The music maker returns - Bringing Shakespeare to life

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Were it not for music, Derry man Feargal Murray may never have been born. His parents, Bernard and the late Anna met in the 50s when they were both part of Sammy Burke’s Mixed Voice Choir.

From there the couple went on marry and to raise a family of 13 children - in a home where, Feargal says, music was always present.

It’s no wonder then perhaps that music has become Feargal’s passion and his career - and that when he returns to Derry later this month as the man behind the music of the “magnificent” production of ‘The Rape of Lucrece’ he will feel a great sense of pride in all that his home town has achieved in 2013.

“There were opportunities when I was growing up,” he said, “I was heavily involved in bands and orchestras - from the TA Band to the Omagh orchestra but these opportunities were very much on a local level.

“But what young people have seen this year is the wealth of international acts right here on our doorstep which will have inspired people to think bigger and believe they can achieve more.”

Feargal himself has achieved a lot - his CV is a veritable who’s who of Irish music. He has played with some of the world’s best loved musicians and his compositions have earned him, rightly, great worldwide critical acclaim.

But his roots are firmly back in Derry and he credits much of his success, and his hard work to his upbringing and the people who encouraged him in those early days.

As a native of Marlborough Street, Feargal “ran up the lane” each day as a child to Rosemount Primary School where he fell under the wing of music teacher Anne Joyce - who encouraged him to start learning the trumpet and to join the school choir.

He then moved on to St. Columb’s College where he was under the tuition of Donal O’Doherty - another man he credits with fostering his passion for music.

But it was John Maultsaid, a neighbour who lived in a street below the Murray’s, who displayed a “remarkable” generosity towards Feargal and his family and who offered music lessons which would set him on the road to the great professional success he has enjoyed to date.

Following his years at St. Columb’s Feargal went on to study music in Edinburgh, where he lived for some five years before moving to London to study for his Masters in Musical Composition at the prestigious Goldsmiths College.

Moving back to Ireland afterwards - setting up home this time in Dublin - he started to work as a session musician in and around Dublin where he soon found himself working with some of the most prominent musicians in Ireland - including Derry’s own Phil Coulter.

“As I was in Dublin and working as a session musician I would get called up by RTE to work for them. I was musical co-ordinator for the series ‘Phil Coulter and Co’ where he worked with such big name stars as Nanci Griffith and John Prine.

“The biggest thing I learned from the whole experience was, the bigger the star the nicer the person,” he said.

“I was able to work with some of the biggest names in Irish and popular music - and for Feargal - a man who is a self confessed devotee of Irish music it afforded the opportunity to work with personal heroes Jimmy McCarthy who wrote ‘Ride On’ and Brendan Graham who wrote the lyrics for ‘You Raise Me Up’.

He was invited to play at the funeral of legendary footballer George Best and during his time with the Late Late Show he also had the chance to play alongside Amy Winehouse - just as she was gaining massive recognition.

“I was lucky enough to be called upon when Amy Winehouse had just released ‘Rehab’ - so I was to go along and accompany her on that track just as things were really kicking off for her.”

But it was a meeting with singer and performer Camille O’Sullivan at one of his first gigs in Dublin which would really mark a change in his life both professionally and personally.

He was playing piano at a gig where Camille was singing - and the pair soon began a relationship he describes as “passionate”.

The pair were further bonded together when, in 1999, Camille was involved in a near fatal road accident - and Feargal nursed her back to health- even though the pair had split just a week before.

As Camille recovered the pair began to work together professionally - and 14 years later they are still collaborating and still living together.

And it is their friendship and collaborative partnership which has led them back to Derry to perform The Rape of Lucrece.

When Camille was approached by someone who had the idea of putting Shakespeare to music, Feargal was drafted in to compose the associated music.

The Rape of Lucrece - suitable for over 16s only - will be staged at the Waterside Theatre on October 18-20. Tickets are priced at £12.50 or £10 (conc).

To book call 71314000 or visit www.watersidetheatre.com