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Bill Whelan

DOCTOR OF LETTERS

Bill Whelan

BILL WHELAN

When Hollywood will turn its attention to the resurgence and redefinition of the Irish nation at the end of the twentieth century, the soundtrack will be the music of Bill Whelan. Born in 1950 in Limerick city, Bill Whelan received his schooling at Crescent College and later studied Law at University College, Dublin.

Bill Whelan became part of traditional music history when he joined the now legendary band Planxty, in 1980, playing the keyboards. Prophetically, the foundation of future success was laid by his composing, arranging and performing Planxty's 1981 Eurovision Song Contest interval piece, Timedance. He has worked with some of the most important popular music artists in Ireland and internationally, including U2, Van Morrisson and Kate Bush as a producer and arranger, but it is as a composer that he has made a significant impact on the cultural life of Ireland and the world.

His film compositions have included the scores for Lamb (1984), Some Mother's Son (1996) and Dancing at Lughnasa (1998) and he has written scores for 15 plays by W.B. Yeats as composer to the Abbey Theatre's W.B. Yeats International Theatre Festival. In 1987 he premiered his first major orchestral work, The Riada Suite, which was conducted by Elmer Bernstein and performed by the National Symphony Orchestra. Other significant orchestral works include The Seville Suite, premiered at the Maestranza in Seville in 1992, and The Spirit of Mayo first performed in 1993. In these compositions and in the recording of the seminal album Eastwind with Davy Spillane and Andy Irvine in 1992, Bill brought together diverse music and dance styles.  This he also did with a team of performers - now world renowned - including Irish World Music Centre artists-in-residence Colin Dunne and Kenneth Edge. This fusion of style and personnel was manifested magnificently in the Riverdance phenomenon, a music and dance concept created through the imagination of Bill Whelan.

The original seven-minute performance as interval act at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest is in no doubt the epiphenal moment of modern Irish history, capturing the confidence of a resurgent nation redefining itself through a communion of past, present and potential. Riverdance wasn't about 'the music of what happens' but is the music of what could be. Riverdance the Show has grown to be one of the world's most successful music and dance shows and has transformed the performance practice of Irish traditional music and dance. Not only are there at present four Riverdance companies permanently touring in various parts of the world but the success of the show has led to the development of countless others providing professional opportunites to thousands of traditional artists.

Bill Whelan continues as one of the foremost and busiest of Irish composers, arrangers and producers, straddling the worlds of classical music, traditional music, dance and theatre. He has received a Grammy Award for the Riverdance album recording, the Freedom of Limerick City and a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for his adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. Recent projects such as his concerto Inishlacken, performed at the Kennedy Centre, Washington, by Fionnuala Hunt, Zoe Conway and the University of Limerick-based Irish Chamber Orchestra, demonstrate his commitment to the development of a distinctly Irish musical voice in an international context, both challenging and reconciling the musical traditions of this island.

   

It is a goal of the University of Limerick to work beyond the walls of its campus. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to offer our facilities to those who are pursuing knowledge, truth and understanding.

It is essential to recognise today social, charitable and personal contributions which have had a substantial and long-lasting impact on the well-being of what are commonly referred to as 'these islands'.

Sport is a unifying force - it brings together parishes, counties, provinces and the nation in support of a common cause and helps to boost national morale and raise the international profile of our country. It is therefore eminently appropriate that this university should recognise and honour those who epitomise the finest virtues of sport and who have contributed substantially to the enhancement of Ireland's sporting heritage.

The University of Limerick - honouring those who use their achievements to benefit the people of this city and region and show special appreciation to those who have contributed to the development of this great institution.

Demonstrating our respect for cultural achievements on the national and international stage.

There is no idea so uplifting as the idea of service to humanity.

Woodrow Wilson

We acknowledge the remarkable contribution of individual's to the betterment of the lives of those past, present, and to come.

UL Ceremonies
University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
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