Laura Heneghan Announced as Winner of Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition 2023

We are thrilled to announce Laura Heneghan as this year’s winner of Cork International Choral Festival’s prestigious Seán Ó Riada composition competition!

Initiated in 1972 in recognition of the creative life and work of Seán Ó Riada (1931-1971), the competition invites the submission of new works annually from Irish composers, and is held in collaboration with the Cork International Choral Festival and Chamber Choir Ireland.

As the winner, Laura Heneghan’s composition Draíocht na Farraige will receive its world première in the spectacular surrounds of St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral Cork on Friday 28th April at 7.30pm.  The performance will be part of Cork International Choral Festival’s annual collaborative concert with choir-in-residence Chamber Choir Ireland, this year entitled Poets, Passion and Peace and led by guest director Sofi Jeannin.

Laura Heneghan (1999) is a Mayo-born, Glasgow-based composer and pianist. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree (Music) in the University of Galway in August 2022, where she worked on her compositions under the supervision of Dr Amanda Feery. Soon after, she moved to Glasgow to pursue master’s studies in composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She previously worked under the supervision of Dr Ailie Robertson and currently, is working under the supervision of Dr David Fennessy and Dr Bekah Simms. Laura has had work performed by Rosanne Phillippens (violin) and Zoltán Fejérvari (piano) in the Emily Anderson Concert Hall as part of the Music for Galway Arts in Action Concert series. In April, she will have work premièred in the University of St. Andrews, and as part of the PLUG festival, Laura will have work premièred by the GAIA duo in the Ledger Recital Hall in May. Previously, she has completed workshops with Graham Fitkin, Kate Moore, and RTÉ Contempo Quartet. Laura is particularly interested in cross-disciplinary collaboration and is currently making plans to compose work for students in the ballet, film, and vocal studies department within the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

On receiving the news of her win, Laura said, “I am delighted to be chosen as the winner of the Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition 2023! It is a privilege to have my name next to such prestigious composers who have won the competition in the past. I am thrilled to have my piece Draíocht na Farraige premiered at the Cork International Choral Festival at the end of April by the renowned Chamber Choir Ireland and distinguished conductor Sofi Jeannin. It is an incredible opportunity, and I am looking forward to working with them closely as the festival draws closer! Draíocht na Farraige (The Magic of the Sea) is a poem derived from the book ‘Trócaire Dé agus Dánta Eile’ by the late Maria Goretti Ní Fhéinne. The poet discusses the Spiddal seaside in County Galway in a beautifully descriptive way, and I thought this imagery could be greatly enhanced by a choir.”

Her composition, Draíocht na Farraige was chosen by the members of the judging panel, Chamber Choir Ireland (CCI) member Eoghan Desmond, composer Rhona Clarke and Sofi Jeannin, Guest Director and Conductor of CCI, who summarised their reaction and evaluation to Heneghan’s winning piece as follows: “The piece shows a consistent style with a sensitive handling of this beautiful Irish text. It demonstrates the composer’s fluency in choral writing. 

The present format of the Seán Ó Riada Competition, which is more than 50 years old, offers a platform for Irish composers to have their work judged and rewarded purely on its own merits without the judges being influenced by the reputation or status of the composer.  All compositions are submitted under a pseudonym, with the author’s real name not being revealed until after the judges’ decision has been made. Works composed in the Irish language are encouraged. The competition has, as a central aim, the intention of providing Irish choirs with fresh, authentic material for inclusion in their programmes.

The competition has attracted the attention of many highly-regarded composers, with past winners including Solfa Carlisle, Rhona Clarke, Patrick Connolly, Frank Corcoran, Séamas de Barra, Eoghan Desmond, Michael Holohan, Marian Ingoldsby, Donal MacErlaine, Simon MacHale, Michael McGlynn, Kevin O’Connell, Amanda Feery, Criostóir Ó Loingsigh, Donal Sarsfield, James May, Peter Leavy, Norah Constance Walsh and last year’s winner Darragh Black Hynes. With more than 220 compositions being submitted in the past 10 years of the new format, the Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition clearly highlights the number of composers now working and living in Ireland, and further demonstrates the Cork International Choral Festival’s continuing commitment to encourage the composition and performance of contemporary music.

Book tickets to hear Draíocht na Farraige in concert