Piano composer builds musical bridges with new album

Ballinsacarthy based musician Emily Magner Hurley launched her debut album‘Air and Graces’ on Culture Night with a debut performance in Jeffers Piano Shop in Bandon that was beamed, through a Facebook live-feed, across the world. 

Emily has a long background in music with a music degree, and later a masters in composition, from UCC. She also teaches. “Composing has always been a part of my life,” the musician says. “I composed my first pieces of music in my early teens. A personal highlight was Culture Night last year where a body of sacred choral music that I had composed between 2005 and 2018 was performed in the St Mary’s Dominican Church, Pope’s Quay. It was so fulfilling to hear the manifestation of musical ideas that were in my head!”

The genesis of ‘Airs and Graces’ lies in one of the shortest of the 17 tracks – ‘Macalla’ – a jig that came together for Emily one afternoon back in 2004. “I promptly forgot about it until 2017 when I decided to play it for a few friends. Their positive reaction coincided with the chance acquisition of a Petrof baby-grand piano! A dose of encouragement combined with a beautiful instrument provided all the inspiration I needed and I set about composing for solo piano in a serious way. 

“I worked steadily throughout 2018 and into early 2019.  The lockdown proved to be the making of the album. Each day after teaching I would head to the piano and unwind by reworking a piece or beginning a new piece. Evenings that would otherwise have been spent in traffic were now spent thinking about my compositions and playing with different motifs and chordal progressions.”

Jeffers Piano Shop not only lent Emily a backdrop of fine instruments for her launch last month but lent her their showpiece Petrof for the performance. “The launch was surreal,” she remembers. “I had cameras with a live feed to Facebook and people tuning in from across the world instead of an audience! Most performers will tell you that they feed off their audience. I would be no different and it was so strange to interact with a series of lenses rather than the smiles and nods of an audience. In the past I would have planned a launch in a suitably swish location with all my friends and family invited….. 2020 has really made people reimagine the dissemination of music.”

Growing up at home in Whitechurch, Emily was immersed in all kinds of music as she explains her influences, “The likes of Liszt, Fauré, Tchaikovsky and Wagner not only caught but grabbed my imagination, and I was hugely influenced by the way Micheál O’Súilleabháin and Bill Whelan magically fused traditional Irish music with other styles. The bridges they built between traditional Irish, Classical and Jazz (amongst many other styles) were revolutionary. Some of my pieces at least aspire to do this. I’m not sure if I’ve managed to build a bridge of my own but I’ve at least thrown a rope!”

The busy musician already has another piano album in the works with a potential release date of September 2021. She also has a few other new projects up her sleeve: “I am really looking forward to getting back into the studio again, and working with new concepts. Perhaps there will be another Culture Night launch and fingers crossed, this time with people present in the room!”

Visit Emily’s website to hear her play and buy her new album:  www.emilymagnerhurleymusic.ie

WCP Staff

WCP Staff Writer

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