Vincent Kennedy

photo: John Soffe

Vincent Kennedy is a composer and conductor from Dublin, Ireland, who received his earliest music education in CBS Westland Row, Dublin. He won the under 18 category in the Feis Ceoil national music competition at age 12, and two years later won the adult Feis Ceoil. He was performing trumpet with the National Symphony Orchestra by the age of 19, and holds a master’s degree from Dublin City University in humanities (music and composition). Kennedy’s life experiences have defined his musical purpose, and he describes it as thus; “Music has been a faithful friend: always there to uplift, distract, colour, and comfort. I write music to enrich life and take my inspiration from many sources and possibilities, like a bee using the nectar of different flowers to produce a unique honey.” Kennedy’s music is rooted in western tonal music and is also influenced by Irish folk music, music that has been handed down through the generations of one of the oldest civilisations. As a composer, Kennedy came to national prominence when he won the RTÉ Music Prize for his composition Soliloquy and March in Memory of Michael O’Hehir. Since then he has written a symphony, an oratorio, cantatas, overtures, concertos, a children’s musical, a great deal of chamber music, and, co-written with Little John Nee, the award winning stage setting of The Happy Prince (2012), based on Oscar Wilde’s beautiful and poignant children’s story. MUSIC OF PEOPLE AND PLACE is Kennedy’s 10th album exclusively of his own music. Kennedy is a member of the international composer and performer collective Three Essential Elements, and with them has had recent world premieres in London, Berlin, Athens, Thessaloniki, and The Conservatoire Maurice André Alès, France. During 2018, Kennedy served on the Marie Cantagrill International Violin competition jury in France and on the International jury of the Italian Flicorno d’Oro. He is also a member of the Artistic Committee of the Genève Music Band Contest. His works are performed globally, and in addition to his many annual concerts in Ireland, Kennedy has conducted his works in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe.  Kennedy’s harp ensemble music has been performed at the 2014 Sydney World Harp Congress (The Chronicles of Meath) and the 2022 Cardiff World Harp Congress (The Dingle Starry premiered by Ensemble Telyn Cymru). A representative of the Irish government asked Kennedy to prepare a handwritten score of the slow movement of his work for violin and orchestra Dreams to be placed, with other artefacts, inside a time capsule for the return journey of the viking ship “The Sea Stallion.” The time capsule will remain with the Sea Stallion at Roskilde, Denmark for 250 years. Following a performance of Kennedy’s music at The National Opera House in Wexford, Ireland, some people were so moved that they later had one of the musical themes etched in a large stained glass window of a new library. In 2005, during an outdoor performance in which Kennedy conducted his own music The Hook – A Place and A People at the oldest operating lighthouse in the world (The Hook Lighthouse), members of the audience who were sitting on rocks overlooking the sea witnessed a pod of whales surface during the first movement. The pod stayed at the surface for the whole performance of the seven-movement work, only disappearing into the deep as the prolonged ovation died away. This album features two of the movements from that work, “A Sunny Day in Fethard-on-Sea” and “Abbeys, Monks and Knights Templar.” Following the premiere of another track on the album, Love (Grá) in Béziers, France, a 6-year-old girl holding the hand of her teary eyed friend said; Mr. Vincent, your beautiful music caused my friend and me to cry.” The beauty and wonder of nature are themes that inspire Kennedy, as is music that appeals in particular to children. The First Steam Train in Ireland (2018) is included especially in this album for the child in each of us. Kennedy is also inspired by the history of Ireland, and his major work IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN (2016) written for the 100th anniversary of the pivotal Easter Rising is represented by five tracks on the album. In one of the many commissions Kennedy has received, he wrote John Fitzgerald Kennedy – The Torch Still Shines Brightly for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. The music was commissioned by New Ross, the town closest to the Kennedy family homestead in Ireland. Kennedy conducted a memorable open air premiere by the Eternal Flame on the Quay side of New Ross next to “The Dunbrody,” a replica ship of the type that carried so many Irish emigrants, including President Kennedy’s eight great grand-parents, to the United States. In 2021, Kennedy was commissioned by the Donegal Music Education Partnership through funding from Donegal County Council to write the Oratorio Colmcille – Dove of Peace for the 1500th anniversary of the Irish Saint Colmcille, who, amongst other things, founded the Monastery of Iona in Scotland. The work premiered in March 2022, and after its second performance, Traolach Ó Fionnáin, Arts Officer for Donegal County Council, who funded the commission wrote; “Thank you so much for another wonderful performance of your magnificent composition, Vincent. A suitably uplifting closing act to the Earagail Arts Festival, as testified to by the enthusiastic reaction of the audience as the final notes of Colmcille drifted out into the auditorium. As well as high praise for the excellence of the composition and the high quality of the playing, there was much talk afterwards among the crowd in the Foyer about the emotional impact of the work. People clearly related to the themes of the work and the strong sense of place within it, as well as reveling in the music and song and undoubted technical brilliance. The piece has heart and soul that will always set it apart.” Four instrumental movements from this work are on the album – Trasna go Dál Riada (Over the Sea to Dál Riada), An Capall Bán (The White Horse), Colmcille’s Lament, and The Birth Cloak. 


Music of People and Place

Release Date: December 1, 2023
Catalog Number: NV6586
21st Century
Folk Music
Composer Vincent Kennedy and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra bring MUSIC OF PEOPLE AND PLACE to Navona Records. Selected from some of his most beloved works and inspired by the people, mysticism, mythology, history, and landscapes of his native Ireland, this album is a rich collection of 19 stories, each appealing to the human spirit with sublime performances by the superb musicians of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.