Bill Whelan’s Tribute to Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin to be Premiered at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann
Composer Bill Whelan will premiere a new work for orchestra and soloists this weekend as a tribute to the late Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin. Part of a concert at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann featuring Zoë Conway and John McIntyre with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the new piece, titled Lament and Exultation, will be performed on Sunday 11 August followed by a repeat of the programme at the National Concert Hall on Friday 16 August. The tribute will be played by Conway, uilleann piper Mick O’Brien, pianist Brian Connor and the RTÉ CO conducted by David Brophy.
Speaking to the Journal of Music, Whelan said, ‘The last time I met Mícheál was when I played at the Fleadh last year with Zoë and the Concert Orchestra. That was the last time I saw him.’ When Conway asked Whelan to write a new piece for this year’s concert, he felt it would be appropriate to honour the late composer, pianist and educator who died in November 2018.
Whelan was first drawn to Ó Súilleabháin’s music in the mid-1980s when he heard the piano album The Dolphin’s Way.
I recall being drawn into him when I first heard the Venture [label] recordings that he did and being really stimulated by what was to me a … very inventive way to engage with the tradition with a very unique pianistic style.
Whelan’s new 7-minute work is a lament but also draws on Ó Súilleabháin’s original approach to performing traditional music on the piano.
I wrote a lament for him and then I wrote something that I felt drew a little on the whole influential style that he had. I’ve drawn particularly on his pianistic style…. There are quotes within it, particularly at the end, that will draw him very much to mind.
The concert will also feature a complete performance of Whelan’s Seville Suite (featuring O’Brien on pipes, Máirtín O’Connor on accordion, and flamenco dancer Yolanda Gonzáles Sobrado), ‘Firedance’ from Riverdance (with McIntyre on guitar), new compositions by Conway and McIntyre, a new work called Waking the Hare by Dónal Lunny (who will also perform), and Ripples in the Rockpools by Shaun Davey.
Tickets for the Sunday night concert in Drogheda are sold out. For the Dublin concert, visit www.nch.ie.