RTÉ lyric fm is saddened to learn of the passing of composer John Kinsella (89) following a short illness.
John Kinsella, one of Ireland’s most distinguished composers and the country’s most prolific symphonist played a major role in the musical landscape of Ireland. He began his RTÉ career as music assistant in 1968 and rose to Head of Music in RTÉ before retiring in 1988 to devote himself to full time composition. He is often regarded as ‘the most significant Irish Symphonist since Stanford’ and his legacy, a hugely significant creative output has contributed enormously to the canon of Irish classical music.
In November 2011, in a landmark project with The Arts Council, RTÉ lyric fm released John Kinsella: Orchestral Works on the RTÉ lyric fm label, with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Proinnsías Ó Duinn and Gavin Maloney conducting.
His work also featured regularly on The Lyric Concert, as Paul Herriott, Presenter, reflects:
“We were delighted to be joined by John Kinsella on several occasions, but the last in November 2019 was most memorable. John’s family was in the audience for the ‘world premiere’ of his Symphony No.11, which was broadcast that night on RTE lyric fm and throughout the European Broadcasting Union. It reflected his love and fascination for ‘The Father of modern Finnish music’: Jean Sibelius. In recognition, the programme that evening ended with a performance of Sibelius’ own Symphony No.3, both performed so appropriately by the RTE National Symphony Orchestra. I believe it meant a great deal to John in terms of his own very personal journey and progression as a composer. It was befitting of the occasion that he was conferred with the NCH Lifetime Achievement award that same evening. We felt very privileged to share with him what was clearly a very happy and memorable occasion.” Paul Herriott, Presenter, The Lyric Concert, RTÉ lyric fm
Séamus Crimmins, Former Director, RTÉ Orchestras, Quartet and Choirs Founding Head, RTÉ lyric fm said: “John Kinsella’s death has been sensed with deep sadness throughout the music community. Gentle and reserved by nature his profound love of music and composition has yielded a lifetime’s output of works characterised by intense rigour, self-examination, single mindedness and originality. His symphonic output alone is monumental. Séamus de Barra has acclaimed his eleven symphonies not just for their creative achievement but for their significance in the history of art music. From his boyhood years in Inchicore John retained the thread of awe for the great symphonists. Though later confronted by progressive voices in new sound worlds, John retained an endless individual fascination for the wonder of music to move and inspire, a suffusion of colossal scale, of adventurous possibilities, of shaped details and of reshapings. John’s bequest to Ireland’s musical and cultural life is unique.”
Gail Henry, Producer, The Lyric Concert, RTÉ lyric fm said: “John has been undoubtedly one of the giants in Irish orchestral composition. It is fitting that he dedicated his Symphony No.6 (published on the RTE lyric fm label) to a group of friends who had a common love of music. All those who knew John will remember him fondly and his legacy will live on through his music.”
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam
Image courtesy of CMC Ireland.
To remember and celebrate the life of John Kinsella, RTÉ lyric fm has a series of programmes planned over the coming weeks:
Friday 19th November, 7.30pm
The Lyric Concert with Paul Herriott
Paul Herriott remembers the late John Kinsella and brings us his final Symphony – No.11, performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jean Deroyer in a recording from November 2019
Sunday 5th December, 6.00pm
The Lyric Feature
A repeat broadcast of “A Symphonic Life” is planned for The Lyric Feature on the 5th of December this year, the eve of Finland’s Independence Day.
A Symphonic Life
John Kinsella is one of Ireland’s most distinguished composers and the country’s most prolific symphonist. In a creative career spanning over six decades, Kinsella has produced an incredible eleven symphonies, numerous concertos, quartets and instrumental chamber, vocal and choral works. In November 2019, his eleventh symphony had its world premiere at the National Concert Hall and John received the NCH Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his singular contribution to Irish art music. For John, the experience of a symphony is “a big adventure starting. I’ve never lost that excitement.”
In conversation with John Kinsella and with contributions from other composers and musicologists, this documentary A Symphonic Life is an intimate portrait of a composer through an exploration of his process, the evolution of his compositions and his commitment to the art form. On the eve of Finland’s Independence Day the programme also explores Kinsella’s deep debt to Finland’s preeminent composer Jean Sibelius.
The podcast of the programme is available now from the RTÉ website here.
John Kinsella’s work is also available on the RTÉ lyric fm label:
Symphony No. 6; Symphony No. 7; Prelude and Toccata for string orchestra; Cúchullainn and Ferdia: Duel at the Ford, performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the National Chamber Choir of Ireland, Proinnsías Ó Duinn (cond.), on: RTÉ lyric fm CD 134 (CD, 2011).