Eimear Noone is an Irish conductor and composer best known for her award-winning work on video game music. She has conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Bretagne, the Sydney Symphony, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and several other national orchestras.
What is your background and where did you go to school and college?
I went to my local national school St Gabriel’s in Kilconnell, Ballinasloe. I had excellent teachers, and it was Ms. Margaret Bleahene who picked me out when I was five years of age and told my parents that I should be a musician. I then went to Ardscoil Mhuire in Ballinasloe, followed by a year at Yeats College in Galway. During my time in secondary school, I was also attending the college of music in Dublin. I would take the train at 6 am on a Saturday to Dublin and attend music classes for the day. I subsequently studied music in Trinity College.
How did your love of music start for you, are there other members of your family involved in music?
It’s hard to find an Irish family who doesn’t have musical talent in it. My grandfather Joe Shea was a very good traditional musician, but other than that I didn’t come from a family of professional musicians. I always had a huge love of music. My first time on stage was aged four singing at St Cuan’s College in Castleblakeney, because my Aunt was at school there and she brought me out on stage to sing.
So many orchestra conductors are male, did you face adversity in your dream to enter a traditionally male-orientated career?
Yes, I think any woman in a profession that’s male-dominated and requires leadership is going to come up against some adversity, and yes, I’m no different. Things fortunately are improving and there are wonderful programmes to address the imbalance, like the Female Conductor Programme at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, which I’m proud to support. When I was starting up as a young conductor there was very little support and I had to make my own way really.
You have conducted so many orchestras, is there anything of which you are particularly proud?
I’m proud of being able to travel the world as a musician and meet other orchestra members who I think as family and meeting extended family all over the world. I am very privileged to be able to make a living from music. I am also proud of being able to make history as the first women to conduct at the academy awards in 2020, but my proudest moment is fighting for the rights of pregnant women in the state of California.
You made history in 2020 at the 92nd Academy Awards when you became the first woman to conduct the orchestra at the Oscars. How was that experience for you?
That experience was joyful and uplifting. My musical colleagues were the ones that appointed me to the position and that meant the world to me. The orchestra musicians are players that I would have worked with throughout my career in Los Angeles and I felt very supported and very much appreciative of my musical colleagues at that moment.
What was your experience like of conducting in a sold-out national concert hall in Dublin?
We were completely blown away by the response of the public and the press and by the amazing star musicians that supported us such as David Agnew, Frank McNamara, Treasa Lowe and Gabriel Byrne, who showed up to our first concert. We had a wonderful film director Ronan O’Leary who supported us throughout. I was overawed to see a full house at our first concert at the National Concert Hall. It really was such a memorable experience.
You have risen to prominence as a world-renowned conductor and composer This is a dream come through for you, did you work incredibly hard to get to this level?
Yes, myself and my colleagues in Ireland, Los Angeles and across the world worked incredibly hard. There were many obstacles and difficult situations along the way. I think Irish people have a great capacity for tenacity and have a wonderful work ethic.
Did the pandemic affect your work much?
Yes, absolutely it effected every musician on the planet. We were lucky we were working on a film called ‘’Two by Two Overboard’’ at the time. Almost all of my concerts were cancelled except for places like Norway as they didn’t go into lockdown the way we did. Before my concert in Norway, I had to quarantine for a week just to work, but It was an extreme situation for every musician and thankfully now there are still concerts coming in on the books for 2024 that were supposed to happen in 2020. We were lucky we still worked during the pandemic on compositional projects but not every musician was so lucky. I think our appreciation for each other grew during the pandemic as we missed physically working with each other.
As well as conducting orchestras, do you also conduct music for video games and television?
Yes I conduct recording sessions all the time, either things that Craig and I have written or that colleagues have written. I have to say the least stressful work for me is being in the recording studio, and the interesting thing is when I am conducting for a recording session I generally don’t get to see the music. I go into a different headspace when conducting music that I have written as if the composer is somebody else.
You must work with a diverse group of people, has this allowed you the opportunity to travel worldwide?
Well the important thing about traveling for anybody is really getting to know people of different cultures and religions across the world. The one thing that comes from that is you simply realise how similar we all are, and the thing about music is it’s a great leveller. It’s all about what you can bring to the moment and something I appreciate about the music world for me is being able part to diversify across different types of music and bringing the orchestra together with RnB, video game music, rock music, traditional Irish music and all kinds of world music. I work and interact with Composers from China, Japan, and the United States. I have had the opportunity of working with people who are differently abled, people in the LGBTQ community and I have wonderful colleagues in the trans community, and for us it’s all about the music and what each individual can contribute in the moment. Once the music starts all you can feel is the spirit of colleagues around you.
Which do you prefer more, conducting live performances or composing music?
They’re completely different experiences, but the ultimate experience is conducting a live piece that you have written, and conducting it in a country that you hadn’t even imagined performing in. There is a piece I wrote called ‘’Malach, Angel Messenger’’ and in the choir part I have hidden some Irish words, but I have spelled them fanatically, so that if you read English, you can sing ag siúl le Dia (walking with God) and I have experienced that with a Chinese choir singing it in Irish, or a choir in the United States. So both have frustrations and both of them have a different magic but ultimately both have opened my mind in different ways.
You were in concert in June 2022 at the Royal Albert Hall. Is this an incredible place to perform and does it hold many memories for you?
I used to go to the Royal Albert Hall as a student for the proms on a cheap flight and queue for the cheap tickets. My Aunt Marian would on occasion buy me nice tickets so that I could get to the concerts that would have a small audience. I have great memories as a student of just being memorised at watching some of the greatest talent in the world at the Royal Albert Hall. I have got to perform there, and I am performing there again in 2023. It is an orchestra with great attitude, and I got to bring along Aisling McGlynn. a wonderful young Irish singer and give her a chance to be a soloist at the Royal Albert Hall. I love the Royal Albert Hall and to be there on its 150th anniversary year was special.
Out of all your outstanding career moments, which one stands out as the most interesting?
The Oscars really stand out because it was such an out-of-body experience, but I want to have a different answer for you every year. For now, it’s the academy awards and the Royal Albert Hall but next year who knows it might be something different.
What are your hobbies and interests, outside of music?
All my time for hobbies and interests are taken up but I do get to play video games with my kids.
Will you ever write a book on your life and the incredible successes you have had?
Yes, I think instead of it being more of an autobiography, it would be more about what musical life has taught me as a human being, and how that can be applied to other walks of life.