Composer Lab 2024: Participant Composers Announced

The Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland and the National Symphony Orchestra, in association with RTÉ lyric fm, are delighted to announce the four composers selected to participate Composer Lab 2024: Amelia Clarkson, Finola Merivale, Barry O'Halpin and Yue Song.

Composer Lab is a professional development initiative aimed at composers who have had limited opportunities to write for the full forces of a symphony orchestra. The programme provides composers with a creative and open environment to deepen their experience in writing for symphonic forces, under the mentorship of CMC composer David Fennessy

Applications for Composer Lab are received via an annual open call with review by representatives from the National Symphony Orchestra and the Contemporary Music Centre, and composer mentor David Fennessy. 

Meet the Composer Lab 2024 Participant Composers:

Photo by Jannah Claire

Amelia Clarkson

Amelia is a Northern Irish composer who juxtaposes folk and classical influences in her approach, creating much of her recent music for dance. Her new work ‘Ephemeral’ commissioned by the Dutch National Ballet is currently touring the Netherlands, and in 2023 she scored Six Dance Collective’s two-act ballet ‘White Doves’ performed in August at the MAC Belfast.

Amelia is a current PhD candidate at the Royal Northern College of Music as the 2022 Mendelssohn Scholar. Her practice has received support from the ACNI and PRS, Vaughan Williams and Hinrichsen Foundations. She joined CMC as an Associate Composer in 2023.

In response to her selection for Composer Lab 2024, Amelia said:

I’m thrilled to be joining Composer Lab and am really excited to collaborate with Dublin artists and musicians on new music for the NSO, especially after several years away from the island. Following a period of making music which navigates socio-political issues, I’ll be creating a new orchestral work which explores whether this practice is sustainable as an artist, finding ways to encapsulate an essence of ambiguity and fluidity and find a delicate place in which fragility meets strength.

Photo by Emma O'Halloran

Finola Merivale

Finola Merivale is an Irish composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music living in New York. She completed her DMA in Composition at Columbia University in 2023. Her music has been performed internationally by Talea Ensemble, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Crash Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, and musicians of the Chicago and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras, amongst others, featuring at festivals across the world. 

In 2022, Finola’s debut portrait album, Tús – a collaboration with Desdemona – was released on New Focus Recordings. In 2021, Finola and her creative team were the winners of the 2021 Fedora Digital Prize to assist in the production of As an nGnách/Out of the Ordinary, a community opera in virtual reality.

Finola shared an insight into the piece she will be developing as part of Composer Lab 2024:

I'm excited to work with National Symphony Orchestra on a new piece that will reflect on the prevalence with which women are disregarded and disbelieved in medical settings, which sometimes has terrifying consequences.

Photo by Robert Watson

Barry O'Halpin

Barry O’Halpin is a Dublin-based composer, electric guitarist and previous composer-in-residence with Crash Ensemble. As a member of experimental rock band Alarmist, he has released 4 acclaimed records. Chambergrist premiered at Cavan Arts Festival 2023, a cave-inspired work merging prepared guitar, Alex Petcu’s percussion and Elaine Harrington’s sculptures. Heaving Moss was commissioned and toured in 2023 by Wildwood (Petcu and clarinettist Deirdre O’Leary). The concert-length Wingform for Crash Ensemble premiered streaming at New Music Dublin 2021 and with live audience at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2022, also touring nationally as an audiovisual installation by Jack Phelan.

Barry shared some of his initial plans for Composer Lab 2024:

It’s very exciting to be part of this year’s Composer Lab, which will be my first time writing for full symphony orchestra after years of experience working with smaller ensembles. It’s a really rare and valuable opportunity to think big, to try out ideas in progress over time, and to use the workshops with players and mentors to see what sticks the landing and what needs refining. It’s early days, but I’m currently imagining something that carries on the language of my recent work, while embracing the medium with homage to classic orchestral colours, mid-century film scores and the density of big-band jazz. I’d like to play with the tensions and clashes that emerge from this in a hopefully strange and beautiful way.

Photo by Laura Sheeran

Yue Song

Yue Song is a Chinese composer and pianist. In 2018, she moved to Ireland, and was awarded her PhD in 2023. She has composed works in various genres, including opera, orchestra, Chinese orchestra, various chamber music ensembles, solo pieces, and electronic music. She originally comes from a classical music background, and is interested in many different styles of music and art forms, especially theater and literature. She has been awarded prizes at various international competitions, her works have been published in various mediums by North Bull Records, Crash Records, Central Conservatory of Music and Beijing Dance Academy.

Yue shared some influences and ideas which she will explore as part of Composer Lab 2024:

I find similarities between some Irish folk music and traditional Chinese folk music,especially in the motives of certain folk songs, which sound familiar on the surface but carry a completely different feeling as a whole. I would like to compose a piece for orchestra that incorporates aspects of both Irish and Chinese folk music elements, which are deconstructed, reimagined, and worked into a contemporary context alongside contrasting materials.

Composer Lab 2024 begins with an initial one-to-one mentorship session with composer David Fennessy, followed by an orchestral workshop with the section principals of the National Symphony Orchestra. The Composer Lab Public Workshop will see each composer working with the full orchestra, facilitated by mentor David Fennessy and conducted by Gavin Maloney. The programme will culminate in 2025 with a public performance of the composers’ works performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of conductor Gavin Maloney, in a live radio and online broadcast on RTÉ lyric fm.