Full Length Biography



I have a clear recollection that when I first began piano lessons with a certain Miss Morrow in Cabin Hill Gardens, not a long walk from my parental home in Kingsway Avenue, Belfast,  I was intrigued by clefs. I had learnt the bass clef first – obviously easier to write than the more curvaceous treble - and so I composed a piano piece in the lower piano regions and called it “Sputnik”. Something of a contradiction in terms?  It was 1957. I was six years old and, encouraged by my mother in particular, I was keen to play the piano.


Meantime, at age eight, I went to Cabin Hill Preparatory School near home and eventually found my interest in the piano reinvigorated by Elsie Larmour who taught in Cabin Hill and was an old school friend of my mother. When I went to Campbell College at age thirteen, my inspiration became Alan Angus who was unfortunnately about to leave Campbell for Ardingly College in England. However the several months under his tutelage were what decided me to become a musician – and his encouragement allowed me to be given a Music Scholarship at Campbell for the duration of my education there. His successor was Donald Leggatt, a man of outstanding musical ability but with a character and personality which was a little volatile and unsettling for a young person such as myself. When I took ill with ulcerative colitis at age fourteen – something which has stayed with me for the rest of my life on and off – Donald used to come and visit me in hospital and he could not have been kinder. It was always a matter of regret that we did not continue to be friendly when, at his suggestion, I took up my job at Cabin Hill.


It was not until I was an undergraduate at Queen’s University that composing again began to interest me.  I was introduced to the study of composition by Professor Raymond Warren and during his time at Queen’s and under subsequent Harty Professors of Music I had several small scale works performed – considerably influenced by Vaughan Williams and/or Stravinsky and Bartok. My first sizeable composition was produced as a result of my Master of Arts degree in Performance and Composition when I studied under Adrian Thomas. The work was a setting of the Requiem Mass and it was performed in the Harty Room in January 1975 by an instrumental ensemble and choir which I directed from the keyboard.


It’s funny to recall that it was while I was writing this piece, and actually designing my own manuscript, some clever person invented Tippex which revolutionized how we composers worked…no more fatal mistakes entailing a complete rewrite or messy scrubbings-out! Using current computer programmes is light years away from the old days of manuscript.


After my post-graduate studies I took up teaching in 1974 at Cabin Hill Preparatory School, Belfast. It was a pattern that became paradigmatic of my future career. I had been educated at Cabin Hill, then went to Campbell College, and then Queen’s. Later besides teaching at Cabin Hill, I became a governor at Campbell and a Music Tutor at Queen’s University which lead to me thinking of my life as revolving around a fifteen minute radius.


As a teacher, quite unexpectedly, I remained at Cabin Hill for fourteen years. The post, and the inspirational headmaster, Luther Vye,  allowed me a great deal of freedom to do things other than teaching. I must also remember that my colleague and later close friend, Edna Clarke, also more than facilitated my flexibility. Edna in particular was the most supportive person I have ever encountered and her death in 2008 left me bereft. She was like an older sister to me in the very best way.


During those wonderful years in Cabin Hill, I regularly performed as a pianist and accompanist – most notably with the mezzo-soprano Daphne Arlow and in a piano duo team with my past piano teacher Michael McGuffin. I did a lot of broadcasting for BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Three and RTE, both as a performer and as a presenter. I wrote several series for Radio Ulster and was a regular presenter on music programmes. At this period,  I also established myself as a music critic for several local and national journals and newspapers  - notably Fortnight Magazine, the Ulster Tatler, the Belfast News Letter and Classical Music magazine based in London.


My teaching commitment at Cabin Hill also provided me with a ready-made group of people to write for as a composer. During the late seventies, I wrote and composed, for example, three “pop cantatas” for my school choir which, as conductor of the Queen’s University Choir, I also performed in three consecutive years at the “Music for a May Evening” series. The style was light hearted and light weight,  much after the examples of Michael Head or Joseph Horovitz but my cantatas were specific to their audience and performers.


It was something which I began to realise at that time and which has remained with me ever since. I do not want to write in a vacuum and I would prefer to have my music performed than not performed -  by any grouping, whether professional or amateur. This requires constant adaptation and it is something I have learnt to do quite successfully without compromising my artistic ideals.


In later years, I wrote several pieces for interaction between amateurs and professionals – “The Children of Lir” (1984), “The Emigrant’s Farewell” (1991) and Three Sea Images for Orchestra (1993).


It was in 1977 that I think my first major compositional breakthrough occurred. I had been asked to write a challenging work for the choir of the Royal Victoria Hospital by an amateur conductor friend – Dr.Michael Callender. (In 1976, Michael was, incidentally, the first person to commission a work from me – an organ piece for a young Belfast organist called David Graham.)  I chose texts from several sources – poets such as John Shirley, John Donne, Rupert Brooke, Thomas Hardy, Shelley and Keats and I linked them together within a literary framework based on a poem by Walt Whitman. The forces required were quite large – a spoken chorus, a sung chorus and two solo readers – all of which were set against a taped electro-acoustic backdrop.


This was to be the first live performance of an electronic work written in Northern Ireland. I prepared the tape for “Thanatos” – a series of meditations on the theme of death - at Queen’s University in the then new electronic studio with the help of Adrian Thomas to whom the work was dedicated. Adrian was one of the crucial and most important influences on my life.


Thinking back to the sound generating synthesisers and machines, the manual cutting and splicing of two-track tape recordings into multi-layered textures, I am forcefully reminded, again, how technology has changed since then.


Unfortunately the choir pulled out of the first performance of Thanatos as certain fundamental “christian” elements within it objected to the piece on “moral grounds”. The local BBC radio station however picked up on the “banning” of a new piece and as a result I received more interest in the work than I would have if it had been performed without any bother. Through the good offices of David Byers, who has always been a staunch supporter and provider of encouragement to me, BBC Radio Three asked me if they could record the first performance and so I arranged a studio performance with the Choir of St. Anne’s Cathedral under Jonathan Gregory for the sung chorus and I conducted a spoken chorus of boys from Campbell College, Belfast. Despite certain last minute difficulties the piece was recorded in 1978, broadcast throughout the UK and subsequently performed live at the Ulster Museum by a different grouping of performers – but not without another “banning” weeks before that performance as well!


Thanatos made me realise that I had a voice that I wanted to be heard in musical terms. It focused my enthusiasm for composition and brought me before a wide spectrum of public attention.


In 1978, a concert was arranged for the Belfast Festival at Queen’s which linked me with two other composers - David Byers and Adrian Thomas - as the leaders in composition in Northern Ireland at that time. There were of course few opportunities for the performance of contemporary music here, not least because the Troubles were still in their first decade and the arts, like most of us in general, had retreated to “safe areas” as it were.


The Festival however was one platform which had significance and the commissioning of three new works by the Festival Director Michael Barnes was an important signal and indeed a “first”.


For this concert, David, Adrian and I each wrote a new work. Mine was a Sonata for Two Pianos which I and Roy Holmes, a fellow graduate from QUB and one of my closest friends throughout my life, performed and recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster and, later, BBC Radio Three. The sonata was dedicated to Olive Baguley, the secretary and companion of Sir Hamilton Harty. I had become close to her during the period that I was researching and writing two biographical chapters for a book about Sir Hamilton, edited by Professor David Greer, and subsequently published during his centenary year of 1979. Olive had died by that date and with her went a cache of knowledge about Sir Hamilton which will never now be revealed.


Following the Festival concert, several leading and very capable local musicians over the next few years commissioned me to write specific pieces for them – an Organ Sonata and a Suite for Harpsichord for Norman Finlay, Tyr na n’Og for the  flute and harp Phoenix Duo, a Sonata for Violin and Piano for Pan Hon Lee and Havelock Nelson, a flute and piano Sonatina for James Galway, later orchestrated as a Concertino in 1993.


A growing recognition of my role as a composer was given further credibility in 1981 when I became the first Northern Irish composer to receive a BBC Radio Three commission. Again, this was through the good offices of David Byers.  “Narcissus” – a setting of poems by George Barker – was performed by Lontano and mezzo-soprano Linda Hirst in April 1981 as part of the Sonorities Festival of Twentieth Century Music. It was later broadcast by BBC Radio Three and received a London premiere by the same performers in 1982.


Narcissus was the first piece where I could consciously write music of considerable difficulty and in a language that was more complicated than my style to date had been. In retrospect however some aspects of my “voice” as it were have remained constant – a tendency frequently to change time signatures,  my interest in driving rhythms obsessing on alternating combinations of twos and threes, and my penchant for setting literary texts.


As an accompanist for Daphne Arlow, I was always glad of the opportunity to write song cycles which I could also use for my own concerts. In 1982 I was offered two such commissions for two of the leading singers in the UK at that time – Suzanne Murphy with pianist Ingrid Surgenor for whom I wrote “Nocturnes”, settings of poetry by James Joyce for his centenary year,  - and Sarah Walker with pianist Roger Vignoles for whom I wrote “Traume”, settings in German of poems by Hermann Hesse, one of my favourite writers.


An interesting aside here. In my life I have always found that people from my past constantly return to play a role  - Ingrid Surgenor, for example,  I had known from my early childhood – she was also a pupil of the above mentioned Miss Morrow.


In 1984, I was given my first orchestral commission - by Belfast City Council for the Belfast Proms, at that time organised through the Ulster Hall.  Its eccentric but likeable manager Terry de Winne told me he wanted a piece the main tune of which he would be able to whistle! The Ulster Orchestra under Bryden (Jack) Thompson gave the first televised performance of  “Fanfare for Orchestra” in June 1984. This piece has had several performances since under other conductors such as the late Maurice Handforth who broadcast it on BBC Radio Three, Jan Pascal Tortelier and Celso Antunes.


The eighties were a period when I established a style of writing which was not avant garde but broadly tonal in origin and accessible in comparison to some of the styles that were considered contemporary at that period. In many ways, I was writing for an audience here in Northern Ireland, which was not going to be moved by a language they did not understand and I was not interested in remaining aloof and obscure from a musical point of view. I wanted always to communicate with my audiences and felt that my own conservative taste perhaps was not for a language which was too remote from my own predilections.


In many ways, I have now become more akin to the language of the post-minimalists of the nineties, favouring their rather “romantic” approach through rhythmical interest and static or at least slow moving harmonies. A penchant for the emotional has led me to describe myself as a “retro romantic” which is a term I haven’t heard used by anyone else. To me it perfectly captures my own musical mood and I attribute this to my relatively restricted and isolated life in Northern Ireland where for nearly forty years we all lived in a fantasy world of violence but which some of us were able to blank out totally.  At least on the surface of our existence.


I still managed to receive commissions and performances however from sources outside Northern Ireland such as my “Elegaic Variation” commissioned and performed by Sophie Langdon at the Wigmore Hall in 1985 – this was a direct result of my friendship with Odaline de la Martinez of Lontano – she has recently come back into my life through her recording company Lorelt. My Sextet which was performed in Dublin by the Ulysses Quintet with pianist John O’Conor in 1986 was a result of my friendship with John whom I first met through Roy Holmes.  For the London based Brodsky String Quartet with soprano Susan Bickley I set three Verlaine poems in French – “Chanson d’automne” was commissioned by Sonorities in 1987 and subsequently performed in Spain by the Brodskys.


Perforce, my compositional output has always been limited by the amount of time I could spend on composition above my other work commitments. When I was appointed Music Director of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in October 1988, my life took on a new aspect. I could no longer accept so many outside commitments as they may have been perceived to conflict with my job at ACNI, so to a large extent my performing career came to a halt. I was not able to do critiques or reviews either as this may have been seen to be an “arts council” opinion rather than that of an individual musician.


 As a composer, of course, I also was affected by my new job. I could receive no commissions which were in any way connected with the Arts Council so any invitations I received to write pieces had to be done purely as gifts or they had to be commissioned with funds other than those emanating from ACNI. In a small place like Northern Ireland, such other sources are not very apparent. For almost two years I gave up composing entirely and it was not until I was commissioned by the GPA Dublin International Piano Competition (again through pianist John O’Conor who ran the festival)  in late 1990 that I produced a new piece – a test piece for the competition and entitled “French Blue”. I later wrote two companion pieces for this  - “Irish Green” for Iain Burnside and “African Black” for Ruth McGinley who had reached the finals of the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition in 1993 and who had played my French Blue as part of that competition.


Strange to say, I think French Blue became my most played piece for quite a long time. I dedicated it to my first music teacher at Campbell College – Alan Angus – whose wonderful joie de vivre completely and inspired me. Unfortunately, as I mention above, Alan left Campbell only a few months after I arrived. French Blue was also the catalyst which got me going again after such a prolonged period of silence. I began again to write for amateurs, for young people, for local school choirs again. These were the people who could perform my music and I was happy to hear my works done. Several choral pieces date from the nineties – mostly anthems accompanied or unaccompanied although it was in 1995 that I think a significant change occurred in the scope of these pieces.


This was with a commission, through Dr. Joe McKee,  from the Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters for a setting of an Irish poem from the seventh century and translated as “The Boyhood of Christ”. Again, it was Dr. Michael Callender who was behind this commission. It was performed in June 1995 in Down Cathedral by the Priory Singers, at that time an excellent and technically very proficient choral group conducted by ex-Belfast Cathedral organist Dr. Harry Grindle. I felt that I had made a significant move forward in my style of writing and was at last content to throw off any vestige of writing music which “had to sound modern”. If I were still teaching I think that the first piece of advice I would give is to write what you feel like writing, not what you think you should write. I know I am not the first person to offer this particular maxim!


I was also fortunate to receive two BBC Radio Three commissions in 1995. One was for a new song commissioned as part of the BBC’s British Music Year Anthology and it was engineered by the pianist and broadcaster Iain Burnside with whom I became friends in 1993. I was the only Northern Irish composer chosen and I set a poem by Michael Longley entitled “Elegy”. I had come to know Michael very fondly through my job at ACNI as he was a fellow Director for the first few years I was there.


My other Radio Three commission was on a larger scale and was for music for a new radio version of the play “The Dark Tower” by Louis MacNeice. For this I chose again the medium of voices, but treated synthetically through electro acoustic technology. Again it was through the friendship of a BBC producer, Michael Quinn, that this commission came about. In my life, I have always found that such commissions don’t come out of nowhere – there is always a personal link.


The following year I received an invitation to write my second orchestral work. The Chief Executive of the Ulster Orchestra, Michael Henson, offered me a tour of Germany with this piece and so I chose a response to a poem by Hesse entitled “Die Ersten Blumen”. Once again I knew that it was what I wanted to write and I did not particularly care if in certain quarters it may be seen as overly romantic. The conductor of the premiere and indeed the German tour, Gunther Bauer Shenk, was supportive of this approach and he subsequently did the work with the Ulster Youth Orchestra during his course with them in 1999. He has become a wonderful personal friend ever since.


The opening of the Waterfront Hall in Belfast provided me with one of the most  prestigious opportunities to have my music performed and I am pleased to be able to say that my music was the first to be heard publically  in the new Hall. This was all thanks to Michael Henson again.  My “Waterfront Fanfares” for wind, brass and percussion ,were conducted by Jerzy Makzimjuk in January 1997 at the opening concert, broadcast and televised by the BBC.


Another prestigious event in my compositional career was the Co-operation Ireland Concert in Dublin and Belfast in November 1999, when the Ulster Orchestra and school choirs from the North and South of Ireland joined forces under Martin Barrett, someone I had met through his job at Stranmillis College and with whom I became friends. Dame Anne Murray was soloist for performances of “The White Lake”, the words for which had been specially written at my suggestion by poet Michael Longley.


It was in connection with this latter piece that I decided to go to Banff, Canada, for the first time in July 1999. I spent some time there specifically to test out whether I could take on a long term residency to pursue my compositional interests. Following that period during which I wrote The White Lake, I made arrangements to seek  sabbatical leave from the Arts Council for six months to work on a large scale new work, which had been commissioned by The Methodist College, Belfast through the wonderful enthusiasm of Dr. Joe McKee, at that time Director of Music at the college.


There is an interesting and significant aside here however. At the Arts Council I had become enmeshed in a politically motivated series of events. The daughter of Ian Paisley had applied for a job at ACNI as North/South Officer to co-ordinate between the two Arts Councils in Ireland. She didn’t get the job and later took the Arts Councils to the newly established Equal Opportunities Commission in Belfast. The tribunal found against the Arts Councils. The whole experience however had a huge negative effect on me. I was someone who had avoided very deliberately getting involved in any aspect of the problems that afflicted this part of the world and in particular, the “religious conflict”.  I felt abused by this tribunal and by the accusation which included me in discrimination on the grounds of religion – ironically against a religion in which I had been brought up. I decided to remove myself from all religious belief thereafter and I have been content, very content, to do without the dogma and the doctrine that afflicts humanity in the hands of those who do not see the spiritual quest as beyond the minor doctrinaire or dogmatic  considerations of this “real” world.


In this connection, however, the awfulness of the Paisley experience eventually took on a positive effect. In 1999, following my recurring “disease” connected with eating, I became very interested in the practice of Reiki to which I had been introduced by my friend Roy Holmes. I went to London to receive two instructional courses from Barbara McGregor, a noted world Reiki expert, and I later became a Reiki Master in 2005.


In something of a new spiritual inner context then,  I went to Banff again in March/April 2000, and began work on “Psalms and Songs from the Hebrew”. For this, I spent many months compiling a text of Hebrew poetry from mediaeval Spain in translation, interspersed with translations of extracts from the psalms of David in the Bible.  In this I was encouraged by a new friend, Ahuva Oren, who was Cultural Attaché  at the Israeli Embassy in London and with whom I had become friendly through my work at ACNI.  The piece took eight months to complete, by which time I had moved from Banff to Portland, Oregon, to the island of Hawaii, to Avoca in Ireland, to Escales in the Langue d’Oc region of France – and indeed back to work again at the Arts Council  in Belfast. The premiere, which was later broadcast by BBC Radio Ulster,  took place in St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, on 9th November 2000 – coincidentally my mother’s birth date though she had died in 1994.


Another occasional piece followed - “…the starry dynamo in the machinery of  night…” which was commissioned by Queen’s University, Belfast, and came about through my friendship with the Director of Communication at QUB, Tom Collins. The piece was performed as part of a Gala Concert in honour of ex-President Bill Clinton – he was being given an honorary doctorate by Queen’s for his work on the peace talks - and as part of the Queen’s University Foundation’s fundraising campaign. It was written for Barry Douglas and his Camerata Ireland orchestra and President Clinton and his daughter Chelsea were in the audience. Tom suggested the title.


As if to prove yet again to myself that friendship is indeed the source of so much in life, I was asked by Nikolai Demidenko and his agent Georgina Ivor to write a solo piano piece for this marvelous Russian pianist. “The island beyond the world” was composed for  for his Irish tour in October 2001. I wrote it at a time when I had fallen rather precariously in love with someone who was going through a major change in his own life and this state was reflected in the spiritual quality and the emotion in this piece. Unfortunately the affair ended even before the piece was premiered and left me at the age of fifty realizing that in terms of a personal life, love was to be found not in the way I had always hoped.


To go back for a moment to the Paisley case and its fall out, one of the other consequences was that I applied for a new job in London at the British Council as Performing Arts Director after the case had ended so disastrously. I thought I wanted just to get away from here. I was offered the job but I pulled out at the last moment as I took really cold feet and wondered how I would possibly survive in London with all the issues I had around eating and being on my own. Instead I decided that I would gear myself towards achieving a doctorate. This had always been a goal of mine – and my parents as well! – and so I decided to stay in Northern Ireland specifically so that I could get the degree of Doctor of Music from Queen’s University which I had known about since my graduation back in the seventies.


No-one had ever been awarded the degree except in an honorary capacity so it threw several cats amongst several pigeons at the university when I applied. I submitted a large portfolio of compositions and the main focus was to be the Psalms and Songs from the Hebrew – in other words a central large scale work of the proportions that would have been similar to a Ph.d thesis. I was deferred on the first go and told that I had to write something as big again but not text based.  The result was “Carnavalesque” for double orchestra which was commissioned by the Irish Youth Orchestra and was premiered in Dublin in 2002 and the following year toured around Europe. I graduated as a Doctor of Music in the summer of 2003.


At this point it is appropriate to reflect on how so many of my works have been inspired by or were written for specific people or events  in mind.  In general during my working life, I often referred to myself as an “occasional” composer and the ambiguity of that word suited very well my situation.


It was impossible I found for me to earn a living solely by writing music and, to be honest, I wasn’t actually sure that I wanted to do just one thing – to concentrate entirely on a single aspect of my interests. I had always enjoyed organizing events, festivals, big deals and bringing together people whom I liked or thought were particularly talented – and with whom I wanted to work.


So at university I got involved in the music society and putting on concerts and the like. When at Cabin Hill, I was keen to use the resource that was at my disposal – that is the beautiful building and surroundings that were Cabin Hill at that time. So I put on special concerts and during the 50th anniversary year of the school, I helped to organize a series of events to fundraise. It was a Golden Anniversary Festival which was the highlight of those endeavours but we also put on several “balls” which always drew a great crowd and established a great rapport with the parents. I will never forgive the Governors of Campbell College for selling off Cabin Hill and ruining that heritage and history that were the house and grounds. It was sheer vandalism.


When I moved to the Arts Council, it wasn’t so easy for me just to put on events by myself but the particular power of ACNI was that I could coral others to do what I wanted to do. Especially in terms of arranging tours and masterclasses in the first years of my tenure as Music Director. Eventually through ACNI, I spread my interests to other artforms  in the shape of arts festivals – so, for example, I directed a Fete Francaise in the early nineties and then in 1997 a Quebecois Festival. I was keen on international work and got involved with the British Council, helping to put on events in Canada and America. When I became Performing Arts Director in 1995, my influence spread.


This all eventually led to me being asked in 2005 to organize a festival of Northern Irish Arts in Washington as part of the lead up to Northern Ireland’s presence in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2007. At the invitation of Dr.Aideen McGinley who was Permanent Secretary at the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, I was seconded to government for over two years to manage and direct “Rediscover Northern Ireland”. It was a really big undertaking and I was largely on my own in this. But I found it completely exciting and rewarding. I travelled back and forth to the States over that period and eventually lived in DC for the six months around the Rediscover festival. I met so many people in Washington and really felt so welcome there – and of course, I was able to promote the arts and artists of Northern Ireland in a setting that was important.


When it was all over and I returned to the Arts Council, life just wasn’t the same ever again. I felt superfluous at ACNI now and knew I had to do something different – not because I didn’t like everybody there but because I was unsettled by my Washington experience.


During those years working on the Smithsonian project, I wrote not a single note. Apart from the lack of creative music making, I decided that for my health sake I had to retire from ACNI and this I did in March 2009.


The last piece I had written before the secondment was commissioned by the BBC again – this time through Declan McGovern and Simon Taylor who suggested an orchestral piece commemorating Sir Hamilton Harty.  This became “...while the sun shines…” which was a reference to Harty’s nickname of Hay. I used as many of his tunes as I could and put them into a short small orchestra piece which was premiered by the Ulster Orchestra in the summer of 2005 under Bobby Houlihan. I didn’t feel it was a very successful partnership and was rather disappointed. When Gavin Maloney did the piece again with the RTE NSO in May 2011, I felt it was a much better take on the piece.

And it wasn’t until Christmas 2007 that my compositional drive started to gear up again largely as the result of a suggestion by a colleague at the Arts Council. A young man called Brian Byrne asked me to write a piece that he could give to his wife (and new baby) as a Christmas present. The idea just caught my attention and I wrote a little piano piece based on a poem by Louis MacNeice – the MacNeice House in which the Arts Council was based being the obvious connection – entitled “…this hour of quiet…”


In any case, that started things moving again. A series of piano pieces followed beginning with a piece which my friend Edna Clarke had commissioned through the Kerr Art Group to mark the retirement of painter Tom Herr. I used on of his poems as the basis of “An angel smiled”. Edna died very unexpectedly just a few days before I premiered the piece at Tom’s retirement party on May 8 2008.


Next came a piano piece dedicated to Roisin McDonough (I had also dedicated my Harty piece to her) for her amazing kindness and support to me – it was her help in particular that really got me through the very difficult time I experienced around Edna’s death and my leaving the Arts Council.  The piano piece eventually became three piano pieces – all based around Lorca whom Roisin had introduced me to during our stays in Lanjaron in Spain. The set became “Tres memorias de Lorca” and they were premiered at Carnegie Hall in New York by Cathal Breslin at his debut concert there in June 2009.


By that time I was fully retired – 31st March 2009 was my last day at work. Although it took me nearly a year to adjust to the new freedom of movement and thought now available on a daily basis, I had a lot of things I could do. I’d been given a small grand piano in May that year by Janet Quigg,  the close friend of Pamela Rogers (my predecessor at the Arts Council who had recently died) and that began to focus my attention again on playing.


I had also become fascinated by furniture painting which I had “discovered” in Portland Oregon while staying with Ketzel in the summer of 2009. I went out there for three months this time and as much of her furniture upstairs had “seen better days” I was able to do what I liked with those pieces and lo and behold, I became an obsessive furniture painter thereafter!


I now began to think about future compositional projects and as luck would have it, I was invited to become part of the Belfast Titanic Company’s plans for the 2012 Titanic Centenary. The Company was in fact two people – Dick MacKenzie and Anne Doherty – both of whom I had known for years. Their original plan was to hold a large conference for Titanic enthusiasts (as they had done in 2006) but the funding was impossible to find. So we all decided on a series of Arts Events – one of which was to be a choral requiem.









Reviews of Philip Hammond musical work

“Philip Hammond’s setting of three poems by Verlaine was a subtle and beautiful evocation of French impressionism, with a dash of Schoenberg’s symbolist style thrown in. Lore Lixenberg summoned a beautifully ripe sound….” Ivan Hewitt Daily Tel
Philip Hammond News

Sir James and Lady Galway will be performing my "Carolan Variations" on their tour of the US October/November 2013 with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and JoAnn Falletta
Listen to Philip Hammond's Music

Miniatures and Modulations includes "The Beardless Boy" which appeared on Michael McHale's recent debut CD album entitled "The Irish Piano". You can see Michael perform it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJ7zmd93jKE
Contact Philip Hammond

Click here to get in touch with Philip Hammond.
Philip Hammond Music
Composer and Arts Correspondent