Irish Gamelan Orchestra


Julie Feeney: a Comeback Adventure in Balian Beats

The award-winning Galway opera-pop singer and composer joins an unusual Gamelan orchestra collaboration in Dun Laoghaire.

Combining a plethora of talents, Julie Feeney exploded onto the Irish music scene in 2005 with ‘13 Songs’, a delicately perfect Choice Music Prize winning album on which she personally plays no less than eleven instruments.

Renowned for her theatrical and intimate live performances, she’s gone on to tour the world, write operas, play a ten-night stint at the National Concert Hall, become influential in fashion circles, and even qualify as a primary school teacher.

It’s been a quiet few years for Feeney, however, and the way she’s chosen to return might surprise. Having contributed to an album alongside them in 2015, Feeney is now performing live as a much-valued guest of the Irish Gamelan Orchestra.

Gamelan is the traditional formal, orchestral style of Java and Bali, in Indonesia, and it’s visually spectacular. It consists of drum and xylophone-style instruments, some of which are made out of metal, and some wood, alongside vocals and key changes far outside of western orchestral norms.

Feeney was originally brought into the Irish Gamelan Orchestra as part of their collaborative approach to music. The collective invited star musicians with a classical edge – like the Galway-born pop-opera fanatic, and Belfast’s piano-meets-poetry artist Duke Special – to contribute alongside spoken word acts like author Joseph O’Connor (Ghost Light) and ex-Riverdance man Colin Dunne.

While the project is very much an aside for Feeney, it clearly evokes a passion. “The orchestra is almost overwhelming, physically,” she explains. “The set up, with the guests, probably sounds a bit like a variety performance, but it really isn’t. They asked different composers to contribute pieces, and I originally composed a short 20-minute piece with Michael Murphy to play at a college launch. I’m very lucky, I don’t really get asked to do things that don’t sound great to me, and this was really exciting from the start.”