Cork International Choral Festival was proud to announce Dublin-based and Cork-born Eoghan Desmond as the winner of the 2015 Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition. As winner of the competition, his piece Mother Goose’s Melodies, received its world premiere in the spectacular surrounds of St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral on Friday 1st May 2015 at 7.30pm.  The Festival’s Choir in Residence, Chamber Choir Ireland, conducted by Paul Hillier, premiered the performance as part of its annual collaborative concert with the Festival.

Desmond made his solo debut as a singer with East Cork Choral Society in Mendelssohn’s Elijah in 2003 following his choral training with St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral Choir. He has since gone on to give numerous performances with Dublin University Choral Society and, as a member of Irish Composer’s Collective, has had his own compositions performed in Ireland by groups such as Chamber Choir Ireland, Ensemble Avalon, and the RTE ConTempo String Quartet. His composition, Mother Goose’s Melodies, came out on top in a year that saw a high standard of entry. The members of the judging panel, composers Rhona Clarke and Ian Wilson, and Paul Hillier, Artistic Director and Conductor of CCI, summarised their reaction and evaluation to Desmond’s winning piece as follows:

“We are agreed that the winning piece is well-written, has plenty of character with an individual voice coming through, retains its freshness and is full of interesting contrasts. While it is certainly not easy, it would be accessible for a good amateur choir with an experienced conductor.”

Along with receiving a cash prize, kindly donated by the Ó Riada family, Eoghan Desmond’s piece will receive its World Premiere during the Festival. It will be performed by Chamber Choir Ireland in a concert which will also feature another World Premiere of a piece, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, specially commissioned from Ian Wilson by the Festival with the support of the Arts Councils Commission Scheme.  Desmond will also play an integral part in the Seminar on New Choral Music, an event initiated in 1962 to both highlight and platform international choral compositional developments, and to encourage the composition and performance of new choral works in Ireland. On receiving the news of his win, Desmond said:

I was delighted when I received a phone call from John [Fitzpatrick] informing me that I had won the Ó Riada competition, not least because I have a very personal attachment to Ó Riada, having attended a Gaelscoil named after him. It was at that school – and undertaking choral training in St Fin Barre’s Cathedral – that I began to compose; so this victory represents the culmination (as does every piece) of quite a number of years of work. I started to write this piece not long after last year’s Seminar on New Choral Music, inspired by last year’s winning setting of [Donal MacErlaine’s] ‘Solomon Grundy’. It is very exciting, therefore, to be included in this year’s seminar, having set not one but six nursery rhymes from my childhood.

In addition, a composers’ workshop took place where the work of two competition entrants, Listen by Donal Sarsfield and  Sleep Now, O Sleep Now by Kevin Corcoran, was selected by the Assessment Panel to receive a Performance Reading by Chamber Choir Ireland along with an open workshop discussion of their work.

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, Michael Holohan, Marian Ingoldsby, Simon MacHale, Michael McGlynn, Kevin O’Connell, and 2014’s winner, Donal MacErlaine. With over 160 compositions being submitted in the past 5 years of the new format, the 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.

Headshot BWEoghan Desmond

Eoghan Desmond is a Dublin-based composer, conductor and bass-baritone. He began to sing at the age of 9, when he joined St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral Choir under Colin Nicholls, who has been a major influence as a musician generally and a composer specifically. Desmond has premièred David Lawrence’s song cycles, Nonsense Songs of Edward Lear and He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, composed especially for him. Next, he hopes to be the second person ever to perform Sorabji’s epic Trois Poémes de Gulistan de Sa’di, last performed in 1988.

He frequents Dorset Opera as a chorus mentor, and his voice is to be heard on the award-winning soundtrack of Diablo III. Eoghan holds a BA in Music and an MPhil in Composition, both from TCD, where he studied under Dr. Evangelia Rigaki, Dr. Matthew Barnson and Dr. Donnacha Dennehy. An active member of the Irish Composers Collective, his music has been widely performed in Ireland, by groups such as Chamber Choir Ireland, Ensemble Avalon and the RTE ConTempo String Quartet, and is more recently in demand in the UK, the US and Australia. Eoghan has also been musical director of both the Campanile Consort and the Node Ensemble ~ the only person in the history of Trinity’s music department to do so.

He is the founder of the female-voices choir Dulciana, who recently made their performing debut, and later this year will be showcasing Irish female composing talent, in what will hopefully be the first in a series of such showcases. He is currently Lay Vicar of the Prebend of Newcastle in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, principal guest conductor of Téada String Orchestra, and has recently been made assistant Musical Director of Dún Laoghaire Choral Society.

Previous Winners’ Scores

The following scores are made available for study purposes only, and are provided with the permission of the composers. They are not to be duplicated for any reason without prior agreement being received from the composer.

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