skip to main content

Composing the Island

Composing the Island

Composing the Island – A century of music in Ireland 1916-2016

An exciting new centenary project, Composing the Island: A century of music in Ireland 1916-2016, will take place over three weeks in September (7th-25th), and will present 29 concerts of orchestral, choral, instrumental, song and chamber music by Irish composers written between 1916 and 2016.
The generous support of Bord na Móna has enabled RTÉ and the National Concert Hall to give this musical story the attention it deserves as a major cultural flagship within the RTÉ 1916 and Ireland 2016 centenary programmes.

How this music developed, and the times and circumstances in which it was written, will unfold over three weeks of concerts which will include seven major orchestral concerts performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. Over the course of the festival, almost 200 works by some 90 different Irish composers will be performed and recorded for broadcast; with additional concerts of choral, chamber, song, mixed ensembles and instrumental music recitals, alongside a series of supporting talks, related events and an accompanying published book.

Many of Ireland’s leading performers will take part. They include Crash Ensemble, Chamber Choir Ireland, Concorde, Vanbrugh Quartet, Fidelio Trio, Hugh Tinney, and Robin Tritschler and, given the vital role played by the army musicians during the early years of the state, a performance will be given by the Band of the Defence Forces School of Music.

To coincide with the festival, The Invisible Art – A Century of Music by Irish Composers: 1916-2016, a full-colour illustrated book, will be published by New Island in association with RTÉ. The content, commissioned for the publication from an array of writers covering this key period in Irish musical composition, will bring to life music composition in Ireland across a 100-year period. The book is edited by Michael Dervan, music critic of The Irish Times.

Audiences will encounter music by familiar names – such as Harty, Boydell, Ó Riada and Barry – alongside lesser-known yet significant figures – such as Rhoda Coghill, Ina Boyle and many confident contemporary voices.

Highlights include

  • The earliest orchestral piece, an Irish Rhapsody from 1914 by Charles Villiers Stanford, friend of Brahms and Offenbach, teacher of Vaughan Williams and Holst.
  • The newest orchestral composition, c, commissioned by RTÉ especially for Composing the Island from Birmingham-based Dubliner Andrew Hamilton, whose teachers include Kevin Volans, will premiere at the festival.
  • A new work by Ian Wilson, exploring the human, personal aspects of 1916 through the last words of the captured leaders of the Rising.
  • Additional world premieres by Ronan Guilfoyle, Philip Hammond, Stephen McNeff and Eoghan Desmond.
  • A century of choral music with Chamber Choir Ireland.
  • Two recitals of The Irish Song Book with Robin Tritschler and Rachel Kelly.
  • The groundbreaking string quartet by Frederick May, one of the most individual statements from an Irish composer in the first half of the 20th century.
  • Other significant chamber music from across the century played by the Vanbrugh and RTÉ Contempo quartets and Fidelio Trio.
  • Striking recent orchestral works including Donnacha Dennehy’s Crane with its title reflecting that symbol of the construction boom of Celtic Tiger Ireland; and Stephen Gardner’s NEVER…NEVER…NEVER drawing its title from a famous Ian Paisley speech protesting against the signing of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.
  • Recitals by leading Irish pianists Hugh Tinney and Michael McHale.
  • ‘Here and Now’: 21st century music in the Crash Ensemble new music marathon.
  • RTÉ Cór na nÓg presenting music written especially for children’s voices since 1980
  • Festival finale with the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in a choral concert that brings Composing the Island back full circle, with two works from the 1920s by now largely forgotten figures, Norman Hay and Rhoda Coghill.


Abbey Theatre, An Garda Siochana, Association of Professional Genealogists Ireland, Band of An Garda Siochana, Buswells Hotel, Capuchin Friary, Century Ireland, Cobblestone, Conradh na Gaeilge, Dubray Books Grafton Street, Dublin Fire Brigade Pipe Band, Dublin Institute of Technology, Eason’s O’Connell Street, Gallery of Photography. Garda Historical Society, Generator Hostel, Glasnevin Trust, Grafton Barbers, Hodges Figgis Dawson Street, Irish Film Archive, Irish Veteran & Vintage Car Club. John Shevlin Millinery, Little Museum of Dublin, Louis Copeland & Sons, Manning's Bakery, Massey Funeral Directors, Maynooth University, Merrion Square Artists Association, National College of Art and Design, National Library of Ireland, National Museum at Collins Barracks, National Transport Museum of Ireland, NUI Galway, Poetry Ireland, Queen's University Belfast, Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association, Royal Hibernian Academy, St Michan's Church of Ireland Parish, St Michan's Roman Catholic Parish, St Vincent de Paul, SIPTU, The Four Courts, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin, University of Limerick, University of Ulster, Whyte’s Irish Art & Collectables, National Print Museum, Irish Guild of Weavers Spinners & Dyers, ICA, Feltmakers Ireland, Irish Woodturners Guild, Doran Barber Shop The Pram Doctor, The Merrion Square Artists Association, The Dice Bar, Third Space, The Family Resource Centre St. Michael’s Estate, Brown Bag Films, The Stoneybatter and Smithfield People’s History Project, The Revenue Museum,

RTÉ would like to gratefully acknowledge the support and participation of the individual speakers who were kind enough to share their research and private collections with the public as part of the RTÉ Reflecting the Rising project. A big thanks also to the many volunteers and actors who gave their time so generously to help make RTÉ Reflecting the Rising a memorable and successful day.

RTÉ Commercial Enterprises Limited, Registered in Dublin, Registration Number:155076.
Registered Office: Donnybrook, Dublin 4, Ireland.