Portrait of Fergus Johnston

Fergus Johnston is an Irish composer, and member of Aosdána, Ireland’s organisation of outstanding artists. He was a recipient of both the New Music for Sligo Composition Prize, and the Arts Council of Ireland’s Macaulay Fellowship in 1989, and has served as a non-executive board member of the National Concert Hall, Dublin. Additionally, he has held positions as both secretary and chairman of the Association of Irish Composers.

Fergus studied composition with James Wilson in the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin and privately with Robert Hanson in the U.K. He read music at Trinity College Dublin, graduating in 1982, and subsequently studied there for an M. Phil in Music and Media Technology. He has a Ph.D. in composition from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

In 1985 he was the Irish composer chosen, along with eight other young composers from each of the then nine countries of the European Community, for a two-week composition workshop led by György Ligeti, which was organised by the European Community Youth Orchestra. He has also participated in composition-for-dance workshops lead by Steven Montague.

His work encompasses solo, chamber, orchestral, and operatic genres, as well as acousmatic music. His music has been commissioned by many ensembles and organisations including The Irish Chamber Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the National Concert Hall Dublin, the Sonorities Festival Belfast, The Fidelio Trio, Rubato Dance, and Opera Theatre Company.


Year Name
1980 Three Pieces for Solo Doublebass; 5’
1981 The sculptor (setting of poem by Pat Reid Broe) for SATB; 2’
1981 Three songs on words by E.E. Cummings; Sop, fl cl bsn; 5’
1983 now i lay (with everywhere around) texts E.E. Cummings; SATB; 4’
1983 Timon of Athens incidental music for the play; 2fl, 2cl+bcl, bn, vn, gui, perc, 3 speakers
1984 Pavan & Galliard guitar; 5’
1984 Two T’ang Poems; Sop solo, 1121 2100 str; Commissioned by Frances Lucey and the Dublin Chamber Orchestra with funds provided by the Arts Council of Ireland; 8’
1984 Reflections; ob, 2cl, bn, hp, vib, str qt
1985 Brass Quintet; 2 trpt hrn trbn tuba; Commissioned by Prelude Brass ensemble with funds provided by the Arts Council of Ireland; 8’
1985 Irish composer chosen for attendance at masterclasses with Gyorgy Ligeti and the European Community Youth Orchestra in Asolo Italy, for which wrote Reflections (above);
1986 Episodes 1; fl trbn, electric guitar, percussion;
1987 Episodes II; fl, ob, clt; 6’
1987 Two pieces for solo flute; fl; 4’
1987 Prelude and Passacaglia for solo violin; 10’
1987 “…” Three Zen Texts; mezzo-sop, cello, piano; texts by Shinkichi Takahashi. New Music for Sligo Composition Prize 1988; 6’
1988 Praise Music SATB str (44322) 6’
1988 Sine Musica Nulla Vita SSATB; 4’
1989 Signals: Suite for solo violin; 7 Movements; composed as dance music for Rubato Dance; 18’
1990 The Wisdom of the World; Mezzo-sop, Irish Harp. Texts various; 5’
1991 The Little Snowgirl; A B soli, childrens and female voices, 2121 0000 hp str; commissioned by Newpark Music Centre with funds provided by the Arts Council of Ireland; 25’
1991 Samsara; 3333 4331 3 perc hp str 14,14,12,10,8 Commissioned by RTÉ for the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland; 10’; recording on VMM 3035.
1991 Piano Study No 1; 1’11” Score €10.00
1992 Kaleidophone; str qt, hp, perc. 10’; Commissioned by Yound European Strings for Degani Ensemble. Recording on CMC CD02.
1992 Cusp for violin and piano; Commissioned by Rubato Dance for their show called The Wounded Child; 23’
1992 Bitter Fruit Chamber Opera; S, 2 Bar soli, str qrt, hp; commissioned by Opera Theatre Company with funds provided by the Arts Council of Ireland.
1992 Psyche for solo treble recorder; 5’ Score €10.00
1993 Carn; 2 pianos; commissioned by the Project Arts Centre, Dublin. 10’
1993 Prelude on the name Joseph Groocock; commissioned by the School of Music, Trinity College Dublin on the occasion of Joseph Groocock’s Eightieth Birthday Anniversary. 80th birthday
1993 Creepy Crawlies; solo piano; 2’
1994 Three Piano Pieces; (Dance; Nocturne; Bog Boogie) Commissioned by Raymond Deane with funds provided by the Arts Council of Ireland; 8’
1994 Líofa (Flowing); fl cor ang, b clt, hrn, str qt; 7’
1995 Éagaoineadh (Lament); solo piano; 3’
1995 Piano Study no 2; 2’
1996 Opus Lepidopterae; 3 pieces for fl/rec, guit; also version available for fl/rec, pno 8’ Score & parts €10.00
1996 The Oul’ Winda Rag; piano solo; 5’ Commissioned by the Guardian Dublin International Piano Competition with funds provided by the Arts Council. Score €10.00
1996 Flute Concerto; revised 2003; fl & pic solo, 3333 4331 timp 3 perc str. 18’ Commissioned by RTÉ.
1997 After a Childhood away from Ireland; sop, pno; text Eavan Boland; 5’ Commissioned by the Irish Centre for Migration Studies, University College Cork.
1997 Je Goûte le Jeu…; str; 10’; commissioned by the Irish Chamber Orchestra with funds provided by the Arts Council of Ireland; recording BBM 1013
1998 Wind Symphony; picc, 2 fl, 2 ob, cor ang, 4 cl, b cl, 2 bsn, 2 a sax, t sax, bar sax, 4 hrn, 4 trpt, 2 trbn, b trbn, euph, tba, timp, 3 perc; commissioned by the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble with funds provided by the Arts Council of Ireland; 16’
1999 Rashad’s Words, for solo percussion; Commissioned by Sonorities Festival with funds provided by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery Fund
2000 Journeys; a computer and electronic installation in conjunction with members of the SHAPE project for rehabilitating drug-addicts, with funding from the Eastern Health Board. 18’
2000 Morrigan for baroque flute, harpsichord and electronics; 10’
2001 Méadú for violin piano and electronics (max patch or CD); Commissioned by the National Concert Hall, Dublin; 10;
2001 Ard Fhearta 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bsn, 2 hrn, 2 trpt, 2 trbn, tuba, dord (bronze-age horn) keyboard controlled sampler; Commissioned by Dúchas the Heritage Service to celebrate the second phase of the consolidation and conservation of Ardfert Cathedral, Kerry.
2002 Through Hollow Lands; part of a collaboration with Irish Chamber Orchestra; 2’
2003 started work on opera on Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare.
2004 Binn an tSíorsholais (The Peak of Eternal Light) for orchestra in three groups: Group 1: fl 1, ob 1, cl 1, bsn 1, str (43221) perc 1; Group 2: fl 2 ob 2, cl 2, bsn 2, str (43221) perc 2; Group 3: 4 hrn, 3 trpts, 3 trbn timpani, harp; Commissioned by RTÉ for the RTÉ Concert Orchestra; 10’
2005 Wexford Suite (for young orchestral players) in 2 movements; 3fl, 3cl, 2 sax, hrn, trpt, perc timp, str, pno.
2006 Brahms Begins the Day, for orchestra; 3333 4331 timpani, perc (2 players), harp, str; Commissioned by RTÉ for the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland.
2006 Lord Leonard Gray, His March; solo piano postcard piece featuring music from “The Earl of Kildare”; 1’
2008 Scenes and Interludes from the Earl of Kildare; 3333 4331 timp 3 perc, harp, str; 15’
2011 The Earl of Kildare; Opera in 3 acts; 10 singers (boy sop, sop, mezzosop, 2 tenors, 2 baritones, 3 basses); orchestra: fl ob cl bsn hrn trpt trbn perc hp stg piano; 90’
2012 Piano Trio; vn, vc, pno. 15’ Commissioned by Fidelio Trio with funds provided by the Arts Council of Ireland. Score & parts €20.00
2013 Toccata, for solo cello;
2013 A Camel’s Swansong for cello and piano.
2014 Salm 84 (Psalm 84) a capella choir SSAATTBB
2015 String Quartet for violin, viola, cello, and doublebass; commissioned by Techne Associates for the Robinson Panoramic String Quartet. Three movements; 17’
2016 5 Oriental Texts (a re-working of “...” Three Zen Texts and Two T’ang Poems); sop solo, 1111 2000 timp hp str. 12’ Score €25.00
2016 works in progress: double string quartet, pieces for solo piano, pieces for clarinet and piano, pieces for flute and electronics.