Brian Irvine

'Brian Irvine’s body of work is an example of the musical treasures half hidden in the cracks between the categories'

– The Guardian

Composer/conductor Brian Irvine was born in Belfast. His huge body of work includes operas, orchestral works, large-scale participatory work, films, multi-media installations, dance works as well as ensemble, solo, and chamber pieces. He has won two BSACA British Composers Awards as well as the Radio 3 Jazz Award for best new work.

His music often takes the form of giant super structures - as in the head on collision of two symphony orchestras, improvising choir and two conductors in the study of madness that is Praise aloud the trees (collaboration with Seamus Heaney) or the 7 day performance installation of 3000 collected objects, symphony orchestra, choir, intervention performers and soloists in NEST (the Northern Ireland Artists Taking The lead commission for the London 2012 Olympics) or the layering of 500 singing children, symphony orchestra, live shadow puppet animation and narrator in Bluebottle or Montana Strange the 50 minute homage to filmmaker David lynch for symphony orchestra, his own 12 piece ensemble, turntables, two conductors and free improviser - Paul Dunmall.

He has been commissioned and performed by London Symphony Orchestra, Welsh National Opera, Homecoming Festival, BBC Concert Orchestra, Red Note Ensemble, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Northern Sinfonia, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Northern Ireland Opera, Wide Open Opera, Ulster Orchestra, RTE National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland), 4-Mality percussion ensemble, Irish Chamber Orchestra and the London 2012 Olympics.

He has won a number of awards for his work including a British Composers Award for Opera (Welsh National Opera Commission - The Tailor’s Daughter, 2008), Allianz Arts and Business Arts Award for best use of music in the community (Carlow based community opera - Shelter Me from the Rain), BBC Jazz Award for best new work (Interrupting Cutler) and the Major Individual Artist Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Recently he was named as the recipient of the 2015 Paul Hamlyn Composers Award.

For four years (2008-2012) he was the first Associate Composer with the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast and in 2015 was named as the first Music Laureate for the City of Belfast. Together with his own 12 piece ensemble (BBC Radio 3 Music Award winners) Brian has conducted and toured extensively throughout USA, Russia, France, Portugal, Germany, Scotland, Malta, Cyrus, Poland, Scotland, Ireland, England, Belgium and the Netherlands appearing at some of the world’s leading international music festivals/venues.

The Brian Irvine Ensemble is a visceral, boundary busting 13 piece ensemble create a special type of music - music that effortlessly mutates elements of contemporary classical, improvisation, theatre, thrash, cartoonary and ensemble playing. Think a mutant cocktail of Zappa and Icebreaker, Han Bennink and the Instant Composers Pool, with a heavy dollop of Beefheart, Ornette Coleman and John Zorn. They have performed all over the world to widespread critical acclaim headlining at some of the world’s leading festivals.

Not having performed in Dublin for over a decade, the ensemble reformed in 2018 for Belfast’s Brilliant Corners festival, premiering a new commission ‘Not Gods But Animals’, marking the beginning of a reinvented era for the group. 2019 will see the band take another step forward with more brand new work alongside some older repertoire.



'The Brian Irvine Ensemble isn't an orchestra, really. It's more of a traveling explosion -- a kinetic, freewheeling circus where the musicians dance, blow bubbles, cluck at one another like chickens, fall over "drunk" and watch imaginary notes float through the air, all while making some of the most exhilarating and imaginative music you'll ever hope to hear...'

– The Washington Post