Bill Whelan, (born 22 May 1950 in Limerick, Ireland) is an Irish
composer and musician. He is best known for composing a piece for
the interval of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. The result,
Riverdance, was a seven-minute display of traditional Irish dancing
that became a full-length stage production and spawned a worldwide
Irish dancing and
Celtic music and also won him a Grammy. It
was released as a single in the UK in 1994, credited to "Bill Whelan
Anúna featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra". It reached number 9
and stayed in the charts for 16 weeks. The album of the same title
reached number 31 in the album charts in 1995.
Whelan has also composed a symphonic suite version of Riverdance, with
its premiere performed by the
Ulster Orchestra on
BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3 in
2 Career timeline
5 External links
Whelan is a native of Limerick, and was educated at Crescent College,
University College Dublin
University College Dublin and the King's Inns. While he is best known
Riverdance composition, Whelan has been involved in many
ground-breaking projects in Ireland since the 1970s. As a producer he
has worked with U2 (on their War album), Van Morrison, Kate Bush, The
Dubliners, Planxty, Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane, Patrick Street,
Stockton's Wing and fellow Limerickman Richard Harris.
As an arranger and composer, his credits include:
The Seville Suite, which was inspired by the exploits of Aodh Rua Ó
Dónaill from The
Battle of Kinsale
Battle of Kinsale in 1601 until his arrival in
Galicia to the welcome of The Spanish Earl of Caraçena. In addition
to the orchestra, The Seville Suite includes
Celtic Music on Uilleann
Pipes, accordion, bodhrán, fiddle as well as Galician harp, whistles
The Spirit of Mayo, performed by an 85-piece orchestra in Dublin's
National Concert Hall and featuring a powerful Celtic drum corps and a
200 strong choir and choral group Anúna.
Orchestral release, The Connemara Suite, features the
Irish Chamber Orchestra along with soloists Zoë Conway, Morgan
Colin Dunne (Dance Percussion) and Fionnuala Hunt.
In theatre, Whelan received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for
his adaption of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore. He wrote
original music for 15 of W. B. Yeats's plays for Dublin's Abbey
Theatre and his film credits include, Dancing at Lughnasa (starring
Meryl Streep), Some Mother's Son, Lamb (starring Liam Neeson) and the
award-winning At The Cinema Palace.
Whelan's lifetime of musical endeavours include:
1970 – Composes score for the film Bloomfield.
1978 – Member of the jazz-rock band Stacc, who release a single on
1979 – Joins
Planxty on keyboards.
1981 – Timedance, composed by Whelan and Dónal Lunny, and performed
by Planxty, features in the interval of Eurovision. Timedance released
1983 – Whelan produces "The Refugee" on the U2 album War.
1984 – Film score for Lamb, with Van Morrison
1985 – Produces and performs on Stockton's Wing's Live – Take One.
1987 – Composes The O'Riada Suite.
1989 – Joins board of
Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO), on
which he serves continuously until 1997.
1990 – Produces and plays keyboards on Andy Irvine's album Rude
Awakening, released in early 1991 on the
Green Linnet Records
Green Linnet Records label.
1992 – Commissioned to compose The Seville Suite, released on the
Tara Music label.
1992 – Produces and plays keyboards on the Andy Irvine/Davy Spillane
album EastWind, released on the
Tara Music label.
1992 – Produces and performs on Stockton's Wing's The Crooked Rose
Tara Music label.
1993 – Composes the orchestral work The Spirit of Mayo.
1994 – Composes
Riverdance for interval segment of the Eurovision
Song Contest. The segment is an unprecedented success and spins off
into the long-running stage show.
1995 – Invited to serve on the Government Task Force set up by
Minister Michael D. Higgins.
1996 – Composes original music for Jim Sheridan/Terry George's film
Some Mother's Son.
1997 – Receives a
Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album for
Riverdance opens on Broadway.
2001 – Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from IMRO (Irish Music
2006 – Receives Lifetime Achievement Award at the Meteor Music
2008 – Releases his Celtic orchestral album The Connemara Suite on
Tara Music label.
As a keyboard player, or as an arranger, he has contributed to these
The Woman I Loved So Well (Planxty) (1980)
Words & Music (Planxty) (1983)
Irish Times (Patrick Street) (1990)
Rude Awakening (Andy Irvine) (1991) Green Linnet Records
East Wind (Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane) (1992) Tara Music
The Seville Suite (various artists) (1992) Tara Music
Riverdance: Music from the Show (various artists) (1995)
The Best of
Patrick Street (Patrick Street) (1995)
Some Mother's Son
Some Mother's Son (various artists) (1996)
L'Imaginaire Irlandais (various artists) (1996)
Riverdance (various artists) (1997)
Dancing at Lughnasa (various artists) (1998)
Riverdance on Broadway (various artists) (2000)
Zoe Conway (Zoe Conway) (2002) Tara Music
A Christmas Carol (various artists) (2007)
The Connemara Suite (2008) Tara Music
^ Much of the biographical information here is covered in an extensive
interview with Marian Finucane on 16 April 2011 on RTÉ Radio 1
^ "Prom 51 (part 1): Free Prom - Dvorak, Grieg, Bax and Bill Whelan".
BBC Radio 3. 25 August 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
^ a b "Meteor Industry Award for Bill Whelan". RTÉ. 1 February 2006.
Retrieved 8 February 2010.
Bill Whelan on IMDb
Bill Whelan file at
Limerick City Library, Ireland
Michael Flatley's dance shows
Lord of the Dance
Feet of Flames
Breandán de Gallaí
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