Bill Whelan, (born 22 May 1950 in Limerick, Ireland) is an Irish composer and musician. Whelan was educated at Crescent College, University College Dublin and the King's Inns. He is best known for composing a piece for the interval of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. The result, Riverdance, was a seven-minute display of traditional Irish dancing that became a full-length stage production and spawned a worldwide craze for Irish dancing and celtic music. It was released as a single in the UK in 1994, credited to "Bill Whelan and Anúna featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra". It reached number 9 and stayed in the charts for 16 weeks. The album of the same title reached number 31 in the album charts in 1995.
Whelan has been involved in many ground-breaking projects in Ireland since the 1970s. As a producer he has worked with U2 (on their War album), Van Morrison, Kate Bush, The Dubliners, Planxty, Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane, Patrick Street, Stockton's Wing and fellow Limerickman Richard Harris. As an arranger and composer, his credits include: • The Seville Suite, which was inspired by the exploits of Aodh Rua Ó Dónaill from The Battle of Kinsale in 1601 until his arrival in Galicia to the welcome of The Spanish Earl of Caraçena. In addition to the orchestra, The Seville Suite includes Celtic music on uilleann pipes, accordion, bodhrán, fiddle as well as Galician harp, whistles and pipes. • The Spirit Of Mayo, performed by an 85-piece orchestra in Dublin's National Concert Hall and featuring a powerful Celtic drum corps and a 200 strong choir and choral group Anúna. • Whelan's latest Celtic/Orchestral release, The Connemara Suite, features the Irish Chamber Orchestra along with soloists Zoë Conway, Morgan Crowley, Colin Dunne (Dance Percussion) and Fionnuala Hunt.
In theatre, Whelan received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for his adaption of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore. He wrote original music for 15 of W. B. Yeats's plays for Dublin's Abbey Theatre and his film credits include Dancing At Lughnasa (starring Meryl Streep), Some Mother's Son, Lamb (starring Liam Neeson) and the award-winning At The Cinema Palace.
Works for Winds
- Firedance (arr. Strommen) (1994/)
- Heart's Cry, The (arr. O'Loughlin) (1994/)
- Highlights from the "Seville Suite" (arr. de Meij) (1992/2011)
- Highlights from "Riverdance" (arr. de Meij) (1994/2014)
- Riverdance (arr. Strommen) (1994)