Composer Bill Whelan brings new book Road to Riverdance home to Limerick

Today FM's Dermot Whelan with Riverdance Composer Bill Whelan. Photo by Caleb Brennan.

The Riverdance composer was in town to promote his new book at the Limerick Literary Festival last weekend

By Caleb Brennan

The composer who famously wrote the iconic Riverdance theme was at the Limerick Literary Festival to promote his new book, Road to Riverdance, alongside Today FM host and fellow Limerick man Dermot Whelan last weekend.

Mr Whelan told Limerick Voice, “I always love being back in my hometown. There’s always a unique connection between your home and that place you come from that will never change no matter where you go in the world.” 

Host and Today FM presenter Dermot Whelan. Photo by Caleb Brennan.

The Limerick native, who wrote the iconic interval piece for the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, spoke openly about how his Limerick influenced him growing up and how his parents, Dave and Irene, impacted his life and led him to where he is today.

“It was as if he slipped the gift into my pocket with me knowing, only for me to discover it later,” said Mr Whelan about his father’s passion for music. 

Dermot Whelan added to that sentiment, saying, “If you love something, a young person will take that love and transform that passion into something else.”

The talk, which lasted the bones of two hours, touched on Mr Whelan’s time working with the famous Irish band Planxsty, which resulted in the creation of Timedance – the spiritual successor to Riverdance, through which the composer eventually connected to traditional music later in life. 

“My connection to traditional music was quite tenuous. I didn’t hear that much of it, and in my thirties, I had to reconnect to it. The real challenge for me was trying to reconnect to the music of my home,” he recalled.

The composer spoke openly about how proud he is of his iconic piece, and how its relevance still today inspires him. 

Bill Whelan, Zoe Conway and John McIntyre. Photo by Caleb Brennan.

“As we speak, there’s a show in Frankfurt and somewhere else in the states. There are dancers in those shows, and some weren’t even born when I was writing Riverdance”.

Mr Whelan revealed that he thinks the secret to Riverdance’s success was how it adapted an old Irish tradition of music and dance to a new format.

“We took something that was mostly internal, which was only for show competitions or to be marked by examiners, and faced it out to the crowd and made theatre,” told Mr Whelan.

The event concluded with a toe-tapping rendition of some of the artist’s work, which he performed alongside musicians Zoe Conway and John McIntyre.

Find out more about Limerick Literary Festival.

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