Michael Rooney, acclaimed Sligo composer and harpist will be awarded the TG4 Composer of the Year for 2017 in Cork next Sunday night Feb 19th 2017.
To mark the event's 20th anniversary, TG4 has invested significantly in bringing the greatest ever line up of trad musicians to Cork for the concert and awards ceremony, which is dubbed 'the Oscars of trad'. An incredible 100 plus musicians will arrive into the city for the much anticipated night - from all over Ireland, London, Paris, Madrid, Edinburgh and New York - for a 1.5 hour performance that will also be broadcast live on TG4.
Performers include big names such as Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Altan, Donal Lunny with Paul Brady and Andy Irvine, Na Mooneys, Michael Rooney and The Macalla Orchestra, the Castle Céilí Band, the Atlantic Arc Orchestra ... and many more.
Michael Rooney’s Macalla Orchestra also had a huge year, selling out large concert halls in Ireland and the UK. They were at the centre of some of the biggest 1916 celebration events, including the State event in the RDS with Uachtarán Michael D. Higgins.
The recipient of the Composer Gradam Ceoil Michael Rooney is one of our leading performers on the harp who is also established as a significant composer of music for small and large-scale ensembles & orchestras.
He has created an important body of new music through his work as Director of the National Folk Orchestra of Ireland. His deep knowledge of harp culture within the living tradition means that he can draw on the iconic status of the instrument to act as a creative catalyst in his compositions which often involve community musicians alongside established high-profile players.
His output is impressive and includes his 2006 collection Harp Tunes as well as nine major suites for harp and ensemble or orchestra. Among the highlights of his recent orchestral and ensemble compositions are the De Cuellar Suite (2011), the Reconciliation Suite (2015) and The Macalla Suite (2016).
Michael Rooney conducts his Macalla Orchestra
Michael Rooney grew up in Scotstown, Co. Monaghan and now lives in Sligo where he has become part of the musical and cultural bedrock of the region. He is recognised as one of the most influential and innovative stylists on the harp, and his virtuosic technique as well as his approach to rhythm and harmony have helped to reposition it as a popular and integral part of the living tradition.
However there’s much more to the man than this: he is also a significant composer and arranger of new music including impressive large-scale orchestral works that have ambitiously combined traditional musicians with professional classical players.
He has composed nine major suites including the De Cuellar Suite (2011), the Reconciliation Suite (2015) and Macalla 2016 (2016), works inspired by significant moments in Ireland’s cultural history and the impact that they continue to have on our people. He has also composed for solo harp and in 2006 he published Harp Tunes, a collection of 23 new pieces.
This year’s Composer of the Year, is a musician who feels he’s always on the journey, and never at the destination. His most recent suite, Macalla, commemorating the centenary of the 1916 Rising, is a deeply complex work that embraces the intricacy of our identity. As a deputy school principal, Rooney works in intensive bursts. “I find that the more pressure is on me to produce something, I seem to work better,” he says. “I’m a great believer in deadlines: they force you to make decisions and to get off the fence, so that you have to be happy to let the music out there.”
He has recorded two CDs with flute player June McCormack; 'Draíocht' and 'Land's End'. Michael has published four books of his own compositions; 'Harp Tunes' (2006), Aifreann Gaeilge (2012), 'The de Cuéllar Suite' (2012), ‘The Macalla Suite’ (2016).
This year has been a busy one for Michael, following his success with The Macalla Suite, a specially commissioned suite for the 1916 Centenary. A new CD of the Macalla Suite, performed by the Macalla Orchestra has just been released.
'Hup Termonfeckin' with Michael Rooney and June McCormack
The Macalla Suite reflects the period of Irish history from the famine to the present day. This epic work conveys in music, song and story, the birth of a nation and was commissioned as a central part of Ireland’s commemoration of the 1916 Rising Centenary. The Macalla Orchestra is made up of over 60 of the finest traditional and classical musicians from Ireland, Scotland and England. “Indeed if ever a show could be said to capture the passion, the people, the politics and the consequences of Easter 1916 this is it.” (The Wexford People)
The Macalla Suite commemorates the Easter Rising of 1916, while also focusing on significant aspects of Irish history from the Famine era, through the growth of nationalism, The War of Independence and to modern Ireland. The suite was The Suite was performed at the RDS on Easter Saturday at the State Event for the Relatives of 1916 and toured to the Barbican in London, followed by a sell-out nationwide tour during Easter 2016.
The album features 20 tracks and runs at over sixty minutes of richly tapestried music, with each of the six movements carrying its own distinct ambience as the groupings of traditional fiddles, harps, flutes, pipes, banjos, accordions and concertinas supported by classical violins, cellos, trumpets, percussion, piano, double-bass and bodhran intertwine seamlessly under Rooney’s masterful direction. ‘Michael Rooney’s superbly orchestrated score covered the whole gamut of emotions inevitably evoked by the many-layered and endlessly engrossing story of the Easter Rising, and the tale of the Irish nation before and since, providing a soundtrack that time and again veered from the haunting quieter interludes to the inspiring crescendos when the entire 60-plus Orchestra took full musical flight.’ (Michael McDonnell, The Northern Standard)
‘It’s rare for a piece of music to be able to tell such a vast and significant part of history so well in such a short space of time. The Macalla Suite has managed to wonderfully condense almost 150 years of Irish history into beautiful and emotive melodies and orchestrations that are unashamedly Irish’. (Luke Vogel, Reviewer, London)