What Are You Like?

Bill Whelan / Photo by By Richard Noble

By Patricia Harty, Editor-in-Chief
June / July 2011

Bill Whelan, composer of Riverdance answers 15 questions.

Renowned composer, producer and arranger Bill Whelan has worked extensively in theatre, film and television. The Limerick native has produced and arranged for Irish rock legends U2, Van Morrison, the Dubliners, Richard Harris and Kate Bush. He boasts an impressive resume beginning with his position as composer to the W. B. Yeats International Theatre Festival at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 1989. With an extensive theatrical career, his adaptation of HMS Pinafore received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination. His compositional work in film includes Dancing at Lughnasa, Some Mother’s Son and Lamb. “The Seville Suite” was commissioned for Expo ’92 in Seville and “The Spirit of Mayo” followed in 1993. “The Connemara Suite,” a trilogy of pieces written for chamber orchestra, premiered at Carnegie Hall in March 2005. Shortly after the world stopped to take notice of his work in Riverdance, Bill was honored with the 1997 Grammy Award for “Best Musical Show Album” for his Riverdance record. Bill is on the boards of Berklee School of Music in Boston, University of Limerick, the recently established music education body Music Generation, and was recently one of the first two artists to be inducted into the new IMRO (Irish Music Rights Organisation) Academy. He is currently hard at work on a new theatre project, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center in New York.

Your earliest memory
Playing a biscuit-tin with two knives as drumsticks while my dad played the harmonica.

Your perfect day
Walking the roads of Connemara followed by a pint and good food.

Your favorite extravagance
Ten-year tickets for Thomond Park.

What’s on your bedside table
My Internet radio.

Your hidden talent
Baking brown bread.

Movie that you will watch again and again
The Lives of Others.

Best opening line in a book   
“All happy families are alike: each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

Your favorite quality in friends 
That they stay alive.

Prized possession
Scroll for the Freedom of Limerick.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of
My four children.

Favorite writer
No “favorites,” but I am really enjoying There Are Little Kingdoms by Kevin Barry at the moment.

Musician you’d love to work with
Steve Gadd.

Favorite hero in real life
Peter McVerry SJ.

Traditional seisiun or chamber orchestra?
Depends on the mood and the music…

What are you working on now?
Trying to answer these questions.

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