went on to record the phenomenally successful CD of the entire show. Now, as part of a wide-ranging programme of his music, the orchestra has the honour of giving the world premiere of Bill’s Symphonic Suite from Riverdance. This promises to be not only a highlight of the evening’s celebration but a highlight of Irish musical life this year.

Bill Whelan writes:

‘The idea for a Riverdance Symphonic Suite has been on my radar for some time. Over the years I have often had requests from foreign orchestras for a full-length concert piece containing the music from the show. As my original score incorporated traditional instruments, it was not always easy to assemble the various ethnic elements for a concert in say, Japan. So what I have done with this new score is to present all the themes fromRiverdance in a way that is playable by a full symphony orchestra anywhere in the world, without the traditional musicians. There were two principal challenges – the first was to arrange the themes and melodies as a colourful and dynamic concert piece. The second was to choose the instruments from within the orchestra to appropriately replace the original ethnic instruments and voices. As this will be its first performance, I look forward with anticipation as this augmented RTÉ CO under David Brophy brings the work of the last few years to life.’

Tickets: €11-€38 (conc. €10-€35)
10% group discount available
Booking: 01 417 0000 or
For further information please contact
Angela Rohan, PR Executive, RTÉ Concert Orchestra
Tel: 01 208 2493 | Mobile: 087 617 2531 | Email:

APRIL 2012

Guarding copyright on the Internet

Bill Whelan letter to the Irish Times 26.04.12

NEWSTALK 106-108fm 
Bill Whelan joined Chris Donohue and Shane Coleman in studio on their Newstalk Breakfast Show. If you missed their wide ranging interview check out their Media Player (Archive, Breakfast – Part 4 of Thursday 26th April)


National Concert Hall, Thursday 17th May, 8pm The Music Of Bill Whelan.

Following the sell out success of A Celebration of Bill Whelan in 2010, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra return with what is sure to be another spectacular collaboration with the Grammy Award-winning composer Bill Whelan. Presenting a wide range of his music, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra will also perform the world premiere of Bill Whelan’s Symphonic Suite from Riverdance.

Presented by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and conducted by David Brophy.

  • Prices: €38, €33, €27, €22, €11 (Choir Balcony)
  • Concessions: €35, €30, €25, €20, €10 (Choir Balcony)
  • 10% Discount for Groups of 10 or more

Bookings at

MARCH 2012

Riverdance set for first performance in Limerick

THE UNIVERSITY of Limerick is hoping to raise tens of thousands of euro this May after scooping Riverdance to entertain guests at their annual gala dinner in May.

The Irish dance phenomenon will give their first performance in Limerick at the UL president’s gala dinner in the Strand Hotel on May 11.

Guest of honour at the event will be renowned composer and producer, Dr Bill Whelan, a native of Limerick, who composed the music for the internationally famed Riverdance show and who is a director of the UL Foundation.

“It has always been an ambition of mine to bring Riverdance to my home City of Limerick, so it gives me great pleasure to finally see this dream come true. To be able to do so in a way which helps raise funds for the university’s charitable activities makes it all the more pleasurable,” said Dr Whelan.

Tickets for the event are priced at €180 per person, and tickets will be served on a first come basis as the capacity may be limited to some 200 people. Riverdance’s Irish tour this year includes concerts in Dublin only at present.

The president’s dinner is an annual fundraising event which supports a different project each year.

This year’s event is a celebration of UL’s ties with the city and will raise funds for expansion of the president’s volunteer award programme which is run by the university. The programme was established two years ago to support the contribution that students at UL make to volunteering activities outside of their academic studies.

For queries about tickets for the event, please contact Sarah Hartnett, UL Foundation on 061-234240 or


The Rolling Wave – Our Musical Heritage, RTE Radio 1

RTE Radio 1 is rebroadcasting a historic 1963 radio series “Our Musical Heritage” by Sean O Riada. Episode 13, broadcast on 26th February, explores traditional dance music as played on the accordion and concertina with a contemporary view from composer and musician Bill Whelan.

To Listen Back go to;


Irish Times, 29th November 2011 by Andrew Johnstone

Saturday 3rd December @ 8pm
George’s Hall, Dublin Castle

“This remarkably talented pianist… played with finesse and maturity.”
The New York Times
“Awe-inspiringly confident and assured… with a perfection which apparently effortlessly sets him apart from everyone else… Alexej Gorlatch is one of those players who can take you into areas that others just can’t reach. “
Michael Dervan, Irish Times
By any standards, the young Ukrainian pianist Alexej Gorlatch is something of a phenomenon. Entering the University of Arts in Berlin at the age of twelve, within a decade he had a trophy cabinet jam-packed with awards, including First Prize at the prestigious Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan, First Prize at the Dublin International Piano competition and Silver Medal at the Leeds Piano competition, in a performance described by The Guardian as ‘immaculate in its poetry and aggression’.

A prize-winning technique is one thing, but Gorlatch has poise, power and passion in equal measure, entrancing audiences from Carnegie Hall to the Salle Cortot in Paris with his relaxed stage manner, singing lines and soulful performances. Add to this an exceptional repertoire spanning everything from Mozart to Britten, and you have the all the ingredients of a terrific solo concert. Prepare to be spellbound!


Beethoven Sonata op. 2 no.1 in F minor

Chopin Polonaise-Fantasie op.61

Bill Whelan The Currach

Brahms 4 Ballades op.10

Chopin Mazurkas op.68 no.s 1 & 2

Chopin Scherzo op.31 in B flat minor


Bill Whelan, best known for composing the original seven minute orchestral piece for Riverdance was awarded the UCD Foundation Day Medal in recognition of his outstanding achievements and his contribution to Irish music worldwide.

Each year the UCD Foundation Day Medal is awarded to a UCD graduate who demonstrates great achievement.

At the event held in O’Reilly Hall in Belfield, Bill gave a special performance along side the UCD Ad Astra Scholars, UCD Choral Scholars and UCD Orchestral Scholars. Noel Pearson was there to give the evening’s Citation and Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn TD gave the keynote speech.

To view a video clip of the evening and for more details please visit


Bill Whelan receives the Spirit Of Ireland Award in New York

The Irish Arts Centre based in New York honored Bill Whelan on Friday 14th October. Watch his acceptance speech here.

23rd October 2011

If you missed today’s mix of music and musings featuring Bill Whelan, Zoe Conway and Morgan Crowley please go to the RTE Radio 1 Radio Player to Listen Back to the broadcast:

SUNDAY MISCELLANY’s visit to Clifden Arts Week is broadcast this Sunday, 23rd October, 2011.
Featuring Bill Whelan, Zoe Conway and Morgan Crowley

Sunday Miscellany is one of Irish radio’s longest running shows presenting a weekly selection of new short writing read on the air by it’s authors and interspersed with complementing music and occasional songs. In recent years it has introduced new innovations to its radio experience that have proved very popular with its growing fan base at home and internationally. One has been its live events for audiences, and frequently produced in association with particular venues and cultural festivals.

Recently, on 23 September 2011 the programme presented a live audience event in The Station House Theatre in the town as part of Clifden Arts Week 2011.

The event, hosted by the programme’s producer Clíodhna Ní Anluain was very well received by the audience who lapped up the selection of new short essays and poetry, as well as the wonderful music and song. The selection of voices included Gerard Smyth, Siobhan Mannion, Denise Blake, Geraldine Mills and Bill Whelan. Bill, who made his debut on the programme with a short piece of writing called ‘The Cresent Church’, humorously and affectionately recalled characters and experiences of the church in Limerick city he attended as a boy.

Cliodhna Ní Anluain was delighted to introduce particularly special contribution to this Sunday Miscellany from Clifden. This was the first performance of a brand new music composition by Bill Whelan for Derek Mahon’s marvellous poem – ‘After TheTitanic’. As Bill in his introduction to the performance said ‘… this is a poem that Derek Mahon wrote about Bruce Ismay who was a rather senior person in the Cunard Line when the Titanic went down. He was on board the ship and he survived. In the enquiry that happened afterwards he wasn’t exactly showered with laurel wreaths or heroism. The story has it that he eventually moved to Connemara and lived on his own with his guilt. Whether exactly true or not – there has been some recent re-writing of the story – I just love this poem because it’s a tremendous imagined condition of the human mind faced with this cataclysmic experiences and then the guilt that flows from it. So this is brand new – I wrote it this week’.

For this contribution to Sunday Miscellany Bill Whelan on piano was accompanied on violin by Zoe Conway and Morgan Crowley sang Derek Mahon’s words to Bill new composition.

The edition of Sunday Miscellany will be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1on Sunday morning 23 October 2011 at 9.30am.

Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne present Irish Arts Center Award to Bill Whelan 

Grammy award-winner and Riverdance composer Bill Whelan and philanthropist Dolores McCall were Friday night’s guests of honor at the Irish Arts Center’s 12th annual Spirit of Ireland gala at the New York Athletic Club.

Read more:

An Evening with Bill Whelan and Orchestra Featuring Athena Tergis and Special Guest Mick Donegan with a Nine-Piece Orchestra
and Special Guests

Live Concert Performances
October 29 – November 1 | 7:30 pm

In an encore presentation of one of our most exhilarating concert series, Grammy-winning Riverdance composer Bill Whelan and world-renowned fiddler Athena Tergis return for four unforgettable performances with a nine-piece orchestra and surprise special guests. Lucky audiences experienced this musical partnership when it first took flight in last season’s Masters in Collaboration series. We are thrilled to welcome Bill and Athena and an extraordinary ensemble back to the Donaghy Theatre to electrify us once again.

Please contact for tickets

Admission: $60 general / $50 members

If you need assistance placing your order, call 866-811-4111.
This performance is certain to sell out quickly, so we encourage you to book early.

MIC6 + Bill Whelan & Athena Tergis Combo
Admission: $60 general / $50 members

A Special Treat for Music Lovers: save over 20% on both MIC6 and Bill Whelan and Athena Tergis in Concert when you book together.

Great new things grow from our individual Masters in Collaboration series – from the Paul Brady/Sarah Siskind European tour that evolved following their Masters performance at IAC in 2008, to the Bill Whelan and Athena Tergis orchestral tour and triumphant return to the Donaghy stage this fall. We have a great deal for music lovers who won’t want to miss our newest collaboration between Iarla Ó Lionáird and Ivan Goff, and experience Bill Whelan and Athena Tergis’ inspiring concert with a 9-piece orchestra.

$75 gets you a ticket to both shows (reg $95 combined). Click here to purchase this combo deal.

A preview of Bill Whelan and Athena Tergis from their time as artists-in-residence at Masters in Collaboration IV.


RDS – Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th October

Ireland’s ultimate music experience comes to Dublin on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October for an action packed and star studded event.
The Live Stage features Imelda May, The Blizzards, The Coronas and Republic Of Loose.

Public Interviews:
A Conversation about Life, Work & Music with Glen Hansard
A Conversation about Songs with Christy Moore.

Plus Panels, Debates and Materclasses with the top Irish and International experts.

Bill Whelan will join the panel on Saturday about Piracy.

Tickets available from
One day E12 
Weekend E16

Bill Whelan – “Irish Music & Identity: A Window and a Mirror”
Thursday October 15th at 7pm

Glucksman Ireland House presents the Irish Institute of New York Lecture at which Bill Whelan will speak on the subject of “Irish Music & Identity: A Window and a Mirror”. Admission is free but in order to ensure a seat please go to the website link below for more details.

LISBON – What’s it All About?
As a patron, Bill Whelan supports the Ireland For Europe campaign. 

Ireland For Europe is an independent and non-party campaign promoting a YES vote in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty which takes place on October 2nd 2009. outlines the facts about the Lisbon Treaty and answers many questions raised in the debate.

Also get more information from The Referendum Commission ( who explain the subject matter of referendum proposals and have a dedicated website for the Lisbon Treaty


9-10 June Washington DC
A Composer’s Perspective

I attended this conference in Washington without any particular expectations. Driven by a growing unease at the global confusion about copyright, I wanted to hear first hand how an international convocation principally comprising Collection Societies, but also including some artists, legislators, rights owners, and broadcasters, might approach this fundamental subject.

In short, I heard little to dispel my unease. Rather, I found much to increase my growing panic – not just because I felt that significant players were missing, (Internet Service Providers, young mixers and mash-up artists, downloaders and end users, etc), but because I found the calm indifference which greeted certain statements made over the two days to be truly alarming.

Perhaps significantly, the conference began on the day after the Swedish Pirate Party had managed to win a seat in the European Elections. This group has in its manifesto the aspiration that “All non-commercial copying and use should be completely free.” In addition, during the conference, the news arrived that the French Constitutional Council had rejected the “Création et Internet” law recently passed in France which provided for the punishment, by disconnection, of illegal downloading.

Whatever one thinks of these two events, all of this activity surrounding copyright points to the fact that those who initiate creative works are in the eye of a storm concerning their future and the future of the next generations of creators. What is profoundly depressing is that few of us are truly aware of what is going on, and those charged with protecting these rights are caught in a miasma of in-fighting, protectionism and legal confusion. Equally, they are being painted as somewhat morally degenerate when they speak up against the arguments advanced by those on the “Creative Commons” side of the debate. 

(Note: The “Creative Commons” movement is a rather loose conglomeration of various consumers of intellectual property. Mark Helprin in his polemical but nonetheless highly illuminating “Digital Barbarism” describes the movement as follows:

“It is known informally as the “Creative Commons”, and the charitable mask it presents, selfless people contributing their work – software, music, writing – to the common weal, is merely the cover (not much bigger than a postage stamp) for a well organised effort to cut away at intellectual property rights until they disappear” 

Mark Helprin “Digital Barbarism – A Writer’s Manifesto” 2009 Harper-Collins 

Early in the conference my alarms began to sound when I heard Michael Heller, a Professor at Columbia Law School, announce that the term “copyright” would become increasingly irrelevant in the lexicon of creative artists. Quoting liberally from his book “The Gridlock Economy”, Professor Heller seemed to somehow convince this conference that “gridlock” was at the centre of the problems facing rights owners. He implied throughout that this was of their own making. In fact, not only was the expression liberally used by many speakers thereafter, but even Robbin Gibb, singer/songwriter and President of CISAC reading from a closing speech, referred again to “gridlock” as being close to the roots of the problem. 

Gridlock occurs for Heller, when an intellectual property (or group of properties) has too many owners, leading to difficulties in clearing copyright. This, in turn, leads to underuse. Nothing new here. It is a problem that rights administrators and music users have faced for years, but the baby of copyright cannot be flushed down the drain in the cloudy bathwater of “gridlock”. It was no surprise at the conference that Zahavah Levine, Chief Council for YouTube, pounced on this as the justification for not properly recompensing copyright owners. “At last”, she exclaimed “I feel relief – as if I have had a diagnosis!”. There were those in the room, I for one, who felt that Ms. Levine was delighted, not because she had a “diagnosis”, but because she had yet another excuse to resist paying for the copyrights she so flagrantly misappropriates. 

Perhaps the clearest view of the state of the debate was visible when David Israelite, President and CEO of the National Music Publishers of America was pitted against Gary Shapiro, the President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. (Incidentally, the use of the term “Consumers” for what is essentially a middleman operation, is further evidence of the kind of people-friendly rhetoric adopted by copyright infringers.) Anyway, here was somebody representing copyright owners, in a clear debate with one representing those who disseminate copyrighted material via their technology (hardware or software). There is no doubt that Israelite inflicted a bloody nose in this lively debate, but the problem still remained. No matter how clearly he put the principled argument, there seemed to be a dogged resistance to accepting that copyright owners should be properly recompensed. Shapiro did not accept that prior consultation with creators would be preferable to what I call the “smash-and-grab and then negotiate” approach adopted by many of the members he represents.

In the many Keynote speeches and Discussion groups that formed this summit, too few artists were there to make their views felt. Paul Williams, songwriter and President of ASCAP made an eloquent and impassioned statement that addressed not only the writers need to be properly recompensed, but also the transcendental and personal connection that exists between the creator and the work, and which forms the basis of his or her “moral right”. And even though Prof Heller sees the future of creativity largely in “assembly” or “collage”, Williams voice was raised for those who bring a solitary work into being, often alone, without quilting it into the kind of patchwork creation that helps those in whose interests it is to muddy the waters of rights administration.

Though the film director Milos Foreman spoke powerfully of the problem as it affects film, and the painter and sculptor Frank Stella about his particular discipline, all in all however, the absence of many people who are at the fountainhead of creativity would give the casual observer cause to think that they don’t really care.

It is a pressing matter for our global village, and for our legislators. It was comforting that Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Senator Orrin G. Hatch and Congressman John Conyers Jnr. actively attended and spoke at this conference. The have expressed themselves staunch supporters of copyright, but their job in crafting appropriate legislation will be made so much easier if a strong public campaign, led by creators, is undertaken to educate people and particularly the next generation to the need for copyright protection as a foundation for future creativity and a cultural economy.

What was missing most from the World Copyright Summit was any scent of a solution. The meeting eloquently displayed that copyright is beset by problems and is under daily attack from powerful corporations. New models for dealing with the current technology have been needed for some time, and the music industry’s response has been characterized by more than a modicum of infighting. As someone memorably remarked at the summit, “When we circled the wagons in our business, we ended up shooting at ourselves!” 

The fact is that this is not a matter that can be left to those who are simply there to administer and collect the money. This is an urgent matter for all concerned, and the writers and creators themselves must take the lead. In some circles, the argument is portrayed as a battle between the common man and the powerful record companies. It is no such thing. It is a fundamental struggle between the media’s new barons – those ISPs and other illegal purveyors of stolen copyright material – and the creators of music, film, video and indeed all creative works, both present and future. 

This is a call to arms for creators. Stand up now and be counted, or remain silent and be permanently discounted!

The Journal Of Music

In June, Bill Whelan attended the World Copyright Summit in Washington DC. His thoughts on copyright infringement online and how musicians’ and composers’ work will be protected in the future can be read in the August/September edition of The Journal Of Music magazine.

July 2009

To hear a podcast of Bill Whelan’s interview with Sean Rocks on RTE Radio 1’s “The Arts Show” please go to

Bill Whelan gave a talk to students at the recent “Making Overtures” course presented by Music Network at UCD on 13th July, 2009. His presentation “Navigating the Industry – a Composer’s perspective” can be viewed here.

Sean Rocks interviews Bill Whelan

Sean Rocks will interview Bill Whelan on The Arts Show at 8pm on Wednesday 15th July. They will be talking about Bill’s recent and future projects aswell as playing a selection of specially chosen music.

To listen please go to

June 2009

Following last summer’s sell-out run, Riverdance The Show returns to The Gaiety Theatre Dublin from 23rd June – 29th August 2009.

For more information and booking details please go to

May 2009

Alexej Gorlatch from Ukranine was chosen as the 2009 Winner of the Axa Dublin Piano Competition on Friday 15th May at the National Concert Hall, Dublin. Alexej was also the winner of RTE Lyric FM Prize for best performance of a commissioned piece, his chosen piece was The Currach written by Bill Whelan. 

Alexej started studying piano with E.G.Georgiew in Passau. At the age of 12 he became a young student at the University of Arts in Berlin with Prof. M.Hughes. Since 2003 he has been studying at the University of Music and Drama in Hannover with Prof. K.-H.Kämmerling.

For more information click here

Lyric FM will be broadcasting the Axa Dublin International Piano Competition Finals live from the National Concert Hall, Friday 15th May 7.30 – 10.30pm. Six pianists, having played three solo rounds of the competition, now play a full concerto each and have chosen from four specially commissioned pieces by composers David Byers, Siobhan Cleary, Jennifer Walsh and Bill Whelan. The evening features RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and Gerhard Markson, conductor.

For more information click here

Listen to the Finals on

Belinda McKeon interviews Bill Whelan
(Irish Times Weekend Review, March 14)

James Higgins

THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW: ‘DEPRESSION HAS TO be outside of our options at the moment,” says Bill Whelan. He’s talking about Ireland. He’s talking about the end of that era in Irish history to which some believe Whelan himself, with Riverdance in 1994, wrote the official soundtrack: the Celtic Tiger. Which is a phrase, by the way, that sets Whelan visibly wincing.

He has always hated it, he says. “It meant nothing. It didn’t resonate. And I couldn’t understand the sort of confident people wandering around the place talking about making millions. To me, this Ireland was a place where we were still struggling with our identity, and finding out who we were, and with what felt comfortable to be Irish.”

For Whelan the composer, that struggle took the form of a slow-burning reconciliation with Irish traditional music and dance, and of a negotiation of the forms, a long process of accepting them as part of his lineage and part of his language. Fed on a diet of jazz and of the music of the 1960s and 1970s, it took him years to see trad as something which felt right for him. It was out of that experience, and the experience of melding traditional forms with his myriad other musical influences, that Riverdance was written, Whelan says, and not out of any anticipation of, or even interest in, the notion of what he calls “Celtic Tigers”. The plural conjures up images of a whole ambush of beasts tearing through the country, fleet of foot, or even Flatley of foot – but no, this was not the stuff, insists Whelan, out of which music could be made.

“It could never be the main impetus,” he says of the social and economic story. “You’re never trying to make some statement.”

Riverdance did, however, turn out to be the stuff out of which millions could be made. For its creators certainly – witness Whelan’s New York home, the penthouse apartment in a beautiful old Chelsea building – but also for its country of origin. Riverdance was there at the beginning of a canny and crucial re-marketing and repackaging of Ireland on the global stage. And even if the coming of boom-time Ireland was not scored into Whelan’s staves as he wrote Riverdance, such an Ireland glimpsed itself in the phenomenal success that was the full-length, world-touring show which followed on from the original Eurovision interval act. This was a glittering, glamorous Ireland, an Ireland sure of its own footing and high on its own fuel. It had moves. It had long, lovely legs. It had arms that it was not afraid to move any damn way it pleased. It had little black dresses and slick black shirts. It even – and here the handiwork of American dentists proved almost as important as that of the American dancing teachers who gave us Michael Flatley and Jean Butler in the first place – had great teeth.

Coincidence or not, Ireland began thundering its way to a new confidence and prosperity at just about the time that Riverdance began thundering its way across the stage of the Point.

But it was a paper tiger, that Ireland, according to Whelan, and he’s not sorry to see the back of it. Easy to say from the comfort of a penthouse overlooking Manhattan? Maybe. Yet what Whelan feels most strongly about post-boom Ireland is plain optimism.

“Put the Celtic Tiger to one side, and I think that there is an Ireland, post-Celtic Tiger, post-Belfast Agreement, which we have to feel confident about,” he says. “We’re at an ugly stage right now, because we’re dealing with an economic situation which is totally unreal, where we had allowed the economy to exist totally removed from the normal things of labour, production, work, all of those things. And we were not connected. It was obviously going to fall apart. But what I think has emerged out of the late 20th-century Ireland is that it’s not the Ireland of the 1950s. We have all these bright people, these educated people around the world. There is an Ireland now which is ready for post-recession. And it is open for business. We need to put the Celtic Tiger stuff in a sort of bad cultural bank and move forward.”

We are in Whelan’s home studio, a small blue-painted room on a level above the living space, with a window on to the red turrets of the Chelsea Hotel and, further off, the grey shade of Lady Liberty. He and his wife, Denise, spend some of the year here; their twin daughters, Nessa and Fiona, are working in the city at present; their youngest son, Brian, is at Berklee College of Music in Boston; and the eldest, David, lives in Ireland. Each year, they also live in Paris for a time, but home is in Roundstone, Connemara.

THE TRAVELLING WORKS out well, Whelan says, giving him the distance or the filter he needs to write about Ireland, if writing about Ireland is what he is doing (his recent Connemara Suite, for example, was written mostly in Paris). He has a neat, disciplined routine; composing from early in the morning to lunchtime, and again in the afternoon.

Hovering behind Whelan as he talks, on his computer screen, is the first page of his newest score, a piece commissioned by BBC Radio Ulster and written for Michael Longley’s poem, The War Graves. The work will receive its premiere at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on St Patrick’s Day as part of a concert-length celebration of Whelan’s music (including sections from Riverdance, his 1992 Seville Suite and other compositions). The War Graves, Whelan says, will segue into a Scots Gaelic war lament performed by Hebridean folk singer Julie Fowlis.

Two pieces about war, about young soldiers lost and lonely. Suddenly, sadly, Whelan’s latest work has new resonances, rawly contemporary resonances. A work about young men going to war was always going to ring true in today’s world, but it has suddenly struck that much closer to home and, certainly, that much closer to Waterfront Hall.

“The severest spot. The lads did well,” the friends of slain men write in a visitors’ book at a first World War cemetery in Longley’s poem. The line cannot but bring to mind the photograph in many of the day’s newspapers, showing “RIP LADS” inscribed on a red and black army belt, left with flowers at the army base in Masserreene, Co Antrim.

The shadows of Northern Ireland may be finding their way into Whelan’s music at the moment for a very simple reason: his two biggest current projects involve close collaboration with Northern Irish poets. As well as the Longley work, Whelan has paired up with Paul Muldoon to write a piece for the New York Metropolitan Opera. It’s a work “still very much in embryo”, he says, but it may take as its broad base a story from Irish myth.

Whelan is clearly interested in how a people lean on their inherited myths, on what uses they make of those myths to find their way through whatever time and place they find themselves in. It’s in such terms, for example, that he’ll talk about what has just happened in Antrim and Armagh.

“There are people there, I think, who are carrying a lot of mythology around in their heads,” he says. “And we can no longer afford to think as an island.”

This is what bothered him, he says, about Ireland’s No vote to Lisbon. It bothered him, too, he says later, when Irish-American audience members walked out of Riverdance performances in protest at the presence of African-American dancers and singers.

“We can think as a culture within ourselves, but it’s no longer an option to us to have a culture which doesn’t connect with the rest of the world, a narrow . . . even my own father’s nationalism. I think that, if he was alive today, that nationalism would have grown into an internationalism.”

WHELAN WAS BORN in 1950 in Barrington Street, Limerick, the only child of parents who ran a newsagent’s shop on William Street. His father’s name was over the door in English and in Irish: David Whelan, Daithi O’Faolain. Inside, he sold An Phoblacht, the United Irishman, the Easter lilies. He was “enormously” proud of his Republicanism, as he was of his Labour politics, with both his own father and his brother serving as early Labour councillors in Limerick. Of the Civil War, though, his father gave little away, according to Whelan. “On that, he was very silent. As most people were.”

It was a house, too, of music. Whelan’s mother was a classically trained pianist, who had been to the Royal Irish Academy and had taken lessons with some of the eastern European pianists who came to Dublin in the 1930s. In the house, she played Chopin. His father was self-taught and “picked out chords” on the piano and accordion, but it was the harmonica, says Whelan, that “really opened him up”. On that instrument, he was a natural, and it’s a big regret for Whelan that he has no knowledge of how or why this was (his father died when Whelan was 21, before he thought to ask him such things). Whelan would also love to know how his father came to have such an extraordinary record collection: Thelonious Monk, Jussi Björling, Duke Ellington, Bill Haley, Renata Tebaldi, the Clancy Brothers.

Whelan does have some inkling of how there came to be in the house a piano so impressive that famous musicians and singers passing through Limerick (including pianist Charles Lynch and, later, the soprano Suzanne Murphy) would be told “Whelans have a nice Bechstein” and would come to try it out. And of how his father had, too, a Bell Howell projector around which he built a tiny cinema in the house, and a Vortexion tape recorder which would become the heart of the teenage Whelan’s first recording studio.

“They never took holidays,” he says of his parents. “Any money they had went on things like that”, by hire purchase if necessary. His father was what would today be called an early adapter, the 1950s equivalent of the nerd queuing outside the Apple store to see the latest Mac.

“He was fascinated by technology,” says Whelan. “He’d be fascinated, now, by the net.”

The beginnings of Whelan’s musical career involved some more primitive technology: two knives on an old toffee can, banged in accompaniment to his father’s harmonica. Further down the line, there were piano lessons, but he was an impatient student, something he feels he had to make up for later on.

“We seemed to spend the whole year just learning a couple of pieces for exams, and scales and arpeggios,” he says, “and I was very keen to get down to it, and to write songs, to be part of the mainstream of making music.”

He laughs. When his father would ask to hear what he had learned in piano class, the young Whelan would improvise, imitating an examination piece here, adding his own spin there. “He knew well,” remembers Whelan. “He used to just look out the window, but he just let me at it. He was very patient. And my parents never pushed music at me. It was just part of the environment.”

Whatever he was like as a piano student, Whelan was a precocious musician. In the recording studio built for him by his father in the attic in Barrington Street, he recorded a flute and piano piece which, sent to a friend in England, ended up finding its way to the ears of Limerick-born actor Richard Harris, who was then looking for theme music for his new film. He liked it, and Whelan was brought to London. There were parties (the Bee Gees and Christine Keeler in attendance), there was a recording studio not of the home-made, Vortexion variety, and there was a glitzy premiere of the finished film back in Limerick. At the premiere, a bomb scare cleared out the cinema. And the film flopped. Just as well, according to Whelan now.

“I thought it was the beginning, and the end,” he says of the gig. “I thought, ‘this is it’. So when the film did no business, it was back to reality. But, as usual, you still have to do the hours. And it was just as well really.”

HE STUDIED LAW at UCD, but his heart was in the demos he was making in Limerick and, later, after Polygram gave him an advance, in Dublin with musicians such as Louis Stewart and Dessie Reynolds. For several years, including the first years of his marriage, he was a jobbing session musician, in studios, in jazz groups, then in RTÉ. It was in RTÉ that he truly began to flex different muscles, arranging, writing, producing.

The late 1970s and early 1980s, as his children arrived (two sons and twin girls), were a melange of jobs and angles: keyboards on a Planxty album; a composition for a television series about Eamon de Valera, with Liam O’Flynn on pipes; a Eurovision interval act, Timedance, written with Donal Lunny in 1981. It was modern dance and trad, but the formula needed a little tweaking. He toured with Noel Pearson musicals, such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. With Van Morrison, in 1984, there was the score for the film Lamb. He produced records, including albums by Freddie White and Sligo band Those Nervous Animals, and a track (The Refugee) on U2’s 1983 album, War.

It was busy, it was frenetic, but it was far from secure, and money was extremely short. Whelan remembers a “disastrous, depressing” summer in New York, trying to follow up on some leads provided by Paul McGuinness, with a very young family in tow.

What made the difference? Not Riverdance – that was still a long way off. What changed the record, according to Whelan, was Windmill Lane.

“Before Windmill Lane, everyone, all the musicians – Van, Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher – went away,” he says. “The impetus was to get out of the country, never to engage with your own place. But the Windmill Lane thing reversed that tide. They brought all these support mechanisms back to Ireland. It was a hive – management, editing, production. There was a great sense that once we gather these skills, once we do this, we can make it happen from here.”

It is remembering this, he says, that colours his perspective on U2’s recent tax-related controversies.

“It’s all very well to see these things in the moment, but when you look across the broad picture, you know, the effects really were seismic in terms of how we saw ourselves,” he says. “And it did turn things around. You could see people coming to Ireland. Or you could present an idea to A&R people, and suddenly they’d listen.”

Whelan knows that Riverdance was his seismic shift, but at the same time he can’t view it in isolation from the work that came before it, such as Timedance or the eastern European-influenced album he produced with Andy Irvine and Davy Spillane, or his Seville Suite in 1992, or his orchestral work, The Spirit of Mayo, in 1993.

“To many people it seems like it was one night. And it was that, in a way, and that was important,” he says. “But all that work was all part of it, and then we got the break.

“So it was an explosion, yes. But it was an explosion of things that had accumulated over a long time.”

And 15 years later, you sense, he’s not entirely sorry that the aftershocks are finally starting to quieten down.

“We have all these bright people around the world. There is an Ireland now which is ready for post-recession . . . We need to put the Celtic Tiger stuff in a sort of bad cultural bank and move forward. 

April 2009

(Courtesy of The Irish Times newspaper)

This week sees a great opportunity for Irish musicians as Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music comes to Dublin to hold workshops and award scholarships to promising students. BRIAN BOYD reports

THERE’S A BEAUTIFUL noise coming from the Dublin Institute of Technology on the Rathmines Road. Guitars, harps, pianos, flutes and violins are all being eagerly put to use as a small army of musicians inside the building takes part in a series of improvisation workshops. In one room, Jim Kelly, a professor of guitar, is talking about “instantaneous composition” and leading by example; in another, strings virtuoso Matt Glaser is coaxing a bass harmony out of a young Irish pianist, and explaining its importance.

Both Kelly and Glaser are just two of a number of lecturers/musicians from Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music who have travelled over to Ireland for a week-long series of musical events known as “Berklee in Dublin”. All this week, Berklee has been welcoming musicians from whatever level of knowledge or type of genre into Rathmines DIT for a series of four-day improvisation workshops.

The opportunity to study with and learn from Berklee’s famous jazz-orientated faculty has attracted not just Irish musicians but those who have travelled from around Europe to attend. And, as always, Berklee is on the lookout for new talent. At the end of today’s session, it will award a series of summer scholarships in Boston to those who have impressed most during the workshops.

For tomorrow and Sunday, Berklee in Dublin moves over to Newpark Music Centre in Blackrock to audition and interview students from all over Europe for a series of full-time scholarships to study at Berklee.

THE ATTENDANCE FIGURES for both events will reflect Berklee’s status in music schooling. When it was founded in 1945, all other music schools were focused primarily on classical music. Berklee, however, offered a formal training in jazz – still an “outsider” musical form at the time – and while it is now regarded as the best jazz college in the world, it also offers courses in rock and other contemporary music forms, such as hip hop.

Its alumni include Quincy Jones, Keith Jarrett, Steve Vai, John Mayer, Aimee Mann and Melissa Etheridge. Its annual intake is in the region of 4,000 students and it has a faculty of around 500 professors and lecturers. To date, Berklee alumni have received 175 Grammy awards.

The school has strong links with Ireland. Its director of admissions, Damien Bracken, is from Dublin and is a graduate of TCD, while Riverdance composer Bill Whelan is on Berklee’s board of trustees. In 2007, U2 guitarist The Edge was awarded an honorary degree by the college.

“My role in Berklee arose from my membership of the board of trustees at the school,” says Bill Whelan. “When I attended the Perugia Jazz Festival, I noted that Berklee was auditioning young students and awarding scholarships to the most gifted. I also noted at a graduation ceremony I subsequently attended in Berklee that there was only one Irish young musician graduating.

“I approached Roger Brown, the president of the college, and as a result Berklee sent a group of their staff to meet with educators here. I arranged meetings with UCD, Trinity, UCD, University of Limerick, Queens, Dublin Institute of Technology, Maynooth and the Royal Irish Academy of Music. I also arranged an event at my home for the college to meet with musicians, composers and teachers.

“In association with Newpark Music Centre , with which Berklee has had a long association, this upcoming initiative was started. It was decided that it should focus on improvisation, and invite young musicians from all disciplines (classical and trad included) to study an introductory course in improvisation over a period of a week, and then to audition for the college at the same time.”

Berklee has a strong overseas student representation, but Irish students are still a minority. Berklee in Dublin is an attempt to remedy this, not just by enticing students to study there on full scholarships but also by establishing more formal links. The idea is to create a constant flow of students and musical ideas between Ireland and Boston, with improvisation techniques being exported to Dublin and young Irish talent travelling to Boston.

Berklee has been holding auditions at Newpark Music Centre for the last 10 years, and Newpark music director Nigel Flegg says the links will become even stronger this September when, as expected, students taking the college’s BA in jazz (the first of its kind in this country) will be able to spend a year or two in Berklee as part of their degree programme. Berklee students will also be able to spend time in Newpark.

It’s not all about jazz though. Berklee’s assistant vice-president for international programmes, Greg Badolato, says the whole idea of the improvisation workshop is to recognise the musical strength of the host country, so he was pleased to see not just jazz students but also traditional, rock and pop musicians avail of the four-day stint at Rathmines.

“Improvisation may be largely associated with jazz,” he says, “but what we have been doing here in Dublin is offering the general techniques that are employed by improvisers and then demonstrating these techniques as they apply to various styles.”

When Berklee first opened, jazz was the most important and popular non-classical musical form, but in a much-changed and much-fragmented musical world, the school has now expanded away from its jazz base. In the 1960s Berklee began teaching rock’n’roll, and it has since created the first degree programmes in film scoring, music synthesis and songwriting. Over the last few years it has added hip-hop, electronica and video-game music to its curriculum. Tellingly, perhaps, a degree in music business/management is now one of its most popular courses.

SO WHAT AWAITS those Irish musicians who will be travelling over to Berklee, either for a summer course or a full-time degree course? One of the first Irish students to attend the college was flautist Brian Dunning.

“I think I was the first person to get Arts Council funding to study anything other than classical music,” he says. “I attended Berklee in the 1970s and it was a great experience. I had first heard about it from reading biographies of these really cool jazz musicians, and it seemed they all had studied there.

“It’s not just the college, it’s the city. In the same way that trad musicians meet here for sessions, the same happens with the jazz musicians in Boston. I was one of only two or three flute players there and we studied our principal instrument as well as harmony, listening and music analysis courses.”

Dunning left before completing the degree courses to release a number of albums with a band called Nightnoise and is now a member of Puck Fair. His music can be heard on the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s film, Gangs of New York.

“I never got the piece of paper from Berklee,” he says, “but I was learning and playing jazz with some great people – and that was enough for me.” 

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times 

March 2009

Irish Repertory Theatre, New York
April 8th – May 3rd 2009

The Irish Repertory Theatre will begin previews of The Yeats Project on Wednesday, April 8, presenting all 26 plays written by William Butler Yeats performed in repertory. Eight of the plays will receive fully mounted productions on the Mainstage of the Theatre whilst the remaining 18 plays will receive Concert readings in the downstairs Studio Theatre.

The fully mounted plays on the Mainstage in Cycle A are: The Countess Cathleen, The Cat And The Moon, and On Baile’s Strand. Mainstage productions in Cycle B are: The Land of Heart’s Desire, The Pot of Broth, Purgatory, A Full Moon In March and Cathleen Ni Houlihan.

The Countess Cathleen, The Cat And The Moon, The Land of Heart’s Desire, and On Baile’s Strand are directed by Charlotte Moore. The Pot of Broth, Purgatory, A Full Moon In March and Cathleen Ni Houlihan are directed by Ciarán O’Reilly. The remaining eighteen plays will receive concert readings in the Studio Theatre at The Irish Repertory Theatre. These plays: At the Hawk’s Well, Calvary, Deirdre, The Hour Glass, The King’s Threshold, Oedipus Rex, The Resurrection, The Shadowy Waters, The Words upon the Window Pane, The Green Helmet, The Only Jealousy of Emer, The Unicorn from the Stars, The Player Queen, The Dreaming of the Bones, Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, The King of the Great Clock Tower, The Herne’s Egg, and The Death of Cuchulain, will be directed by George C. Heslin, Artistic Director and Founder of Origin Theatre Company.

Other scheduled events include five special poetry evenings featuring distinguished guests, a Dance Recital from Darrah Carr Dance, a movie screening of Words Upon the Window Pane starring Geraldine Chaplin, Gerald McSorley, and Donal Donnelly, and a literary evening featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, Colm McCann, and special musical guests. Marian Seldes, Brian F. O’Byrne, John McMartin and David Staller will host an open microphone night wherein the general public are invited to take the stage and perform a favorite Yeats poem.

In association with The Yeats Project, Glucksman Ireland House will present distinguished Yeats scholars; Prof. John Kelly of St. John’s College, Oxford, and Prof. Ronald Schuchard of Emory University who will discuss their collaboration on the most recent volume of “one of the great works of literary scholarship of our time” (London Review of Books), The Collected Letters of W.B. Yeats: Volume IV (OUP, 2005). This volume, covering the crucial years 1905-1907, was awarded the ninth Morton N. Cohen Award for a Distinguished Edition of Letters and is the fourth of a projected fifteen volumes.

The American Irish Historical Society will host a special reading of The Words upon the Window Pane which will be accompanied by a screening of The Other World: Yeats and the Esoteric.

A panel discussion moderated by Professor James Flannery of Emory University and featuring Bill Whelan, composer of Riverdance and music director for The Yeats Festival at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, plus world renowned master puppeteer Roman Pasca, will focus on Form and Idea in the Theatre of Yeats.

There will be a special one time reading of Sailing to Byzantium by Sandra Deer, an original play featuring the characters of Yeats, Ezra Pound, and their various lovers including Maud Gonne and Olivia Shakespear.

Performances on the Mainstage are Wednesday – Saturday at 8 PM, Matinees are Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 3 PM. Please visit The Irish Rep website for the complete schedule of events.

Tickets to The Yeats Project are on sale now. A special $100 Festival Pass is good for one admission to all Yeats Project events presented at The Irish Rep, subject to availability on a first-come, first-served basis. Single tickets to each Cycle A and Cycle B performances, $65 and $55. Single tickets to all other events, are $20. Patron’s Circle Membership discounts are not available on Festival Pass tickets. Tickets can be purchased by calling (212) 727-2737 or at the Box Office. The Irish Repertory Theatre is located at 132 West 22nd Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues. For more information, visit

Founded by Ciarán O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore, The Irish Repertory Theatre opened its doors in September 1988 with Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars and is celebrating its 21st season. The Irish Rep is currently the only year-round theatre company in New York City devoted to bringing Irish and Irish American works to the stage. Recognized with the Jujamcyn Theatres Award, a special Drama Desk Award for “Excellence in Presenting Distinguished Irish drama,” and the Lucille Lortel Award for “Outstanding Body of Work,” The Irish Rep has celebrated the very best in Irish theatre for over twenty years, from the masters to the new generation of Irish and Irish American writers who are transforming the stage. Nearly 40,000 audience members annually attend productions at our theatre located in the heart of New York’s Off Broadway community. Once here, they witness The Irish Rep’s engaging perspective on the Irish and their unique contributions to the world of drama.

Hear the concert which was broadcast on St Patricks night live from the Waterfront Hall Belfast. 
Listen here


BILL WHELAN – A CELEBRATION, 17 March 2009 at 8pm
A night of music celebrating one of Ireland’s most distinguished musicians and composers. The Ulster Orchestra and international guest soloists perform works by Bill Whelan:


Broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster

Bill Whelan is perhaps best known as the composer of Riverdance, the Grammy award winning dance and music sensation which gripped the world following the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. But his career is broad and varied. He has produced U2, composed film scores such as Dancing at Lughnasa and Lamb (with Van Morrison) and he was a member of the seminal traditional music group Planxty.

But on Tuesday 17 March, Bill Whelan’s focus is firmly set on Belfast for a special St Patrick’s night celebration of his music at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast featuring the Ulster Orchestra and a host of international soloists.

One of the highlights of the evening is a new composition – The War Graves – a setting of the poem by Michael Longley, Professor of Poetry for Ireland. The Belfast poet, who celebrates his 70th birthday this year, will recite the poem, accompanied by the Ulster Orchestra. This special piece also features the acclaimed young Scottish singer and musician, Julie Fowlis (BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year 2010).

Throughout the evening, Bill is joined on stage by some of Ireland’s leading musicians, including the fiddle player and singer/songwriter Sharon Corr from The Corrs.

The night is also somewhat of a reunion for the original musicians who recorded Whelan’s large scale orchestral work The Seville Suite. Written for the Seville Expo in 1992 the work charts the Flight of the Earls from “Kinsale to La Coruna”. The work features three of Ireland’s best know traditional musicians – Declan Masterson, uilleann pipes, Máirtín O’Connor, accordion and bodhrán player Mel Mercier, as well as three outstanding musicians from Galicia – harpist Rodrigo Romani, and whistle/pipe players Xosé V. Ferreiros and Nando Casal.

Some of Bill Whelan’s more recent compositions are also included in the programme. Violinist Fionnuala Hunt returns to her native Belfast as soloist in Inishlacken, a work inspired by an island off the coast of Galway. Fionnuala is joined by the young Dublin fiddle player Aoife O’Brien.

Two of the stars from Riverdance appear as special guests – the leading Irish dancer Colin Dunne and renowned Spanish Flamenco dancer, Yolanda Gonzalez Sobrado.

Bill Whelan says, “It is a real pleasure to be coming to Belfast where I have not performed since the early 1980s with Planxty. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with the superb Ulster Orchestra on a whole evening of my music. It is rare that one gets a chance to assemble such a great collection musicians and performers from at home and abroad, and I am particularly pleased that this is happening in Belfast, where I have had long personal associations.”

The concert is presented by John Toal live on BBC Radio Ulster.

For more information

February 2009

The Ulster Orchestra and international soloists, conducted by David Brophy will perform a night of music by Bill Whelan on 17th March 2009 at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. Featuring some of Bill’s best known work including The Seville Suite, Inishlacken and Riverdance, the concert will be presented by BBC Radio Ulster’s John Toal and broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster.

Concert starts at 8.00pm
Concert Duration 2 hours

berkleeBerklee College of Music is holding their first ever improvisation workshop in Ireland from April 13 – 17, 2009 hosted by Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) in collaboration with Newpark Music Centre. The workshop will invite participants to become acquainted with the fundamental skill of improvisation, from its underlying theories and stylistic considerations to how it relates to the composer’s craft. This workshop is intended for all musicians, from classical to Irish traditional, from pop and rock to jazz, and more. Participants will study with Berklee’s world renowned faculty, including violinist Matt Glaser, guitarists John McGann and Jim Kelly, bassist Michael Farquharson, and saxophonist Greg Badolato.

Founded in 1945, Berklee College of Music is located in Boston, MA, with many of its students progressing on to successful careers as composers, performers, producers, engineers, educators and business professionals. Some recognisable names amongst their award winning alumini include Quincy Jones, Melissa Etheridge, Bill Frisell, Steve Vai and John Mayer.

Bill Whelan’s involvement with Berklee began in March 2007 when he was invited to joint the Board of Trustees. Over the last two years Bill has engaged actively with The President of Berklee and the Berklee staff in exploring ways to introduce young Irish musicians to the school and to try to facilitate study opportunities for them at this superb institution. This Improvisation Workshop is the first step in what is hoped will be a growing relationship between students and colleges in Ireland and Berklee in the USA.

For more information on Berklee in Dublin: Improvisation Workshop 2009, please go to 

January 2009

The JMI have opened their archive free to online readers, so if you missed Bill’s interview with Toner Quinn in their July/August 2008 issue (Vol 8, No 4) please go to for a chance to read it and more…

The Dublin Philharmonic performs music by Irish composers as part of a 49-city tour of the United States during January-March 2009.

The orchestra’s inaugural American tour, under the direction of music director Derek Gleeson and principal conductor Colman Pearce, will feature four different concert programmes, one of which will exclusively focus on Irish composers.

The Celtic Spectacular concert will blend traditional and contemporary Irish music and feature music by Patrick Cassidy, Vincent Kennedy (including the premiere ofDreams, a new 10-minute work for solo violin and orchestra specially written for violinist Cora Venus Lunny), Mick Langan and Bill Whelan (his concerto for traditional fiddle and classical violin, Inishlacken).

Vincent KennedyMick LanganBill Whelan
Vincent KennedyMick LanganBill Whelan

Soloists featured on the tour include Celine Byrne (soprano), Cora Venus Lunny (violin), Conor Linehan and Peter Tuite (piano), Frankie Gavin and Athena Tergis (fiddle), Aidan O’Brien (uilleann pipes, flute and whistle), and Peadar Townsend (percussion).

The tour, under the auspices of Columbia Artists Management, begins on Saturday 10 January in Orlando, Florida and ends on Tuesday 17 March in Costa Mesa, California.

For details, please see our calendar at

September 2008

Applications are currently being sought for the next round of The Bill Whelan International Music Bursary. The Bursary programme which was established in 2004 to support Irish music students studying abroad has already assisted a number of students from different disciplines ranging from film scoring, orchestration and music composition to continue their studies in the UK, USA and Germany. The bursary scheme is administered with the assistance of The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO).

The very high costs associated with studying at prominent international music institutions raises significant obstacles for most Irish students offered places at such universities. The introduction of this award eases the burden significantly. Ongoing support and mentoring from the bursary selection team means that students are in a prime position to maximise their study and networking opportunities. 

“As we head into year four, I am delighted to note the progress in the work and careers of the recipients to date and would encourage any students to come forward for the 2008 awards. Since I first launched the Bursary scheme with IMRO’s co-operation in 2004, I have been investigating some further opportunities for Irish students to study abroad, and am actively engaged with institutions here and elsewhere to see how this might be expanded in the future. I expect to have something new to announce before this Bursary completes its term in 2008” outlined Bill Whelan at the announcement of bursary deadlines for 2008.

“Receiving the financial support which enabled me to study Screen Composition at the Royal College of Music in London in 2006 was just one of the incredible privileges that came my way through being a Bill Whelan Bursary recipient. Along with the respect that has come from being supported by Bill, I can barely describe the extent to which his sustained encouragement and enthusiasm has accelerated my career and personal development as a composer, both at and away from my writing desk. Having studied and worked alongside so many ’emerging’ composers also fighting for successful careers, I am constantly aware of the gift the Bill Whelan Bursary has been to me, and have yet to hear of a funding scheme that can offer anything comparable ” added bursary recipient Anna Rice. 

Bill Whelan, best known as composer of Riverdance The Show, a Grammy Award winner for ‘Best Musical Show Album’, has worked extensively in theatre, television and film. His orchestral works include the specially commissioned piece, The Seville Suite (1992) and The Spirit Of Mayo (1993). His work in international film includes Lamb which he co-composed with Van Morrison, his emotive score for the Jim Sheridan/Terry George film Some Mother’s Son and the original score for the film version of Brian Friel’s award winning Dancing At Lughnasa which starred Meryl Streep. His production and arranging credits include U2, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, Richard Harris and The Dubliners. 

Bill speaks to Galway Bay FM and Mid-West Radio
Bill speaks live today to Keith Finnegan of Galway Bay FM and Paul Claffey of Mid West FM Radio about the upcoming performances of Riverdance The Show in Castlebar. The show runs at the new Royal Theatre in Castlebar from September 3rd until 9th for more information check out

July 2008

Bill Whelan in conversation with Toner Quinn of the JMI. This wide ranging interview is available to JMI subscribers at

“Doing Something Irish” from Thomas Moore to Riverdance.
The first in a series of UCD Scholarcasts, given by PJ Mathews, lecturer at the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin. An analysis of Thomas Moore’s Irish melodies and looks at Riverdance as a stable signifier of a complex cultural moment. To hear more please go to

June 2008

A new work by 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang receives its first performance in Dublin in June.

The Dublin based group, Crash Ensemble, is to give the world premiere of a David Lang work in a concert of music commissioned from American and Irish composers.

Presented under the banner of ‘Crash Originals’ at the Vicar Street venue, Thomas Street, Dublin on 10 June at 8pm, the concert includes two works first heard in 2007 — Gerald Barry’s First Sorrow and Kevin Volans’ Joining Up the Dots.

Based on a story by Franz Kafka, Barry’s strings-based work quotes the lullaby Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and, says the composer, is ‘about a trapeze artist who is happy only when aloft’. Volans has a long association with the Crash Ensemble, which premiered one of his works at RTÉ’s Living Music Festival last year.

Donnacha Dennehy’s Grá agus Bás (featuring guest vocalist Iarla Ó Lionáird) concludes the Irish contribution while Terry Riley’s Ancient Giant Nude Hairy Warriors Racing Down the Slopes of Battle completes the American involvement.

For further information and ticket sales please visit or (tickets are €20/€18 from any ticketmaster agents)

May 2008

Helene Dunbar meets Bill Whelan and finds out that his latest work explores a deeper side of his psyche. Click here to read the interview

Interview with Kirsten Tagami of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Bill speaks to Kirsten Tagami of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution while in town for Riverdance The Show at the Fox Theatre. Click here to read the interview

Globalising Irish Music
As part of the University College Dublin Scholarcast series, Bill was invited to give a lecture on “Globalising Irish Music”. Download the lecture or transcript.

April 2008

The Seven Ages
This is a ground-breaking history charting the birth, growth and development of the Irish state since its foundation in 1921. For this unique television series, two ex-presidents—Patrick Hillery and Mary Robinson—have given extensive interviews, as have three former Taoisigh Garret FitzGerald, Charles Haughey and—in his first-ever television interview—Liam Cosgrave. In frank and extended conversations, free from the burdens of office, they discuss the roles they played in shaping the modern Irish history. The series is a visual and oral record, a testimony from eye-witnesses both well-known and unknown, of the history, politics, culture and religion of the Irish state.

Music composed by Bill Whelan

DVD Available on Buy4Now

Zoë Conway
Zoë has recorded two solo albums to date, both released to critical acclaim. The first, simply titled Zoë Conway, was produced by Bill Whelan and received second place in the Irish Times top five releases of the year. The second, The Horse’s Tail, was released in October 2006 and similarly appeared on the top five trad releases of the year. For this album, she was commended by critics for capturing a sound which harks back to old LP recordings and reveals the raw energy of Irish traditional music. Both albums showcase Zoë’s original compositions alongside older traditional tunes. She has just released her first DVD, Zoë Conway Live, which is available exclusively on her website.

VANESSA MAE – Choreography
Vanessa Mae makes her Sony Classical debut and marks a new musical direction with the release of Choreography, a highly original album that celebrates dance rhythms from around the world. Original pieces and fresh arrangements have been created for the album by the Oscar-winning Vangelis, Bill Whelan of Riverdance (Emerald Tiger), Indian film composer A.R. Rahman (the musical Bombay Dreams) and Tolga Kashif (The Queen Symphony), amongst others. Vanessa Mae website.

May 2008


Helene Dunbar meets Bill Whelan and finds out that his latest work explores a deeper side of his psyche.

Bill Whelan’s name is, of course, synonymous with “Riverdance”, the seven-minute composition written for the interval of 1994’s Eurovision Song Contest that went on, as a full-length production, to take over the world of musical theatre. And it would be easy, 24 years on now, to fill a book about the impact that the show has had on the worldwide perception and popularity of Irish music and dance.

But Whelan, who has played keyboards with Planxty, produced records for the likes of U2, Kate Bush, and Patrick Street, written award-winning theatrical, film, and television scores, and composed a slew of highly acclaimed orchestral works, views his seminal show as simply one step on his musical journey.

His newest work, “The Connemara Suite” (Tara Records) is performed by the Irish Chamber Orchestra conducted by David Jones and features Zoe Conway (solo fiddle), Morgan Crowley (vocal and lilting), Colin Dunne (dance percussion), Fionnuala Hunt (solo violin), and Michelle Mulcahy (harp) . “From a personal perspective it doesn’t represent too much of a shift since many of the things I’ve done since the late 1980’s onwards would have had an orchestral aspect to it,” explains Whelan. “For me to move towards chamber music was somewhat accidental but when I did get connected to it, I began to enjoy it.”

Setting out to “write for traditional musicians within the framework of a chamber orchestra” Whelan admits, comes with intrinsic challenges. “There are always problems that apply when you work with traditional instruments and an orchestra. For instance, if you involve the pipes even the best piper in the world is bound by the fact that his instrument will only play two octaves. In ‘The Connemara Suite’, I worked deliberately with instruments that weren’t subject to those constraints. Zoe plays traditional fiddle but she is also a classically trained musician who can move in and out of the tradition. Michelle plays Irish harp – it’s not a concert harp so it’s not as flexible – but she plays melodic and accompanies herself in a unique way so that at times she sounds like two harpists, or a harpist and a guitar. Most interesting is Colin Dunne – He is probably one of the most extraordinary Irish dancers in that he is very much rooted in the tradition but is not afraid to move out and have a look at what’s going on elsewhere.”

That philosophy is something that Whelan also tries to exemplify, particularly in the second of ‘The Connemara Suite’s three pieces, Errisbeg. “It uses pieces of the Irish tradition but I’ve also tried to flex some slightly different muscles in terms of my own writing,” he explains. “It’s probably not as accessible as other parts of my music. But, I feel that this album, even though it’s got none of the pizzazz of “Riverdance”, or none of the big orchestral power, has strengths in other ways that are moving slightly more towards a darker side of my own emotional expression.” 

Additionally, Whelan is also working on another piece of music theatre. He has been asked to create a work for New York’s Metropolitan Opera. “I got a call asking if I would write ‘a musical or an opera’. Its wide open and this was the spirit of the whole adventure and indeed it is an adventure for everyone involved. They’ve asked people like myself, Wynton Marsalis, and Rufus Wainwright to write – which a leap of faith on the part of (Met’s General Manager) Peter Gelb and (Lincoln Center Theatre’s Artistic Director) Andrea Bishop that they wanted to stimulate some new writing and see what comes out of it. But as to what it is, and what it will be, it’s early to say.” 

To Whelan, his focus on a more classical style is a return to the path that the success of ‘Riverdance’ diverted him from. “As with many people in Ireland who came through the music industry in the 70’s and 80’s I kind of had to do everything to survive. And I’d made a decision that that was getting me nowhere and that I was only going to write.” Out of that period grew “The Seville Suite” which Whelan wrote for the celebration of Ireland’s National Day at Expo ’92 and “The Spirit of Mayo”, performed in 1993 in Dublin’s National Concert Hall. And then “Riverdance”. 

“‘Riverdance’ was a massive rock to throw into the water and it created quite a splash in the personal lives of those involved and by ‘personal’ I include the artistic life.” says Whelan. “It gave me a certain amount of financial comfort which was a completely new experience. But on the negative side …we developed more shows, took the show to America, developed a second company. I spent a number of years, it seems, auditioning new musicians, going to Australia, Japan, doing press. When I look back, I wonder, what would have happened had I had the confidence to say ‘it’s up and it’s running, goodbye.’ Yes, ‘Riverdance’ made a big difference. But while not many people would have sympathy with me because I have done very well out of it, I also have to live with myself personally and there are times I have wondered ‘if it hadn’t been there, would I have done something else less interesting financially and in terms of global impact but artistically interesting for me? Would I have done a show with puppets in Paris or something?’ 

“But in a way,” he laughs. “‘Get over it Bill’. I like what’s happening now. The Connemara Suite is almost like a centering, a reconnection with where I want to go musically. I’m glad I did it and certainly the thing here at the Met is right.” 

“But at times both the size of ‘Riverdance’ and eventually the expectation for me to do another ‘Riverdance’ became somewhat of a weight. I felt we did it and it would be dishonoring where it came from if I tried to do it again and to cash in on it. ‘Riverdance’ didn’t cash in on anything that was already there. It was something that came out on its own. I remember Fintan Vallely, who was writing, I think, in the Irish Times, said that whatever he felt about the show and he had critical things to say about it, he did not look forward to the outpouring of imitators and copiers that would follow. I remember reading that and saying ‘that is not going to happen.’ And it did unfortunately.” 

About the new crop of Celtic music shows Whelan says wryly “Well, they all have the word ‘Celtic’ in them. I don’t really want to get involved in a commentary about any of them frankly, I can only speak about the show that I know and that is ‘Riverdance’. To many people ‘Riverdance’ may have seemed like an explosion on an evening. To those of us ‘involved with it, and to me in particular, it represented a stage along a track. Now it was a very lucky stage and a very important stage but it nevertheless came out of something. I called it ‘Riverdance’ because of its connection to ‘Timedance’ which I wrote in 1981 with Donal Lunny. I made that connection deliberately because to me it was a continuance of that work; it was a continuance of my work with ‘EastWind’ (Andy Irvine/Davey Spillane); it was a continuance of my work with ‘Seville Suite’; it didn’t just happen. It came out of somewhere.”

“And that somewhere,” muses Whelan, “was really pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland, which is another Celtic that I have quite a bit of issue with. I’m not sure if I understand the Ireland that is painted as the Celtic Tiger Ireland. It’s not one that I personally relate to even though ‘Riverdance’ is often used as its cultural icon. I reject that absolutely and I’m sorry if people say ‘tough luck that’s what it is.’ But we never saw it becoming what it became. I would put my hand on my heart and say that ‘Riverdance’ had nothing to do with a cynical attempt to make money.” 

He continues, “You know, Michael Flatly did his own show and if anyone had a right to try to do another Irish dance show, he did. He was absolutely in his rights to do it and I have no problem with that. But it’s something about what it says about ourselves. Irish people should be a little more confident than feeling ‘look, we’re just going to get one shot here – let’s really milk this thing.’ We should say ‘we’re going to do something different now. We’re going to take them all a little bit by surprise and instead of doing the same thing; we’re going to do something quite a bit different.'” 

As for traditional music, Whelan says “I sense it’s in some kind of pause. I think it’s currently healthy but that people are regrouping, having a think about where next to go with it. There’s a lot of interest in it still, a lot of young people taking it up. The work of Comhaltas, the Fleadh in Ireland, and the Willy Clancy School – these are all fantastic things and should be minded and guarded and we’ll always have to go back to these things to move forward – little touchstones of the purity of the tradition.” 

Growing up in a home with not only traditional music but also everything from Verdi, to Glenn Miller, to Elvis Presley, Whelan believes in both the purity of tradition and that things must keep moving forward in new and unexpected ways. “I think it’s important to keep your ears open. I believe that every kind of music has its own truths and its own abilities to communicate and if you stay with it long enough you’ll find it. There are things there that are part of Jewish Klezmer, and Eastern European music, and Argentinean Tango that are available to speak to all of us. Why should a guy from Brazil connect to Irish music? Because anyone can. It’s everybody’s music really. Even though we make it for ourselves, it belongs to the world.”

Interview by Helene Dunbar
Reprinted courtesy of Irish Music Magazine and taken from June issue 2008