Professor Mel Mercier
Mel is the Chair of Performing Arts at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Mel completed a BMus at UCC in 1989, and a Master of Fine Arts in World Music at the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, in 1991, and was awarded a PhD from the University of Limerick in 2011. Mel has an outstanding record of creative output as a composer and performer, and an excellent record of academic leadership and engagement in scholarly activity. He has an international reputation as a composer for theatre, having composed music for many critically acclaimed, award-winning productions and installations, and an international profile as a performer of Irish traditional music, and as a collaborator across a range of music genres. He has twenty-five years experience of teaching and mentoring at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, alongside initiating and directing academic projects, conferences and symposia, and curating festivals, concert series, and community outreach initiatives.
Mel is currently working on several collaborative projects, including publication of My Name is Lancelot, a CD of his original compositions for theatre and dance; How it Is, a production of Beckett’s epic prose piece with Gare St. Lazare Ireland; CONCERT a new dance show with Colin Dunne; and PULSUS, the first Irish traditional music percussion ensemble.
King Lear (Shakespeare) Produced by the Old Vic, London, in November 2016. Original Music and Sound Design by Mel Mercier. Directed by Deborah Warner, with Glenda Jackson in the role of King Lear.
Sacrifice at Easter Co-devised by Pat McCabe, Pat Kiernan Mel Mercier. Produced by Corcadorca Theatre Company and created as part of Ireland 1916 Centenary Celebrations. Presented at Elizabeth Fort, Barrack Street, Cork from 17 June to 2 July 2016. Corcadorca celebrated the company’s 25th year with this staging of an ambitious, outdoor, site-specific production, which featured a score of original music and a soundscape that included the iconic voices of Éamon De Valera, Dana and John McCormack.
The Tempest (Shakespeare) Produced by the Salzburg Festival in July/August 2016. Directed by Deborah Warner, Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Der Sturm) was played in a German translation with original music and sound design by Mel Mercier. With the exception of the British lip-sync artist Dickie Beau (the role of Ariel) the play was performed by an all-German and Austrian cast.
RTÉ Documentary on One: Peadar Mercier Radio documentary written and narrated by Mel Mercier. Produced by Mel Mercier and Liam O’Brien, and first broadcast on 10 September 2016. Peadar Mercier was a member of the Chieftains and Seán Ó Riada’s Ceoltóirí Cualann, and the first-ever professional bodhrán and bones player. 25 years after his death, his son Mel has produced a radio documentary that gathers together the traces of his father’s life, creating a memory space filled with his voice and music, and the reflections of his family and friends. http://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/2016/0826/812103-peadar-mercier/
Over the last two decades, before he was appointed to the Chair of Performing Arts at UL, Mel played a pioneering role in the strategic development and delivery of University College Cork’s cross-cultural music curricula, and the cultivation of its progressive ethos and creative educational environment. During that period he led the development of Irish traditional music, ethnomusicology and performance studies at UCC, developing and delivering courses in Irish traditional music, ethnomusicology, music education, Indian classical music, West African traditional and popular musics, Javanese gamelan and performance theory. He played a leading role in the development of a vibrant interdiscipinary research environment at the Department of Music at UCC, working with his colleagues there to create a research culture that integrates scholarship and creative practice, embracing practice-based research – including composition and performance – alongside musicological, ethnomusicological, and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of an inclusive range of music genres, from art and popular music, to traditional and experimental music. In 2010, he oversaw the formation, and was appointed as the first Head of the newly established UCC School of Music and Theatre. In 2016 he was appointed as the Chair of Performing Arts at the University of Limerick.
Mel’s own research encompasses creative practice, in composition and performance, as well as more traditional, academic scholarship, most often within the disciplinary frameworks of ethnography and performance studies. Mel has a record of sustained, award-winning, creative output as a composer, and has built an international reputation as a composer of music for theatre. Over the last two decades has composed the music for many critically acclaimed, award-winning theatre productions and installations that have been presented in Ireland, the UK, Europe and America.
Music Composition for Theatre
Since 2000, he has collaborated with some of the world’s most respected theatre practitioners, including director Deborah Warner, actor/director Fiona Shaw and director Phyllida Lloyd. In 2013, he won the New York Drama Desk Award and was nominated for a Tony Award for his score for the Broadway production of The Testament of Mary. In 2002, he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for the Abbey Theatre/Broadway production of Medea, and, in 2012, he received a nomination for an Irish Times Theatre Award for the Abbey Theatre/Fibín production of Sétanta. In addition to commissions from the Abbey Theatre (Dublin), he has received commissions from the Royal Court (London, UK), The Barbican (London, UK), The National Theatre of Great Britain (London, UK) and Theatre National De Chaillot (Paris, France).
In addition to composing for theatre, Mel has played a leading role in the creation of several, large-scale art installation projects in recent years, including From the Sources (2010) and Peace Camp: A Coastal Installation (2012). In 2010, he created the multi-media installation, From the Sources, to celebrate the Centenary of Professor Aloys Fleischmann. From the Sources featured audio and film recordings of 840 tunes, compiled by Fleischmann in his Sources of Irish Traditional Music, performed by 96 traditional musicians, all of whom are students, tutors and graduates of UCC. In 2012, he created the poetryscape and soundscape for Peace Camp with director Deborah Warner and actor Fiona Shaw. The piece was commissioned by London 2012: Cultural Olympiad. Celebrating love poetry and landscape, Peace Camp took place over four nights between 19 and 22 July, 2012, at eight coastal locations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Mel also has an international reputation as an innovative performer, rooted in Irish traditional music, and committed to collaborating across music genres and across art forms. In a performance career that spans four decades he has collaborated with a wide range of traditional, classical, jazz, and non-western musicians and ensembles, and has performed in hundreds of concerts and recitals throughout Ireland, the UK, Europe, North America, India and China.
For almosts four decades he has performed extensively in Ireland and internationally as a traditional percussionist with Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, and has played on 11 of his album/CD recordings. Throughout the 1980s, with his father Peadar Mercier, Liam O’Flynn, Paddy Glackin, Joe Heaney and Seamus Tansey, he performed Amercian composer John Cage’s experimental composition Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegan’s Wake and Inlets, in Europe and the USA, with John Cage the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. In 1999-2000, he represented Ireland as a member of the cross-cultural, European Percussion Ensemble On the Outer Edges of Europe, which featured some of the leading percussionists from several European countries, performing self-composed, pan-European, trad-jazz fusion music.
Mel has been performing Javanese Karawitan (traditional music) and composing new music for gamelan since the mid 1990s. As Director of the Cork Javanese Gamelan, he has led the ensemble in a pioneering series of recitals of traditional and new music in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Dublin and London. Under his direction, the ensemble has collaborated with leading Javanese musicians and dancers, and, in more recent years, in a unique series of collaborations, with Irish and international artists, including actor Fiona Shaw, cellist Kate Ellis, dancer Colin Dunne, singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, saxophonists Ken Edge and Nick Roth, singer-songwriter Duke Special, and poets Matthew Sweeney and Leanne O’Sullivan. The ensemble presented its 20-year anniverary concert series in March 2014, and launched its debut CD of new compositions (The Three Forges, Diatribe Records) in 2015 at Kilkenny Arts Festival.
In 2009, in response to the developing intercultural soundscape of Cork and Ireland, Mel established the intercultural music ensemble TRASNA. The ensemblerepresented UCC, Cork and Ireland at the Shanghai World Expo in September 2010. In Shanghai, TRASNA performed with the renowned musician, Ma Xiaohui, one of the leading Chinese erhu players and the featured soloist on the soundtrack of the movie, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. This collaboration was recognized as a “unique cultural experience” by the United Nations.
Mel has extensive experience as a recording artist, both as a performer and composer, and as a producer and music arranger. Since the mid-1970s he has been professionally engaged to play on more than fifty recordings, with many Irish and international musicians, composers and ensembles, including Donal Lunny, Bill Whelan, Alan Stivell, Bobby Gardiner, Dúlra, Stockton’s Wing, Palle Mikkleborg, Helen Davies, Mary Black and eX Ensemble.
Dámh Chruinne Éireann Rince agus Ceol / Irish World Academy of Music and Dance