Winning Musician of the Year is ‘a huge boost’

Ahead of the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year competition – which takes place this weekend – we talk to last year’s winner Órán Halligan.

Trying to make a living out of music has probably never been more difficult than it is now. While the big stars of pop, rock and classical can still earn a fortune, it’s a different story for pretty much everyone else.

That’s what makes the likes of the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year Competition so attractive. Now the most lucrative, it offers in excess of €21,000 plus significant solo engagement performances in both Ireland and abroad for the winner, who will pick up a cheque for €8,000.

This year’s competition takes place before an international jury on Saturday October 14 at the Freemasons’ Hall on Dublin’s Molesworth Street at 7pm.

The Freemasons’ Hall

Pianist Órán Halligan won the 10th Annual Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year competition.He has performed extensively in Ireland, the UK and Spain – and also with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra.

Órán recently released his debut album of solo piano music entitled Visions which explores previously unrecorded works from the National Library of Ireland’s archives.

John Byrne: Hi Órán. Can you tell us what winning this competition has meant for you?

Órán Halligan: It has been a huge boost for me, both in my self-belief as a performer and in my career. The world of music can be precarious, as is well known, so the ongoing support of the Irish Freemason’s Young Musician of the Year competition has been of huge help.

How do you feel it helped you as a musician?

I’d been taking part in piano competitions for many years, being fortunate to receive 2nd or 3rd prize on a few occasions. To finally place first in a competition – especially such a prestigious one – was a great personal goal of mine.

It gave me much-needed self-belief that I was doing the right thing by pursuing a career in music.

The award is well-regarded both in Ireland and internationally, so being associated with the competition has definitely opened up performance opportunities both at home and abroad. The prize money was also invaluable for helping to cover costs during my Master’s.

Órán Halligan

What opportunities did winning give you?

The several concerts as part of the prize have allowed me to establish my performance career in Ireland and abroad.

Since the competition I have been lucky enough to perform at Music in Monkstown Festival, West Wicklow Chamber Music Festival, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Madrid a Tempo, the John Field Room of the National Concert Hall and have just released my debut album Visions.

Now, what advice would you give to this year’s finalists?

Ultimately, to simply enjoy the experience, in spite of the inevitable nerves. It’s rare to have the opportunity to take part in a competition with such a good atmosphere and to perform in a venue as unique and ornate as the Freemason’s Hall.

Finally, what are your plans for the future?

I’ve just recently started my Doctorate of Music in the Royal Irish Academy of Music, so most likely I will be spending a lot of time in the archives of the National Library of Ireland for the foreseeable.

I would love to release another album and (in the very long term) potentially produce a modern edition of 18th century Irish piano music, which is currently only accessible in archives.

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