Philip Feeney, Composer and Pianist
Philip Feeney (b.1954) spent his early years on the Isle of Wight, going on to study composition at the University of Cambridge with Robin Holloway and Hugh Wood, and subsequently at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome under Franco Donatoni. His works have been performed extensively worldwide and he is most noted for his work in Ballet and Dance. After a period as pianist/composer for the Teatrodanza di Roma from 1980-84, he returned to London and has been composer in residence for Ballet Central and Musical Director for their national tour ever since. From 1991-95 he lectured in composition at Reading University.
As a pianist, Philip has worked with many companies, including Northern Ballet Theatre, the Gulbenkian Company, Birmingham Royal Ballet, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Rambert Dance Company, Carlos Acosta, Adventures in Motion Pictures, White Oak Project and the Martha Graham Company. Apart from over forty scores he has composed for Ballet Central, he has collaborated with many different choreographers including William Louther, Jane Dudley, Christopher Gable, Michael Pink, Didy Veldman, Michael Keegan-Dolan, Derek Williams, David Nixon, Adam Cooper and Sara Matthews.
His long-standing association with Northern Ballet Theatre began in 1987 with Memoire Imaginaire which initiated a prolific collaboration with choreographer Michael Pink, which went on to produce Strange Meeting and Danse Classique. In 1993 he was commissioned to compose Jazz Concerto for choreographer Derek Williams. His first full-length production for NBT was Christopher Gable’s Cinderella, and it was for Gable and Pink that in 1996 he wrote the highly acclaimed score for Dracula. This was closely followed by the music for Michael Pink’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1997). All three ballets have been recorded on CD. While writing the score for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he composed the music for Didy Veldman’s Greymatter for Rambert Dance Company, with designs by Lez Brotherston.
Both Dracula and The Hunchback of Notre Dame were presented by Atlanta Ballet at the Fox Theatre in the 1998 and 1999 seasons, and subsequently by the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Colorado Ballet, where it regularly appears in the company’s repertoire. Furthermore Hunchback has been performed by Boston Ballet in 2002 and Milwaukee Ballet in 2004 and Dracula was produced in Oslo by the Norwegian Ballet in 2001.
In September 2001 he composed the score for a full-length ballet of A Streetcar Named Desire (choreographer, Didy Veldman) for NBT and has continued a fruitful collaboration with Veldman in I Remember Red for Cullberg Ballet, Track for Scottish Dance Theatre (2004) and Outsight for Gulbenkian Ballet (2004). He has been a regular contributor to her recent work, with the Fear Monologues and Pizzicato from For Instances for Cedarlake Contemporary Ballet, New York, and the Soundscapes and Entr’actes for her full-length dance piece Momo for Bern Ballet (2010).
In September 2000 he collaborated with Michael Keegan-Dolan, artistic director and choreographer of the Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre on The Flowerbed, recently revived at the Barbican in London, and this was followed a year later by The Christmas Show. In 2003 he wrote the music for Keegan-Dolan’s critically acclaimed Giselle which was commissioned by the Dublin Theatre Festival. It subsequently transferred to Yale University Theatre in the USA and the Barbican in London. In the autumn Giselle was performed in Poland, New Zealand and Australia. Giselle was followed by The Bull, again for the DTF completing an award-winning London season in 2007 at the Barbican. The Bull went on to tour in Berlin in the autumn of 2009.
Within Ballet Central he has established a triumphant partnership with choreographer Sara Matthews, now director of Central School of Ballet, with whom he has collaborated on over eight ballets. Over the years Ballet Central has granted Philip many opportunities of working with a wide range of young exciting choreographers such as David Fielding and Rambert’s Mikaela Polley whose choreography Ascent was critically well-received in 2009, and hip-hop artist Jonzi D. In 2002 his music for Manoeuvres (chor. Patrick Lewis), a re-working of a Ballet Central piece, was toured by English National Ballet culminating in a season at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.
Indeed, it was Ballet Central that provided Philip and David Nixon with the opportunity to work together on their first collaboration, a short work for soprano (Amy Freston) and pipe organ, the Song for St.Andrews, which was premiered in the church of St. Andrews in Holborn. In February 2008, Philip resumed his connection with Northern Ballet Theatre with the 2 act ballet Hamlet (choreographer: David Nixon).
He renewed a longstanding collaboration with designer Lez Brotherston in dancer/choreographer Adam Cooper’s Les Liaisons Dangereueses. Philip’s score was premiered in Tokyo in January 2005 and went on to enjoy a successful London season at Sadlers Wells.
In July 2007 he composed a one act prequel to Peter and the Wolf for 'In the Wings' conceived by Anne Geenen and choreographed by Didy Veldman. It was premiered at the Carré Theatre in Amsterdam and embarked on a UK National Tour in the spring of 2008. It was well received on Broadway in New York in the autumn of 2009. At the same Fabulous Beast toured the UK with the final instalment of Keegan-Dolan’s Irish Midlands’ Trilogy, James, Son of James, for which he wrote the music and played live at the first performance in the Beckett Theatre, Dublin.
In the spring of 2010 Philip collaborated in a major new production of Peter Pan with artistic director Michael Pink for Milwaukee Ballet to great public and critical success. Recorded by PBS, the filmed production was networked nationally in the US in April 2014. The company continued this fruitful connection with Philip Feeney with a revival of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, under the new name of Esmeralda, in October 2010.
After an enjoyable and challenging interlude of playing Stravinsky in Galway for the creative period of Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Rite of Spring, a joint production with English National Opera, he has recently joined forces with the celebrated singer and composer, Liam O’Maonlai, sound composer, Denis Clohessy and bassist, Martin Brunsden in the first draft of Keegan-Dolan’s Helen and Hell.
A frequent contributor to international workshops and dance courses, Philip has supported Michael Keegan-Dolan’s creative workshops in Shawbrook, Dublin and London, and has regularly teamed up with the great Graham teacher, Kazuko Hirabayashi, both in Japan and in Spain, serving on the panel with her in 2004 for the International Choreographic Competition in Burgos.
In the summer of 2012 three of his ballets for Ballet Central, Sharon Watson's Code, Sara Matthews' And then their Hopes Soared and Mikaela Polley's Olympic-themed ballet, Circle of Five were performed in the Olympic Park as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. In the summer of 2013, Feeney's powerful score for Signature 31/30 choreographed by the award-winning choreographer, Kenny Tindall, was featured in the Best of the Fringe at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In 2012-3, he also composed a full-length work for the exciting young Antwerp-based wind quintet, the Houthandel Ensemble, Houthandel Memories, which the ensemble are touring under the title, Do you remember? It was premiered in Antwerp in February 2013.
In 2013, he composed a second full-length ballet of Cinderella on David Nixon's evocative Russian-inspired synopsis, which toured throughout the UK in the Northern Ballet repertoire. Shortly after that, in May 2014, Philip premiered a major full-length work for Milwaukee Ballet, Mirror, Mirror, a dark and compelling piece based on the fairy tale of Snow White. Continuing on the same theme, he composed a third fairy tale ballet, a one-act ballet for children, The Elves and the Shoemaker, for Northern Ballet. Devised and choreographed by Daniel de Andrade, whom Philip worked with on the collaboration, Meraki for Ballet Central 2014, The Elves and the Shoemaker, was broadcast across the UK at Easter 2015.
In 2015 Feeney collaborated with dancer/choreographer Quang Van Kien, on an atmospheric new work, Lunar Orbits, a Chinatown Arts Space commission to develop new work as part of their Autumn Moon Project. During the Chinese New Year, the piece was performed live in Trafalgar Square in London.
Two further productions for chamber orchestra were premiered in 2016 in close succession, a haunting new score for Milwaukee Ballet's production of The Picture of Dorian Gray (chor: Michael Pink), and a striking collaboration with choreographer, Cathy Marston, in the shape of an evocative new score for Northern Ballet's production of Jane Eyre, featuring the music of Schubert, Fanny Mendelssohn and Feeney, which has gone on to achieve considerable critical acclaim.
His work takes him across the world, having recently given a series of lectures at the Institute del Teatre in Barcelona, and has been invited to speak at the international seminar, Il Corpo nel Suono, held later this year at the Academia Nazionale di Danza in Rome.
He continues to play in London, at Ballet Central and at the London Contemporary Dance School, and is currently engaged in the 2016 Ballet Central National tour, for which he has provided no less than six works, including revivals of Christopher Gable's classic Celebration and Sara Matthew's dynamic Superstruct, and has created a new powerful score for Sharon Watson's Repetition (2) Change, and a new work for dancer/choreographer, Richard Bermange.