Much respected and successful saxophonist
Gerard McChrystal is one of Europe, and the World’s, most accomplished saxophone players. Born in Altnagelvin Hospital and brought up in the Carnhill area of the city, McChrystal is one of Derry’s unsung cultural heroes.
Throughout his education at St. Patrick’s Primary, Pennyburn and St. Columb’s College, Gerard pursued a strong interest in music, initially as a clarinettist with the Western Area Board Youth Orchestra.
From an early age it was clear that Gerard had an obvious musical talent and his potential saw him move on to the Irish Youth Orchestra, based in Dublin. The orchestra provided a natural stepping stone into music college and the opportunity to study music intensively.
With this training combining with his natural ability, Gerard went on to win the RTE Musician of the future twice – once with the clarinet and once with the saxophone and in 1988, as a 23 year old, he lifted the £15,000 Lombard & Ulster music award.
From here Gerard McChrystal has gone on to establish himself as a household name in classical and contemporary music. Gerard’s profile is such that he has had pieces written specifically for him to play and he has graced stages all over the world in New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, as well as throughout the UK and Ireland.
Gerard made his US debut with two performances of Michael Nyman’s saxophone concerto with The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra in San Francisco Opera House in 1996. In 1996 Gerard played to 20,000 people in Seoul, Korea.
Gerard has released several examples of his work. His first major album was the Debussy Saxophone Rapsodie for Chandos with Yan Pascal Tortelier. This was followed by Meeting Point, featuring concerti by Nyman, Torke and Heath in 1996. His album featuring a series of Romances and Toccatas for Saxophone by Scottish composer Billy Cowie was released in April 2000.
His work has been characterised by its range and diversity, perhaps because of his roots in Derry, Gerard has sought to move classical music into wider and more mainstream circles, collaborating with artists such as The Soweto String Quartet, Canadian accordionist Joseph Petric, percussionist Richard Benjafield, jazz tenorist Tommy Smith, the vocal group Anuna and composer David Bedford for saxophone and tape.
Today Gerard is saxophone soloist and Professor of saxophone at Trinity College of Music, London and The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff. An active figure in the music world, he has secured a position as one of the foremost practitioners of his craft in the world today.
Despite this wealth of international experience and achievement Gerard still rates one of his proudest boasts that his first ever piece of commissioned music was from a fellow Derry man, Kevin O’Connell.