Flautist Eimear McGeown: 'I was determined to be a recording star'

Co Armagh flautist Eimear McGeown has finally released her debut solo album Inis. She tells Joanne Sweeney how she mixes her love of Irish traditional flute playing and classical pieces

Craigavon-born flautist Eimear McGeown is celebrating the release of her debut album Inis Picture: Mitchel Cahoon
Joanne Sweeney

IT HAS taken the flautist Eimear McGeown nearly 10 years to finally release her first album as a soloist but she's clearly over the moon that it's now available to her fans at home and abroad.

The Craigavon-born musician is very busy these days, either touring with pianist Barry Douglas and his Camerata Ireland orchestra or performing solo at concerts throughout the world.

There's even the odd special television appearance, as Eimear recently accompanied The Voice UK judge Jennifer Hudson when she sang the Titanic ballad My Heart Will Go On with finalist duo Belle Voci on ITV.

However, releasing her first album, Inis, is a special personal achievement for Eimear, who, at the age of seven, decided she wanted to play the flute after hearing internationally renowned concert flautist James Galway play on television.

Inis is named after the ancient Irish place name meaning island, from the title track composition composed by Eimear herself some years before.

It very nearly didn't come about as she and producer and drummer John Tonks were so busy in their respective careers, that putting the finishing touches to Inis was a challenge.

"It has been the longest journey of anything I've ever been through, but in a positive way, thankfully," says Eimear. "I was doing some recording for a Celtic musical album for American producer John Tonks about 10 years ago. He suggested us doing an album together and I said, sure why not?

"He was thinking of a Celtic-crossover sound with cinematic treatment and I thought that was right up my street."

But after recording eight tracks and releasing an EP of four tracks several years later, progress stalled.

"John is also a much sought after as a drummer for bands and artists such as hip hop band Massive Attack, singers Michael Ball, Alfie Boe and Chris De Burgh and he and I were on respective international tours for years.

"It got to the point that we had about 20 tracks where about 12 of them were finished. I decided that the best thing to do was to get a clear deadline and for the both of us to work to that."

Eimear, who plans to launch her album soon at the Irish Embassy in London, where she is now based, applied for an ACES (Artist Career Enhancement Scheme) award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland which allowed her complete and release Inis.

“There is a great genre mix here and I genuinely believe there is something for everyone on this album,” she adds.

“I have always wanted to break down the barriers of people’s perceptions of music whether it is classical, traditional or pop – it’s all good music. As a classical and Irish flautist, it was important to me to bring both influences to life on this album, such is my passion for each. The album reflects the musical journey I have taken between the two worlds and looks to bring them uniquely together.”

Apart from Irish classics such as She Moves Through The Fair, there are also pop classics like Simon & Garfunkel's Sound of Silence, as well as classical tracks.

While Eimear plays both the traditional Irish wooden flute and the silver classical flute, most of the recordings on Inis were performed on the Irish flute as Eimear prefers the tone. Inis is a family affair too, with contributions from her sister Erin on violin and brother Dáire on banjo.

Eimear has recorded with a number of artists most recently on the two Celtic albums, Celtic Reflections and Celtic Airs, recorded by pianist Barry Douglas on the Chandos label.

Two of her most notable performances have been on BBC’s Last Night of the Proms and the world premiere of Dave Morris’s Concerto in the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

She has also worked with Camerata Ireland as a soloist, with tours to the US, China and South America, as well as being a regular guest artist at the Clandeboye Festival in Bangor.

Eimear credits her own fierce determination to become an international flautist as the secret to her success, along with the help and support she got from her early flute teachers in Lurgan and Portadown at school and in private tuition.

"The amount of people over the years who told me that I would never have a career playing the flute was staggering. But to be fair, I understand why they said that as it’s very tough. But you just have to constantly believe that it's possible and never give up no matter how hard it gets.

"Whatever happens, it seems that I have this determined faith that things will happen for me. It was probably very unrealistic at times but it seems to have worked so far."

:: Inis by Eimear McGeown is available on iTunes and Amazon.

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