Steeped in music from a very early age, Eric Sweeney (1948 – 2020) became a chorister at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin at the age of ten and took his first organ lessons with William Sydney Grieg aged just 13. Throughout his life, Eric was immersed in choral music as a singer, organist, conductor, teacher and composer.
Eric studied in Ireland, England, Belgium and Italy before settling in Waterford where he was Head of Music at Waterford Institute of Technology from 1998 – 2010. His music has been performed by groups such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Chamber Choir Ireland, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Prague Chamber Orchestra, European Union Chamber Orchestra, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and the Ulster Orchestra among others.
Eric’s early compositions were influenced by Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky before his style transitioned to a more minimalist one, his compositions often fusing minimalism with elements of Irish traditional music. His vocal and choral music was guided by Claudio Monterverdi’s mantra “text first” – the words shaping and determining aspects of rhythm and style, indeed all musical elements of a composition.
Later projects included the incidental music for the film ‘Down the Ladder’ and the operas ‘Ulysses’ (2015), ‘The Green One’ (2014) and ‘The Invader’ (2013), with libretto by Mark Roper, which premiered in Waterford and subsequently performed at the National Opera House, Ireland in 2014.
He was Composer-in-Residence at Waterford Healing Arts Trust in 2018 and, with poet Edward Denniston, produced ‘Hospital Voices’ which premiered in November 2018.
A frequent visitor to North America, Eric held composition residencies at the Newport Festival, Rhode Island; Memorial University, Newfoundland; the University of Illinois; Indiana State University; and the University of Portland, Oregon among others. Eric also had the honour to represent Ireland at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris on five occasions and is a member of Aosdána, Ireland’s state-sponsored academy of creative artists.