“Some of the most exhilarating and imaginative music you'll ever hope to hear……musical play in the highest sense: exuberant, spontaneous and irresistibly alive.” Washington Post" Brian Irvine’s body of work is an example of the musical treasures half hidden in the cracks between the categories….smart music in a culture that often over rewards the dumb and/or the well connected…. an animated musical experience, full of frenetic time changes, fearsome collisions, and instant recoveries, wild excesses, and tender reveries, exquisite, exhilarating stuff….” The Guardian
Composer/conductor Brian Irvine was born in Belfast. His huge body of work includes operas, orchestral works, large-scale participatory work, films, multi-media installations, dance works as well as ensemble, solo, and chamber pieces. His sound world is a personal concoction of contemporary classical, cartoon, punk, jazz, thrash and trash and combines the lost, the fixed, the free, the learned, the naïve, the precious and the junk.
It often takes the form of giant super structures - as in the head on collision of two symphony orchestras, improvising choir and two conductors in the study of madness that is Praise aloud the trees (collaboration with Seamus Heaney) or the 7 day performance installation of 3000 collected objects, symphony orchestra, choir, intervention performers and soloists in NEST (the Northern Ireland Artists Taking The lead commission for the London 2012 Olympics) or the layering of 500 singing children, symphony orchestra, live shadow puppet animation and narrator in Bluebottle or Montana Strange the 50 minute homage to filmmaker David lynch for symphony orchestra, his own 12 piece ensemble, turntables, two conductors and free improviser - Paul Dunmall.
He has been commissioned and performed by London Symphony Orchestra, Welsh National Opera, Homecoming Festival, BBC Concert Orchestra, Red Note Ensemble, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Northern Sinfonia, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Northern Ireland Opera, Wide Open Opera, Ulster Orchestra, RTE National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland), 4-Mality percussion ensemble, Irish Chamber Orchestra and the London 2012 Olympics.
Much of his work has involved close collaborations with a broad range of artists including: Seamus Heaney (poet), Eduard Bersudsky (sculptor), Cy Twombly (painter), John McIlduff (filmmaker/director), Joanna Macgregor (piano), Jari Nemenin (filmmaker/director), Joel Simon (filmmaker/animator), Matthew Robbins (animator/artist), Jennifer Walshe (composer/vocalist),LAU (BBC Folk Award Winners), Ivor Cutler (poet/ singer), Keiji Haino (guitar), David Holmes (producer/composer/DJ), Paul Dunmall (saxophone/reeds/bagpipes), Darragh Morgan (violin), Owen McCafferty (playwright), Duke Special (singer/songwriter).
Extracts from operatic work in progress based on the life of Rosemary Kennedy
He has won a number of awards for his work including a British Composers Award for Opera (Welsh National Opera Commission - The Tailor’s Daughter, 2008), Allianz Arts and Business Arts Award for best use of music in the community (Carlow based community opera - Shelter Me from the Rain), BBC Jazz Award for best new work (Interupting Cutler) and the Major Individual Artist Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Recently he was namesd as the recipient of the 2015 Paul Hamlyn Composers Award.
He has been shortlisted for three BASCA British Composer Awards including Rain Falling Up 2012 (for orchestra, animation and 500 young singers), Things We Throw Away 2015 (a collection of 5 street operas) and is currently shortlisted in the 2016 chamber music category for 13 Vices – a collaboration with vocalist Jennifer Walshe.
For four years (2008-2012) he was the first Associate Composer with the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast and in 2015 was named as the first Music Laureate for the City of Belfast. Together with his own 12 piece ensemble (BBC Radio 3 Music Award winners) Brian has conducted and toured extensively throughout USA, Russia, France, Portugal, Germany, Scotland, Malta, Cyrus, Poland, Scotland, Ireland, England, Belgium and the Netherlands appearing at some of the world’s leading international music festivals/venues.