2 March 2016
By Tom O’Sullivan
Cork International Choral Festival is proud to announce Offaly-born Amanda Feery as the winner of the 2016 Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition. As winner of the competition, her piece Changed Utterly, will receive its world premiere in the spectacular surrounds of St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral on Friday 29th 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.
Amanda is currently completing a PhD in Composition at Princeton University, New York having completed a B.A. in Music in 2006, and an M.Phil in Music and Media Technologies in 2009 at Trinity College Dublin. Past collaborators include Crash Ensemble, Fidelio Trio, ConTempo Quartet, Orkest de Ereprijs, Lisa Moore, Cora Venus Lunny, Michelle O’Rourke, Zoe Conway, and Paul Roe. She has participated as a composer fellow at Ostrava Days Festival (Czech Republic), Soundscape Festival (Italy), Bang on a Can Summer Festival (U.S), and the International Young Composers Meeting (Netherlands). She was winner of the West Cork Chamber Music Composer Award in 2009, and the Jerome Hynes Award in 2013. Current and future projects will see Amanda take on a large-scale multimedia work for vocal quartet So Percussion, and commissions from Ensemble Mise-en, Bearthoven, Jacquin Trio, and cellist Amanda Gookin. Her composition, Changed Utterly, came out on top in a year that saw a high standard of entry. The members of the judging panel, composers Rhona Clarke and Stephen McNeff, and Paul Hillier, Artistic Director and Conductor of CCI, summarised their reaction and evaluation to Feery’s winning piece as follows:
“Changed Utterly is a strong individual work which, using a text that reflects on the 1916 Rising, absolutely reflects on this year’s competition brief. Musically, a reflection of the past appears in the form of a fragment of “The Derry Air”, which sounds like something from the distant past in the context of contemporary, carefully conceived choral sounds. The work achieves what it sets out to achieve, with affect and relative simplicity of means.”
Along with receiving a cash prize, kindly donated by the Ó Riada family, Amanda’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 première of a piece – A half darkness, by Stephen McNeff specially commissioned by the Festival. Amanda will also play an integral part in the Festival’s new Choral Symposium, which will be curated by Paul Hillier and John Fitzpatrick. As part of this new Symposium the Festival will feature two runners up in the Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition, Peter Moran and Criostóir Ó Loingsigh, giving their composed works a platform under the direction of Paul Hillier and Chamber Choir Ireland in interactive workshop sessions on Friday 29th April at 2pm and Saturday 30th April at 10am in Cork School of Music. On receiving the news of her win, Amanda said:
“I was so excited to hear from John Fitzpatrick that I had won the Seán Ó Riada competition. I have written for smaller groups of vocalists previously, but this is my first choral piece, and I’m delighted that it will be premiered by Chamber Choir Ireland in April.”
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, Donal MacErlaine, Simon MacHale, Michael McGlynn, Kevin O’Connell, and last year’s winner, Eoghan Desmond. With over 170 compositions being submitted in the past 6 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.