The big screen awaits for Tallaght composer Damian

By Theo McDonald

TALLAGHT native and rising composer Damian Gallagher’s new album has caught the ear of RTE and is also paving the way for the local artist to write music for the big screen.

Growing up in Bancroft and now living in Saggart, Damian (38) recently released his latest album Alanu which, inspired by the passing of his grandmother, was performed in front of a full house in the National Concert Hall last October.

Damian, who attended Tallaght Community School, has been teaching music in the area for more than 20 years – and after decades of passion and commitment to his craft, his new album has opened up a host of opportunities on the international music map.

After catching the attention of RTE, Damian is set to feature on Nationwide later this month and is also planning a trip to LA to examine the prospect of writing music for film.

Despite a busy schedule, Damian took some time out to speak with his local paper.

LIFE Damian Gallagher 6


Who/what inspired you to compose music?

To be honest I just kind of fell into composition by chance and quite late in my career. I installed a music composition program on my computer and just started messing around with it. I was amazed at the technology of the program and I guess I just got the bug to keep being creative and really enjoyed the process. I had been performing solidly for fifteen years and I guess I was also looking for a new challenge.

My flute teacher at the time (William Dowdall) was the first to hear some rough drafts of my early flute compositions and he was very supportive and encouraging. He was kind enough to recommend that my compositions be added to the Royal Irish Academy Syllabus. As a result I published my first book of flute solos. Like so many things in music, this had a knock on effect and I have just kept going ever since but I will always be grateful to him for caring.

What type of music did you listen to growing up?

I listened to all types of music – anything from pop and rock to musical theatre. However, by the age of 10 I had already started training classically and was exposed more to the different genres of classical music. I would say that film music remains my favourite genre of music.

What inspired your latest album? 

Without wanting to sound clichéd or corny, I truly believe that I didn’t choose the composition but rather, the composition chose me. I began writing Alanú almost five years ago now and I remember the very first evening I sat down to begin he composition.

When I compose, I must have a subject matter that inspires me. The music I write is program music, music that tells us a story. For some reason my grandmother Bella Doogan, who had passed away more than a decade previously entered my mind as I began composing.

I thought about her journey through life and decided to paint this amazing life in music. Of course, at the time, I had no idea if it was ever going to be heard by anyone let alone performed in front of a packed concert hall. [Due to the positive reaction to the piece] I explored the further possibilities of extending and developing the piece, which I did and that resulted in the complete work which is a 20 minute long Irish Suite for Orchestra, Choir and Traditional Soloists.

The whole process from initial concept to the recording of the piece in June 2015 took about four years.

What instigated your trip to LA this summer? 

Since releasing Alanú and it’s premiére in the National Concert Hall I received some attention from various professionals. They all advised me to travel to LA to explore different composition options and opportunities in film and so I leave in June 2016. Film composition is an extremely competitive industry and very difficult to break into, and so, I am under no illusions that if I am to succeed I have a long road ahead. I think I would always regret it if I didn’t give it a go.

What piece of your own music are you most proud of and why?

Definitely Alanú. It’s a hugely emotional piece that captures the lives of people I loved deeply and I think musically it is the most challenging piece I have written. However I am now working on some new pieces that I am enjoying but I have a long way to go yet to beat Alanú.

LIFE Damian Gallagher CD

How did Nationwide happen? 

Before the premiére of Alanú a producer in RTÉ heard about the composition by word of mouth. He became immediately interested in the project and they filmed the Concert Hall performance and also filmed on location in Donegal. This was an amazing opportunity because it allowed me to tell the whole story of the women behind my music. I am very aware that this is just my ordinary life story and that of my ancestors but my heart jumps every time I think of my ancestors being honoured by my music in this way.

You mentioned that a few local Tallaght faces will be in Nationwide.

I used a 50 piece choir for my concert in the National Concert Hall. The choir was a choir set up by Massey Brothers Funeral Directors and I was the musical director for the choir and their subsequent concerts. They did an amazing job for my CD and in the Concert Hall performance. A lot of the members of this choir come from the Tallaght area. Some of the soloists on the night from Tallaght were Amy Costello, Kathleen Ras, Kelly Hannon and Grainne Roche.

For people who are interested in becoming composers what advice would you give to them?

Again cliché alert! Be true to yourself and what you are trying to say. In my opinion you can’t bluff emotion or sentiment – it’s either in the music or it isn’t. If your true emotion is in the piece the audience will feel it too. From a technical point of view I think it’s also important to ‘break ground’ and to try something new. But above all to enjoy it.

What's on your agenda for the rest of the year?

I am currently planning a concert of my chamber music works, which are pieces of music I have written for smaller ensembles. However, at the moment, I am primarily focused on doing background work in preparation for my trip to Los Angeles so I can make my time there as constructive as I can.

Catch Damian on Nationwide, RTE 1, Friday, March 18 (Or on the RTE Player), buy his CD Alanu online at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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