“Traditional Irish music has been part of my life from the very start, again via the parents’ record collection initially, and then hearing my mother’s late brother, Tomás Ó Canainn, play and sing. An uilleann piper, singer and composer, he was an important musician of his time, and generous to me in sharing his music.
I was drawn to uilleann pipes through him, and thereby began a life’s love/hate relationship with pipes, a contrary enough instrument betimes; when themselves and the piper are on song, no sound sweeter nor instrument more fulfilling to play; when either party is off form, not great, now. So through playing in various groups as a young fella and now collaborating with idols like Liam O’Flynn, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin and Dónal Lunny, traditional music has always been a very comfortable place for me. Growing up playing both classical and traditional music, their fusion never seemed in any way odd to me.
With my colleagues in The West Ocean String Quartet, we seek out a space in between the two genres, a place where fascinating things can happen. Composing the uilleann pipe concerto no tongue can tell for Liam O’Flynn afforded a great opportunity to delve into that middle ground, and composing and arranging for Liam, Barry Douglas and many others draws together with ease worlds that were once perhaps viewed by some as uncomfortable bedfellows.
Other successful collaborations include that with Bryn Terfel and performing with him to 40,000 people in Hyde Park, closing night of the Proms – an unforgettable moment.”
“A commission to open the Belfast Festival at Queen’s in 2004, this concerto was written to commemorate my maternal grandparents and their love for each other.
My grandfather died at the tragically young age of thirty-six as my grandmother was expecting her fifth child, my mother.”
“The West Ocean String Quartet has received global acclaim, and the quartet’s fourth album, An Indigo Sky, was awarded The Irish Times “CD of the Year” for 2013.
All of the quartet’s albums have been played aboard the International Space Station. The quartet was founded in 1999, and is the happiest medium to work in. In happily disregarding boundaries, we straddle a world somewhere between traditional Irish and classical music, and I write and arrange the quartet’s music.
A huge pleasure.”
“Brendan Graham (author of ‘You Raise Me Up’), is a song-writing craftsman of exceptional skill. We have collaborated on a few projects, and plan more.
After a West Ocean String Quartet concert, I was deeply honoured by Brendan asking me if he might set words to a piece I’d written.
The result was ‘Knocknashee’, and the gifted Dungiven singer Mary Dillon demo-ed it for us. The Irish Tenors’ version was in the Top 10 Albums in Billboard (World Music Charts) in 2012.”
In 2004 I was signed to Universal Classics and Jazz, and released a solo uilleann pipe album. It was a wonderful experience, producing an album for the biggest label in the world, and I learned a great deal from the process. It was recorded in Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, then the top studio in Ireland, and I gathered together the finest of musicians and arranged all the music, conducted the orchestra and produced the album myself. The music is a mix of my own compositions, traditional airs and a few cover versions.
“Queen of the Scals”
“There was an indescribable sense of elation and pride on hearing ‘100 fiddles, 55° north’ being performed with such passion. Every single musician committed totally to the piece, and made it their best. You cannot ask for better”.