Brian Irvine

A CultureNorthernIreland profile of Belfast composer Brian Irvine

Born in Belfast, composer Brian Irvine is a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Surrey University and University of Ulster. His music reflects an obsessive interest in opposing musical genres from punk, contemporary classical and jazz. His huge body of work includes solo, ensemble, orchestral, jazz, opera and electronica as well as theatre music and film scores.

With his own critically acclaimed 15-piece ensemble, Irvine has performed extensively throughout Europe and the US at many major international music festivals. He has worked closely with diverse personalities and organisations including the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra and DJ David Holmes, as well as many theatre and film production companies.

An exciting development in Irvine's colourful career is his recent appointment as Associate Composer for the Ulster Orchestra. As well as creating a number of new works over the next three years, Irvine will be working with the orchestra's education department, devising and implementing a number of challenging and creative education projects.

In 2003 Irvine was the first Irish composer to win the BBC Radio 3 Jazz Award for Best New Work. In the same year he was appointed as the first New Music Fellow for Scotland (based at the Tolbooth in Stirling) and in 2005 his 40-minute epic Montana Strange (based on the films of David Lynch) was premiered by the BBC Concert Orchestra, together with the Brian Irvine Ensemble and Paul Dunamall (solo saxophone), as part of BBC Music Live.

In April 2005, Irvine's childrens' opera The Tailor's Daughter (commissioned by Welsh National Opera) was premiered in Cardiff. Irvine scooped a British Composer Award for the work, presented by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.

On receiving the award, Irvine said: 'They say "never work with children or animals", but I found working with the young performers on The Tailor’s Daughter an immensely rewarding experience.

'Their energy and excitement helped the opera to surpass expectations of what youth opera can deliver. I’m proud to have won the British Composer Award, especially for a large-scale production which I feel came alive through the incredible enthusiasm we all shared for the work.'

Irvine is a passionate believer in the wider values involved in the creation of new music and has conducted over 500 hands-on composition and improvisation music workshops. He was instrumental in establishing the music department at the North Down and Ards College ten years ago (from an initial class of six in his mum's attic to a department which now boasts over 250 students) and has also been the music director for the Prince's Trust Soundlive programme for the last seven years.

Irvine has recently completed writng, conducting and recording scores for the animated films Loocymoon, by John McCluskey and Horn OK Please, by Joel Simon. He is currently working on a new opera for Welsh National Opera and a major piece for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, narrator and school choir based on Tom Bakers' book The Boy Who Kicked Pigs.