‘I feel answerable to society, but I also feel answerable to myself’
Kevin O’Connell was born in Derry in 1958 and began composing at the age of twelve. After his earliest professional commissions he established his reputation with his orchestral work From the Besieged City (1989) and a series of operas: Sensational!, The Fireking and My Love my Umbrella. These works have been performed throughout Ireland and Britain, and in Los Angeles and Düsseldorf. In 1998, his BBC Radio 3 commission North was premièred by the Ulster Orchestra. In 2014, North appeared on a CD devoted to O’Connell’s orchestral music on the RTÉ lyric fm label. The CD also features Four Orchestral Pieces (2007) and Symphony (2011). O’Connell’s extensive chamber output has been played by soloists and groups from all over Europe. In 2002, the Lotus Quartet (Stuttgart) premièred his String Quartet. Subsequent works for this medium include Where should this music be? commissioned by RTÉ to mark the seventieth birthday of Seamus Heaney. In 2004, the Crash Ensemble premièred Apollo and Marsyas, a dramatic concerto on a text by the composer. More recently, Céimeanna (for piano) and Accord (for solo cello) have toured China in performances by Archie Chen and Bill Butt, respectively. O’Connell has been a recipient of the Bass Ireland Award, the McCauley Fellowship and the Seán Ó Riada Prize. He is a member of Aosdána, Ireland’s academy of creative artists.
Photograph: Tony Carragher. Kevin O’Connell at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin, in his teaching room, 22 April 2014.
Sensational (1992) opera
North (1997-98) for orchestra
Apollo and Marsyas (2003) for voice and ensemble
Jennifer McCay, “Issues of Identity in Northern Ireland through the music of Kevin O’Connell,” in Mark Fitzgerald and John O’Flynn, eds. Music and Identity in Ireland and Beyond. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014 (link)