In his own words — the pianist Órán Halligan

In his own words — the pianist Órán Halligan

PIANIST Órán Halligan is the winner of the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year. The prestigious competition is recognised internationally, as well as offering a valuable cash prize. He has performed extensively in Ireland, Britain and Spain and has p;ayed with the RTÉ 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.

Órán Halligan

I’ve just started my Doctorate in Music Performance in the Royal Irish Academy of Music — so my life consists of lots of practice, for a change! Each day has some combination of practice, teaching, research and rehearsing with chamber music partners for upcoming concerts.

I remember the first time I ever heard Olivier Messaien’s Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps (Quartet for the End of Time), which Messaien composed and premiered all while being held prisoner in a war camp in 1941. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before. I was lucky enough to hear it being performed live by the Kirkos Ensemble as I was working backstage. Each evening I would be able to lie down in the wings of the stage to listen to the full, almost hour-long work.

I’ve lived almost all of my life in Dublin, apart from two years of Masters study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, in Glasgow. My dad’s side of the family are from Ardagh, Co. Longford and my Mum’s side from Clonakilty, Co. Cork.

I love art galleries. Usually one of the first things I try to do when in a new city is to see what galleries are around. One of my favourite places to bring friends when they come to visit Dublin is the Hugh Lane Gallery, especially the Francis Bacon’s Studio. It’s probably one of the most unusual exhibits I’ve seen in any gallery. I’d probably say  by Dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch is one of the world’s greatest works of art. I was lucky enough to see it in Madrid when I was playing there. It’s undoubtedly the most bizarre and intriguing work of art I’ve ever seen.

INTRIGUING TRIPTYCH The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch 1490–1500 (image courtesy of Museo del Prado, Madrid on Wikimedia)

Glendalough is just about my all-time favourite place in Ireland. I used to spend a lot of time hiking around the two lakes as a teenager on weekends and it’s something I’ve developed a love for again in the past couple of years.

At the moment I’ve been enjoying Olivia Rodrigo’s new album Guts, as well as Glass Garden, Aphex Twin, Ottorino Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances. I’d also have a listen to Borodin’s 2nd Symphony, Charles Mingus’ solo album Mingus Plays Piano, Dominda and Bohuslav Martinu’s Symphonies.

Olivia Rodrigo (Getty Images)

I’m a big fan of Martin Hayes’ music. He's done a huge amount to promote Irish music around the world, and I’ve always really loved his lyrical approach to fiddle playing.

I admire Daniel Day Lewis for his huge commitment to each role. He’s the type of actor that completely transforms into each character he portrays, so much so that I had seen several of his films without realising it was the same character. There Will Be Blood is probably my favourite film, especially with Jonny Greenwood's amazing soundtrack.

I love my piano, but I equally love my bicycle. I’ve been riding around the streets of Dublin for a decade now — it’s almost always faster than driving and is great for clearing my head after a day of work. Dublin is a brilliantly vibrant city to live in, you can go to a concert or show any single night of the week. But it’s expensive to live here! It seems that everything is going up in price almost on a weekly basis. I'm not a huge spender, but it’s something that I think everyone is feeling across the board.

In life, as in music, you must have discipline and perseverance. Developing discipline earlier in life through practice made it possible to keep going as best as I can when things are really difficult.

I love going to comedy stand-up shows. I’ll often go to Vicar Street, The International Bar, or any other open-mic night there is in Dublin. I could never dream of doing a stand-up set myself, I think it takes amazing confidence to do so. There’s a great energy in a room during live comedy, very different from music or theatre. It’s hard to explain — it feels very spontaneous and no two gigs are alike.

Fundamentally, in life, I believe that one of the most important things is to find your ‘discipline’, the thing that you want to do above all — regardless of how impossible it might seem. I’ve been very fortunate that things have worked out well for me in terms of making a living playing and teaching music, but there were many uncertain years where I had no idea if anything would fall into place. I knew there was nothing else I wanted to pursue, which a blessing in the end.