Trustees | Bill Whelan
Board of Trustees
Original Appointment: March 2007
Bill Whelan, Grammy-winning composer of Riverdance, has worked extensively in theatre. His adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore had successful runs at London's Old Vic, Melbourne and Sydney and received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination. Since 1989, when he was appointed as composer to the W.B. Yeats International Theatre Festival at Dublin's Abbey Theatre, he has written original music for 15 Yeats plays.
His specially commissioned orchestral work, The Seville Suite, received its European premiere performance at the Maestranza in Seville as part of the celebrations for Ireland's National Day at Expo '92. The last movement of this work was danced by Maria Pagés who later starred in Riverdance. His next large scale orchestral work, The Spirit Of Mayo, was first performed in 1993 by and 85-piece orchestra in Dublin's National Concert Hall. Together with the choral group Anúna, this piece also featured a powerful Celtic drum corps and a 200-strong choir. His trilogy of pieces written from the Irish Chamber Orchestra titled, "Inishlacken," "Carna," and "Errisbeg" were inspired by the extraordinary views of the Connemara countryside and sea. Concert performances featured soloists Zoë Conway, Michelle Mulcahy, Morgan Crowley and Colin Dunne.
Riverdance was originally composed for the interval act of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. It was an orchestral piece conceived for hard-shoe Irish dance and televised to a European audience of 300 million viewers. As a single, Riverdance spent 18 weeks at No. 1 in the Irish charts and was a Top Ten hit in the UK.
Bill was honoured with the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album for his Riverdance record. The CD is a certified Platinum record in the US, Ireland and Australia.
In 1987, he wrote his first major orchestral suite commemorating the film music of the noted Irish composer Sean O'Riada, which was conducted by Elmer Bernstein and performed by the Irish National Symphony Orchestra. His own compositional work in film includes Lamb starring Liam Neeson, Sean O'Mordha's historical documentary series The Seven Ages, the Terry George/Jim Sheridan film Some Mother's Son, and the score for the film version of Dancing At Lughnasa starring Meryl Streep. His song "Quis Est Deus," performed by Charlotte Church and the Monks of Glenstal Abbey Choir, was featured in the animated classic "A Christmas Carol."
His work with Irish traditional music and musicians spans his career from 1980 when he was a member of the legendary Planxty to producing records for many folk artists including Andy Irvine, Patrick Street, Stockton's Wing, Davy Spillane and Bulgarian/Irish band, East Wind. His production and arranging credits also include U2, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, Richard Harris and the Dubliners.