Michael McHale

Roaming pianist Michael McHale talks to Philip Hammond about his Romantics repertoire and touring in Northern Ireland

Click for Michael_McHale_Podcast.mp3 (MP3 Audio File, 7.17 MB)

Northern Ireland provides a remarkably steady stream of young musicians who pack their bags at an early age and head off to musical institutions around the world to complete their education. 

It is therefore important for us to provide as many opportunities as we can to support our emigrant musical protégés – so we can hear how they’re getting on and encourage them in their progress. 

Moving on Music is one organisation which has always had an eye and an ear to exactly this kind of promotion in Northern Ireland and Brian Carson, its enterprising founder and director, has done a great deal to bring attention to the up-and-coming as well as the tried and tested in contemporary music making. Between April 21 -25, Moving on Music has organised a tour for Belfast born pianist Michael McHale.

McHale has built up an estimable portfolio of excellent reviews from his performances on the international circuit, but he particularly likes playing in front of a home audience. 'There’s something really nice about being at home - there’s an extra warmth and it’s much more enjoyable.'

As a twenty-six year old, Michael is not exactly in the first flush of youth in musical terms. His decision to take a broad-based approach to establishing his career by first going to Cambridge and only then moving on to music college may seem to some to have been an indirect path to becoming a concert pianist.

But what he has gained by this direction is a maturity of intellect and a breadth of experience which has allowed his music making to be personal and at the same time embracing of a wider collective. He is, as a result, a musician of growing sensitivity and sensibility.

'One of the things which I enjoy most about what I do is the interaction with an audience and it’s different every time. It’s interesting to feel the different vibes and the reactions you get.'

For his home tour, Michael has chosen a diverse programme of Mozart, Brahms, Liszt, Rakhmaninoff and two recent pieces by Northern Irish composer Ian Wilson.

'Mozart and Beethoven I have always had an affinity with but I love all the Romantic repertoire as well – like Liszt and Rakhmaninoff. There are pros and cons for the piano. You can never run out of repertoire. But then the flip side is that there is so much that you can dedicate your life to it and you’d still only scratch the surface!'

Michael is a no nonsense musician dedicated to what he is doing but without a trace of arrogance or self-conceit. His tour in Northern Ireland will be well worth getting along to! 

'I mainly play the piano because I enjoy it and I enjoy giving pleasure to other people and audiences and I think there’s not too much reason at this stage to look further than that.'

The musical excerpts on this podcast are by Rakhmaninoff and Liszt and were played and recorded specially by Michael McHale on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Model D Steinway. 

Philip Hammond