Riverdance Grammy-Winner Whelan Premieres "Inishlacken," May 19 at Kennedy Center

News   Riverdance Grammy-Winner Whelan Premieres "Inishlacken," May 19 at Kennedy Center Grammy Award-winning Riverdance composer Bill Whelan premieres his new suite, for two violins and chamber strings, titled "Inishlacken" May 19 as part of the "Arts From Ireland Festival" (May 13-28) at the Kennedy Center.

Grammy Award-winning Riverdance composer Bill Whelan premieres his new suite, for two violins and chamber strings, titled "Inishlacken" May 19 as part of the "Arts From Ireland Festival" (May 13-28) at the Kennedy Center.

As reported earlier, the piece was written at the request of Jean Kennedy Smith (the former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland who got to know Whelan when they both lived on the coast there). "Inishlacken" is named after an island off the Irish mainland.

In a recent statement made in Dublin, Whelan said he had worked on the piece with the "kind cooperation and talent of Fionnuala Hunt and the Irish Chamber Orchestra." Whelan added that he has "written this work for two violins -- one featuring Fionnuala herself, and the other played by Zoë Conway, who has just completed her formal education and is a rich exponent of Irish traditional musical styles, as well as a budding young classical performer.”

Whelan spoke to Playbill On-Line shortly after arriving in the States for the Kennedy Center premiere.

"The inspiration for the piece comes from a number of sources," Whelan said. "The island is close to where I have a home, and I go there because it's a place of great power and solitude." A former pit musician in London and Ireland where he worked on Jesus Christ Superstar and other popular shows, Whelan said he went to law school and earned a law degree before returning to music.

The pay and working conditions for musicians prompted the songwriter to take up composition and that is why he has the musicians in Riverdance visible during their performance in that show.

For "Inishlacken," Whelan said he wanted to "write a concerto, one in a traditional Irish style and one in a classical style." "That's how the piece came together," Whelan said, "it's a three-piece suite if you like with a chamber orchestra and two soloists."

-- By Murdoch McBride