White Smoke for the Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition

February 2018 Cork International Choral Festival is proud to announce, Donal Sarsfield as the winner of the 2018 Seán Ó…

26 February 2018

February 2018

Cork International Choral Festival is proud to announce, Donal Sarsfield as the winner of the 2018 Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition. As winner of the competition, his piece A Grain in the Balance will receive its world première in the spectacular surrounds of St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral on Friday 20th April at 7.30pm. The Festival’s Choir-in-Residence, Chamber Choir Ireland, conducted by Paul Hillier, will premiere the performance as part of its annual collaborative concert with the Festival in what promises to be a wonderful evening of song. In what was an exceptional high-quality competition, an additional composition was chosen as runner-up, which was Kenneth Edge with his piece When you are old.

As a composer Donal Sarsfield primarily records, transforms and organises sounds. In all his recent work he is interested in stimulating a perceptual link between the listener, the work and the world in which we live. His PhD in Electroacoustic Composition at the University of Manchester, funded by the Elizabeth Maconchy Composition Fellowship, involved composing pieces which focus on one particular sound source, be it the sound of clapping, doors, or snare drums. The goal was to develop a greater awareness about listening and sound. Since his PhD, Donal has broadened his compositional approach to look at the same concerns, but from different perspectives. He also performs as a singer, both in a renaissance choir in Liverpool, and recently as a performer of his own works. On receiving the news of his win, Donal said:

“I am delighted to have been chosen for the O'Riada competition. Having attended Cork Choral Festival before, it has a particular energy which is infectious and it is a pleasure to be invited back when the city will be filled with so many incredible voices. Hearing my piece performed by Chamber Choir Ireland is also an honour which I will enjoy more than words can express. Although winning is a boost for the confidence, when I sent the score in the post I felt somehow that I had already won; can anybody imagine a greater prize than music in one's life?”

His composition, A Grain in the Balance was chosen by the members of the judging panel, composers Rhona Clarke and Andrew Hamilton, and Paul Hillier, Artistic Director and Conductor of CCI, who summarised their reaction and evaluation to Sarsfield’s winning piece as follows:

“The piece has a good structure and shows a sense of adventure and playfulness—especially in its rhythms."

Along with receiving a cash prize, kindly donated by the Ó Riada family, Donal’s piece will receive its world première during the Festival. It will be performed by Chamber Choir Ireland in a concert which will also feature another world première of a piece by Andrew Hamilton that was specially commissioned by the Festival. Donal will also play an integral part in the Festival’s Choral Symposium. As part of this Symposium the Festival will also feature the runner up in the Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition, Kenneth Edge, giving his composed work, When You Are Old, a performance reading under the direction of Paul Hillier and Chamber Choir Ireland in an interactive workshop session on Friday 20th April at 2pm in Cork School of Music.

Initiated in 1972, the present format of the Seán Ó Riada Competition offers a platform for Irish composers to have their work judged and rewarded purely on its own merits without the judges being influenced by the reputation or status of the composer. All compositions are submitted under a pseudonym, with the author’s real name not being revealed until after the judges’ decision has been made. Works composed in the Irish language are encouraged. The competition has, as a central aim, the intention of providing Irish choirs with fresh, authentic material for inclusion in their programmes. The competition has attracted the attention of many highly-regarded composers, with past winners including Solfa Carlisle, Rhona Clarke, Patrick Connolly, Frank Corcoran, Séamas de Barra, Eoghan Desmond, Michael Holohan, Marian Ingoldsby, Donal MacErlaine, Simon MacHale, Michael McGlynn, Kevin O’Connell, Amanda Feery and last year’s winner, Criostóir Ó Loingsigh. With nearly 200 compositions being submitted in the past 8 years of the new format, the Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition clearly highlights the number of composers now working and living in Ireland, and further demonstrates the Cork International Choral Festival’s continuing commitment to encourage the composition and performance of contemporary music.

In collaboration with Chamber Choir Ireland

Cork International Choral Festival

Bringing Cork to Life With Song Since 1954

26 Apr ~ 30 Apr, 2023