Seóirse Bodley

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Seóirse Bodley (first name pronounced [ˈʃoːɾˠʃə]; born 4 April 1933) is an Irish composer and former associate professor of music at University College Dublin (UCD). He has been Saoi of Aosdána since 2008.[1]


Bodley was born in Dublin and studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.[2] In 1955, he obtained a Bachelor of Music degree from UCD. From 1957 to 1959, he studied composition (with Johann Nepomuk David) and conducting at the Musikhochschule, Stuttgart, and a year later obtained a Doctorate in Music from UCD. From 1959 until his retirement in 1998, Bodley lectured at the university's music department.[3] During the 1960s, Bodley was conductor of the Culwick Choral Society. In 1982, he became a founder-member of Aosdána and was conferred with the distinction of Saoi by President Mary McAleese in November 2008.[4]


Bodley's first significant composition was his Music for Strings, given its première on 10 December 1952 by the Dublin Orchestral Players under the baton of Brian Boydell.[5] Among his subsequent works are seven symphonies, five for full orchestra and two for chamber ensemble.[6] He has also composed a wide range of instrumental and vocal music, including the orchestral piece A Small White Cloud Drifts over Ireland (1975), A Girl, a setting for mezzo-soprano and piano of poems by Brendan Kennelly (1978), and four string quartets, the most recent composed in 2007.[7]

Bodley's early compositional style was initially influenced by Irish traditional music. In the 1960s, following several participations in the Darmstadt New Music Summer School, Bodley's music became more avant-garde. For the remainder of the decade, he was, according to the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians "the principal Irish exponent of post-serial compositional procedures".[7] In more recent years, Bodley's compositions have reflected both Irish and European influences. Examples of his mature style can be found in Phantasms (1989), a 20-minute chamber piece for flute, clarinet, harp, and cello, and his String Quartet No. 2 (1992).[7]

Probably Bodley's most widely heard work is his orchestral arrangement of the traditional Irish tune The Palatine's Daughter, which was used as the theme music for RTÉ's rural drama series The Riordans. He also wrote the music for the RTÉ television series Caught in a Free State.

Selected works[edit]


Based on Klein (2001),[9] with more recent ones as linked below.

  • Music for Strings, Radio Éireann Symphony Orchestra, Milan Horvat (cond.), on: Decca (USA) DL 9843 (LP, 1958).
  • Iníon an Phailitínigh (folksong arrangement f. orchestra), Radio Éireann Light Orchestra, Éimear Ó Broin (cond.), on: Gael-Linn CEF 001 (LP, 1958), re-issued as Gael-Linn CEFCD 001 (CD, 2009).
  • Táim Gan Im Gan Ór (folksong arrangement f. orchestra), Radio Éireann Light Orchestra, Éimear Ó Broin (cond.), on: Gael-Linn CEF 004 (LP, c.1960).
  • I Will Walk with My Love (arr.), RTÉ Singers, Hans Waldemar Rosen (cond.), on: Harmonia Mundi HMS 30691 (LP, 1965).
  • Prelude, Toccata and Epilogue, Charles Lynch (piano), on: New Irish Recording Company NIR 001 (LP, 1971).
  • String Quartet No. 1, RTÉ String Quartet, on: New Irish Recording Company NIR 006 (LP, 1973).
  • Chamber Symphony no. 1, New Irish Chamber Orchestra, André Prieur (cond.), on: New Irish Recording Company NIR 012 (LP, 1974).
  • I Will Walk with My Love (arr.), Culwick Choral Society, Eric Sweeney (cond.), on: New Irish Recording Company DEB 002 (LP, 1974).
  • Mass of Peace, Clonliffe College Choir, Seóirse Bodley (cond.), on: Network Tapes NTO 55C (MC, 1977).
  • Mass of Joy, Hymn to St. John of God, [no performers mentioned], on: Network Tapes NTO 102C (MC, 1979).
  • A Girl, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Bernadette Greevy (mezzo), John O'Conor (piano), Gael-Linn CEF 085 (LP & MC, 1980).
  • Laoi Chainte an Tombac (folksong arrangement f. choir), Cór Naomh Mhúire, Fintan Ó Murchu (cond.), on: Corkfest Records 94 (CD, 1994).
  • The Naked Flame, Carta Irlandesa, By the Margin of the Great Deep, Aylish Kerrigan (mezzo), Seóirse Bodley (piano), on: Echo Classics Digital (CD, 1996).
  • Symphony No. 4, Symphony No. 5: The Limerick Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Colman Pearce (cond.), on: Marco Polo 8.225157 (CD, 2001).
  • A Small White Cloud Drifts over Ireland, Chamber Symphony No. 1, Symphony No. 2: I Have Loved the Lands of Ireland, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Robert Houlihan (cond.), on: RTÉ Lyric fm CD 121 (CD, 2008).
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Isabelle O'Connell (piano), on: Diatribe DIACDSOL 001 (CD, 2010).
  • Islands, John Feeley (guitar), on: Overture Music [no matrix no.] (CD, 2010).
  • Dancing in Daylight, Fidelio Trio, on: Metier MSV 28556 (CD, 2015).
  • String Quartet No. 1 (first movement), performed by RTÉ ConTempo Quartet, on: RTÉ lyric fm CD 153 (CD, 2016).
  • After Great Pain, Remember, The Tightrope Walker Presents a Rose, performed by Aylish Kerrigan (mezzo) and Dearbhla Collins (piano), on: Métier MSV 28558 (CD, 2016).
  • A Girl (songcycle), performed by Aylish Kerrigan (mezzo) and Dearbhla Collins (piano), on: Métier MSV 28560 (CD, 2017).


  • Charles Acton: "Interview with Seóirse Bodley", in: Éire-Ireland 5 (1970) 3, pp. 117–33.
  • Malcolm Barry: "Examining the Great Divide", in: Soundpost 16 (Oct./Nov. 1983), p. 15–20.
  • Axel Klein: "'Aber was ist heute schon noch abenteuerlich?'. Ein Portrait des irischen Komponisten Seóirse Bodley", in: MusikTexte no. 52, Jan. 1994, p. 21–5.
  • Gareth Cox & Axel Klein (eds.): Irish Music in the Twentieth Century (= Irish Musical Studies 7) (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003), ISBN 1-85182-647-5.
  • Lorraine Byrne Bodley: A Hazardous Melody of Being: Seóirse Bodley's Song Cycles on the Poems of Micheal O'Siadhail (Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2008), ISBN 978-1-904505-31-0.
  • Gareth Cox: Seóirse Bodley (Dublin: Field Day Publications, 2010), ISBN 978-0-946755-48-6.
  • Lorraine Byrne Bodley: A Community of the Imagination: Seóirse Bodley's Goethe Settings (Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2013); ISBN 978-1-909325-31-9.
  • Benjamin Dwyer: "An Interview with Seóirse Bodley", in: B. Dwyer: Different Voices. Irish Music and Music in Ireland (Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, 2014), p. 82–93.


  1. ^ "Achill artist honoured by President McAleese". Mayo Advertiser. 5 December 2008.
  2. ^ "Seoirse Bodley wins £1,000 Macauley Fellowship", in: The Irish Times, 2 July 1962.
  3. ^ Axel Klein: Irish Classical Recordings: A Discography of Irish Art Music (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 2001).
  4. ^ Irish Independent, "Presidential approval for honoured artists", 25 November 2008.
  5. ^ "Symphony Concert", in: The Irish Times, 11 December 1952.
  6. ^ Contemporary Music Centre profile
  7. ^ a b c Grove Music Online
  8. ^ Details in Cox (2010), pp. 180–4.
  9. ^ Axel Klein: Irish Classical Recordings. A Discography of Irish Art Music (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001), p. 12-4.

External links[edit]