Simon composed over orchestra performance

Simon Mawhinney.
Simon Mawhinney.

Lurgan musician Simon Mawhinney will have one of his compositions performed by the Ulster Orchestra at the forthcoming Belfast Festival.

The 37-year-old who was educated at Lurgan College told the ‘MAIL’: “I am rather in the dark about how this came about - this is quite common and the decisions of festivals/orchestras, etc can be opaque.

“It seems that they decided that it would be good to programme some ‘local’ musicians in one of their concerts. So they picked me as the composer and Barry Douglas (also from Lurgan) as the pianist for another work in the concert.”

Simon, a married father of two, continued: “The orchestra have held a copy of this piece for many years.

“It was originally written in 2002 and was first played by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

“When the Ulster Orchestra contacted me about playing it I looked at the score and realised just how much more experience and skill I have acquired in the past decade.

“In my opinion the piece needed to be re-written and so over the summer this year I revised the orchestration quite extensively.

“This means that this forthcoming performance is, in some ways, a premiere performance.”

It isn’t the first time Simon’s music has been performed to a large audience.

He commented: “My focus in recent years (since 2006) has really been on the international aspect of my career and I have had many performances all over the world, including Korea, US and South Africa.

“There is a CD of my music available on Amazon and another one will be released within the next few months. I’ve had particularly notable performances in Germany, Paris and Iceland in particular. This has afforded me opportunities for travel to attend premieres and so forth.

“These pieces are written for all kinds of musicians - from solo instruments to chamber orchestra or orchestra. Most of these concerts are given to audiences who are particularly interested in hearing challenging contemporary music and what is unusual about this performance by the Ulster Orchestra is that the piece will be played for what might be called the ‘general’ audience (rather than a specialised audience.)

“I’m very happy about that indeed and always intended that my music would be aimed at classical music audiences who are interested in the entire repertoire - not just contemporary music.”

Simon will be there on the night when he will also be doing a pre-concert talk about the piece.

Simon studied music at Oxford University and then completed a postgraduate at York, followed by a PhD in Queen’s.

He said: “After I completed that in 2003 I was based in Belfast and began developing a profile as composer and pianist.

“In 2006 I was appointed Lecturer in Music at QUB where I teach composition. On top of that I have continued to work as a composer.

“To a lesser extent I have kept my hand in as a pianist and recently gave a 20th anniversary concert at Queen’s on Thursday, October 9 - marking 20 years of my professional activity as composer/pianist. In the recital I played pieces by Busoni, Liszt and Rachmaninov (Second Sonata).

Simon, who now lives in Helen’s Bay, recalled: “My first concert was given in 1994 when Lurgan College gave me permission to be absent in order to travel to Queen’s and do a concert of my own piano music.”