Latest Appointments and Awards in Music (September 2023)

Fiddle player Zoë Conway – new Associate Artist with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Latest Appointments and Awards in Music (September 2023)

A round-up of recent appointments and awards in music with news from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Drogheda Classical Music, BBC Philharmonic, Fingal County Council, London Symphony Orchestra and the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

The RTÉ Concert Orchestra has announced fiddle player, singer and composer Zoë Conway as Associate Artist.

Conway has collaborated with the orchestra on a range of projects over the years, including concerts, broadcasts, recordings, a Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann appearance and a tour of China. As Associate Artist, she joins an artistic team that includes Principal Guest Conductor Stephen Bell, Associate Principal Conductor Gavin Maloney, and Associate Artist and jazz trumpeter and composer Guy Barker.

Commenting on her appointment, Conway said:

I feel privileged to bring my music to this wonderful orchestra as playing with them is one of my favourite things to do! I just love that place where Irish traditional and orchestral worlds come together, and I feel this collaboration is an exciting development for my music and voice as a composer and performer, and an important development of our living, breathing tradition.

Her first concert with the orchestra in her new role will take place on 15 November at the National Concert Hall. The first half will feature the world premiere of the film From a Forest to a Fiddle accompanied by live performance of a score by Conway, while the second half will include her Desert Storm/Rounding Malin Head and Bill Whelan’s Riverdance.

From a Forest to a Fiddle is a meditative artistic timelapse film capturing craftsman Jim McKillop making a fiddle in his rural workshop in the Cooley Mountains. McKillop stopped making instruments but was persuaded by Conway – who buys all her fiddles from him – to make one more so his process could be captured. The film is a celebration of tradition, craft and nature, exploring how a rough piece of sycamore becomes a fiddle, and was supported by An Táin Arts Centre and the Arts Council, and commissioned by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Performing alongside Conway in November will be John McIntyre, Dónal Lunny, Louise Mulcahy and John Sheahan with conductor Stephen Bell.



Drogheda Classical Music has announced the appointment of singer Dr Gavan Ring as its new Artistic Administrator, succeeding Pauline Ashwood, who has taken up the role of Head of Planning at Irish National Opera.

As well as being an opera singer, Ring has worked as an arts producer with Irish National Opera, Cork Opera House, RTÉ Lyric FM, Chapman University Los Angeles, Kerry County Arts and the Cahersiveen Festival of Music and the Arts in curating and delivering classical music events. Ring will lead Drogheda Classical Music into its eleventh season, which started this month.

Dr Ring studied at the Schola Cantorum at St Finian’s College Mullingar before reading music and education at DCU. A RIAM doctoral graduate, he is also an alumnus of the National Opera Studio in London. He has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms under Sir Simon Rattle, with the Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Prinzregententheater under Keri Lynn-Wilson, and has had frequent appearances at Wigmore Hall. He has also had leading roles at Glyndebourne, Opéra Royal de Versailles, Welsh National Opera and Wexford Festival Opera.

Gavan Ring 

Commenting on his appointment, Dr Ring said:

It has long been a dream of mine to lead a classical music festival or series. Like my predecessor Pauline, I extract an unbridled joy out of bringing classical artists together to make exceptional music and, in turn, giving a unique and life-affirming experience to an audience.

Obviously, as an artist, I have had the consummate pleasure of performing at Drogheda Classical Music on numerous occasions since its inception in 2012 but I have also made no secret of the incredible regard I have for the series as a cultural powerhouse; and for the superlative bar of excellence Pauline Ashwood and her team have set with regard to the regionalisation of classical music in Ireland and concurrently how the series has greatly enriched the social and cultural fibre of the north east of the country. I am honoured and humbled to be joining the Drogheda Classical Music team and becoming a part of the next chapter in the story of its already incredible legacy.



Fingal County Council has announced the appointment of Sarah O’Neill as the new Fingal Arts Officer.

O’Neill is the second person to assume the role, following the retirement of longstanding Arts Officer Rory O’Byrne after almost 30 years of service. She has been the Deputy Arts Officer since 2007, having joined as Assistant Arts Officer in 2005 and has over 25 years’ experience in arts development.

A graduate of Edinburgh College of Art with a BA in photography, O’Neill holds an MA in Arts Management and Cultural Policy from University College Dublin where she also completed a professional internship in Christies, New York, and, in 2014, she completed the Common Purpose Leadership Programme. She previously worked as Publicity Officer and Head of Marketing and Development at the Edinburgh College of Art and worked for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Perrier Comedy Awards. She also taught on the photography degree programmes at the Edinburgh College of Art and Napier University. As an artist in her own right Sarah has exhibited her photographic work in the UK, USA and Italy.


Commenting on O’Neill’s appointment, AnnMarie Farrelly, Chief Executive of Fingal County Council, said:

Sarah has been a part of the Arts Office since 2005 and has done incredible work so far in advancing the arts infrastructure in Fingal. I have no doubt that her succession to the role will be seamless, and I look forward to seeing what she will achieve in her future here at Fingal.



The London Symphony Orchestra has announced that composers Rufus Isabel Elliot and Anselm McDonnell have been appointed to the LSO Jerwood Composer+ scheme. They will participate in a 15-month placement, developing and delivering two artistic projects while gaining entrepreneurial skills through mentoring by LSO staff.

Elliot and McDonnell will also have access to composition workshops and mentoring from other composers, industry professionals and musicians to develop their artistic practice and programme a showcase work of their own, as well as works by other composers. Both composers will present their first concerts in January and March 2024 at LSO St Luke’s.

Elliot is originally from Tower Hamlets in London and now lives in North West Scotland. So far this year, the composer has been working on a new work for Tectonics Festival and a new collaborative work with artists Miek Zwamborn and Rutger Emmelkamp of Knockvologan Studies, Isle of Mull. Commenting on the news, Elliot said: ‘I’m enjoying how much creative energy the project is already bringing me, as I anticipate bringing together works and ideas I’m excited about alongside composing new works for such amazing players.’

Rufus Isabel Elliot (Photo: Bethany Chalmers)

McDonnell is an Irish/Welsh composer based in Belfast who has composed over 80 pieces for orchestra, chamber groups, choirs, soloists and electronics.

He has been commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra and the Crash Ensemble and his music features on nine CDs, including two self-released albums, Light of Shore (2021) and Kraina (late 2023). McDonnell commented: ‘It’s both challenging and extremely rewarding to work with such excellent musicians. It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for thinking outside the box.’

Anselm McDonnell (Photo: Laura Sheeran)



In funding news, the Irish Traditional Music Archive has been awarded €1 million under the Shared Island Arts Investment scheme, which is a collaboration between the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland with government support.

ITMA was one of five projects selected for funding, with a total allocation of €7.4 million. The projects were brought forward by the two Arts Councils and approved by government in July 2022, subject to finalisation of each project proposal.

The €1 million in funding for ITMA will be used to develop a new residential studio space by restoring the OPW’s two-bedroom mews at the rear of the Archive on Merrion Square, and to enhance digitisation capacity to promote all-island artist and archivist collaborations.

Commenting on the announcement, ITMA Director Liam O’Connor said:

ITMA believes in celebrating the diversity of traditions within our shared traditional music culture and are excited about playing a special role in raising awareness of the centuries-old processes with melodies, songs and dances moving North, South, East and West bridging all social, political or physical barriers. ITMA aims to be a living archive serving a living tradition, and this funding heralds an important milestone in our development as custodians of the largest collection of its type in the world.



English composer Anna Clyne has been appointed as Composer in Association with the BBC Philharmonic.

Clyne will compose three new scores for the orchestra. Her first piece is Glasslands, which she composed for saxophonist Jess Gillam, and it will have its UK premiere with the BBC Philharmonic at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on 5 October and will also be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

Glasslands conjures an imaginary world of three realms governed by the banshee – the female spirit who, in Irish folk tradition, heralds the death of a family member, usually by wailing, shrieking or keening in the silence of the night.

Clyne’s appointment builds on an existing relationship with the orchestra, which includes the UK premiere of This Midnight Hour at The Bridgewater Hall in 2020, and Anna Clyne in Focus, which saw students from the Royal Northern College of Music perform side by side with members of the BBC Philharmonic. Three of Clyne’s original soundscapes were performed alongside original student compositions at the concert in the BBC Philharmonic Studios at MediaCityUK earlier this year.

Anna Clyne

Commenting on the news, Clyne said:

I am very excited to take up my new role with the BBC Philharmonic. They are a unique and very special ensemble, committed to the community they serve in Manchester and inspired in their choice of repertoire. It has already been a fantastic experience collaborating with them and Jess Gillam on Glasslands and I look forward to creating the next piece with them.



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Published on 28 September 2023

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