Ireland’s rich traditional music heritage has inspired and influenced many of her contemporary musicians and composers. Among the most celebrated recent compositions from Ireland are Bill Whelan’s Riverdance: A Symphonic Suite and Shaun Davey’s The Brendan Voyage featuring master uilleann piper Liam O’ Flynn.
Riverdance: A Symphonic Suite is a composition of Bill Whelan, the composer of Riverdance the show. Following on from the phenomenal success of Riverdance, a music and dance show that has been seen by over 25 million since its debut in 1994, Bill Whelan responded to requests from orchestras to present the music of Riverdance as a coherent concert performance. In the Symphonic Suite we hear the main pieces at the heart of Riverdance scored for full orchestra—melodies inspired by the modes and rhythms of Irish traditional music and counterpointed with rhythmic structures that reflect the percussive dance patterns at the core of Riverdance. Elements of Spanish, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Russian music can be heard alongside melodies that remain intrinsically Irish.
The Brendan Voyage is a composition of Irish composer Shaun Davey, and is notable as the first major orchestral suite to feature the uilleann pipes. St. Brendan the Navigator was a 6th century Irish monk who early medieval annals record as having traveled from the south west of Ireland to Newfoundland in a leather covered boat sailing via the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. The uilleann pipes of Liam O’Flynn represent the trials and tribulations the small boat endures on the voyage while the formidable Atlantic is sonically portrayed by the symphony orchestra. The Brendan Voyage remains an enduring classic of recent Irish music.