Spotlight on Andrew Hamilton – Choirland Revisited

Chamber Choir Ireland’s upcoming Choirland Revisited tour will feature the World Premiere of celebrated composer Andrew Hamilton’s complete 3-part work ‘music for thomas bernhard‘ co-commissioned by Chamber Choir Ireland and the Cork International Choral Festival.

Thomas Bernhard (1931 – 1989) was an Austrian novelist, playwright and poet. Bernhard, whose body of work has been called “the most significant literary achievement since World War II, is widely considered to be one of the most important German-speaking authors of the postwar era.

We had a chat with Andrew recently about this new work and the man that inspired it.


When was the first time you discovered the work of Thomas Bernhard and how did that come about?

In 2005 while I was on a residency at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, a novelist handed me “Gathering Evidence” by Bernhard and said, “you will like this”.  I did and proceeded to search for as much of his work as I could find. It was love at first paragraph.

What about his writing inspired this composition?

It was a type of revelation in 2005 that I found far more to learn structurally and rhythmically from Bernhard’s writing than the music and visual arts I was hearing and seeing around me. This is not still the case but it was liberating to exist in a world of words instead of sound and seeing at that point.  His precision, repetition, unrelentingness and humour had a big impact on how I write. This influence has inspired both abstract and text-based pieces in the thirteen years since first reading his work and directly influenced “music for thomas bernhard”.

The texts in your work are based on several speeches given by Bernhard. How did they lend themselves to the music?

When I use text I usually read it closely then find musical material and then make the text fit the material.  I “stand back” and let the music and text “jostle” for attention; pieces often end up deciding how they want to be written without interference from the composer.

Why do you like working with Chamber Choir Ireland?

Writing for choirs and voices comes very naturally to me as I sang in choirs since I can remember and I was one of those annoying children who sang everything they saw, which did not make me a big hit with my family on long car journeys.

Working with CCI and Paul Hillier back in 2009 on “Everything is Ridiculous” was one of the best experiences I have had with performers, it all felt very happy and I was delighted with the performance and recording.

What’s next?

I’m just finishing a string quartet for the RTE Contempo Quartet.


The Choirland revisited tour commences on 20 April and will visit the Cork International Choral Festival, The Sonorities Festival in Belfast, St Ann’s Church in Dublin, Lunalia Festival in Belgium and the Fishguard Music Festival in Wales.  Further information, dates and ticketing information can be found HERE