Irish fiddle player, Zoë Conway, is a prodigious talent, equally at home in both traditional Irish and classical styles. Zoë has performed across the globe, both as a solo artist and also playing with international acts such as Riverdance, Damien Rice, Rodrigo y Gabriella, Lisa Hannigan, Nick Cave and Lou Reed among others. She is a holder of the much coveted All-Ireland Senior Fiddle Champion title, winning the prestigious competition in 2001. She was voted Best Traditional Female of the Year in Irish Music Magazine and she is also a featured musician on the current Leaving Certificate music syllabus in Ireland. Zoë is increasingly in demand as a tutor, regularly giving workshops and lectures on the merits of classical and traditional music on the violin. She has performed at festivals such as Glastonbury, L’Orient, Tonder and Womad and has also performed in some of the most prestigious concert halls in the world including The National Concert Hall, Dublin; The Kremlin, Russia; The Kennedy Centre, Washington; The Broadway Gershwin Theatre, New York and Carnegie Hall, New York.
“Zoë Conway – the budding genius.” The Irish Times
Zoë began playing the violin at the age of eight, unusually learning traditional music and classical music at the same time. She was far behind others of the same age, as most classical players start from the tender age of three! However, she quickly caught up and by the age of thirteen had mastered such challenging pieces as the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. In Ireland, the classical and traditional worlds rarely mix, but by her mid-teens, Zoë was competing and winning in both the classical competitions and the traditional All Ireland competitions.
“Zoë has a unique ability to switch, chameleon-like from one style to the next.” Sunday Independent
Zoë was still in her early teens when she realised she had a natural flair for composition. She began composing in an Irish traditional style, and her body of work soon grew to over seventy pieces, many of which are now recorded. She has since branched out into other styles of music, principally classical. She has completed many commissions, including “Carn Tuathail”, a seven minute piece for chamber orchestra. This piece was performed and recorded by the Magogo Chamber Orchestra from Holland with Zoë as guest soloist in the Tilburg Concert Hall in November 2007 and again in October 2012. She was also commissioned by Abhann Productions to compose a five minute piece for Riverdance which was performed with full dance company in Los Angeles in March 2008. Zoë was also approached by the Children’s Books of Ireland to compose a piece as an award for novelist Kate Thornton in October 2006. In the summer of 2012, Zoë was invited to compose a new work for a 45 piece traditional orchestra for the renowned Meitheal Summer School in Limerick, and composed a ten minute piece, Slieve Gullion Suite. She was recently commissioned to compose the score for an award winning contemporary dance show by renowned dancer, Breandan De Gallaí called “Linger”. In early 2017 she completed a piece, “Suaimhneas” for a group of young traditional musicians in Co. Donegal as part of Trad Week. Many of her own compositions are featured on her two solo albums, Zoë Conway and The Horse’s Tail and as a result, she now has her own publishing company, Zoë Music Limited.
“Zoë Conway’s star is in the ascendant.” The Irish Times
Zoë has played as guest soloist with many Irish orchestras including The Ulster Orchestra, The RTE Concert Orchestra, The National Symphonia Orchestra of Ireland, The Irish Film Orchestra and The Irish Chamber Orchestra. She has also performed internationally as soloist with Il Gardino Armonico of Italy, The Symphony Orchestra of Galicia in Spain, The Magogo Chamber Orchestra, Holland and WDR Symphony Orchestra, Germany. In May 2000 Zoë was guest soloist with the Irish Chamber Orchestra at the world premier of Inishlacken, composed by Bill Whelan in the Kennedy Centre, Washington. The concerto for two violins and chamber orchestra was written especially with Zoë’s unique mastery in mind, as it combines both the classical and traditional styles.
“The evening’s greatest discovery was Zoë Conway, an Irish fiddler with a burnished tone and a commanding technique. Her elegant, polished and straightforward reading captured ‘Inishlacken’ in all its charm.” The Washington Post
She went on to tour with the Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO) in their Winter Tour 2000, and continues to perform regularly with them. She was delighted to perform with the ICO in April 2004 in Brussels at a special concert to mark Ireland’s presidency of the EU. The most prestigious concert with the ICO was in none other than Carnegie Hall in March 2005, where she performed the world premiere of Carna, a concerto for violin, singer and dancer which was also composed by Bill Whelan. In December 2005, he completed the series entitled Postcards from Connemara with a final piece called Errisbeg for violin, harp and chamber orchestra. The three works were performed together for the first time at the University of Limerick Concert Hall, with Zoë soloing in all three! These three concertos have since been recorded and this exciting album was released in February 2008. She was honoured to perform some of these pieces as a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra as part of the 1916 centenary celebrations at a televised outdoor performance at Collins Barracks in Dublin attended by President Michael D. Higgins.
“We had come expectant, and we left bedazzled.” Irish Music Magazine
Zoë has often been invited to perform at corporate functions and for dignitaries around the world. She performed at the New York Stock Exchange for the ‘Ringing of the Bell’ marking the start of the trading year in both 2000 and again in 2001. The ceremony was broadcast live on CNN all over the world. At the age of fourteen, Zoë had the pleasure of entertaining then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson and has gone on to play for other dignitaries including An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, Queen Sonja of Norway, and H.E. Chinese Premier, Zhu Rongji. In September 2002 she had the honour of accompanying President McAleese on her two week State visit to Malaysia and Thailand, and in April 2007 she performed for the Slovak President, Ivan Gasparovic, at a state function hosted by President McAleese in Aras an Uachtarain. She was delighted to perform completely solo at an event held in the Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin for the highly anticipated launch of the highest residential skyscraper in the world, The Chigago Spire. In Jan 2017, she performed at a televised event for Lexus in the parade ring at Leopardstown Race Course, playing a solo version of Kreisler piece, Preludium Und Allegro.
“While most people can only idly imagine what it would be like to be the best in the country at what they do, Zoë can already taste it.” Sunday Independent
Zoë is increasingly in demand as a tutor, specialising in teaching her students both traditional and classical styles. Learning both genres allows for a wide musical education, as the traditional side develops a strong ear, memory, and free bowing technique, while the classical training promotes tuning, tone, posture and reading. Her pupils travel to Carlingford for lessons from all over Ireland and are award winners in the prestigious All-Ireland Fleadh Ceoil na hEireann, Fiddler of Oriel and Fiddler of Dooney competitions.
Zoë currently tours with her husband, guitarist John Mc Intyre. With an exciting blend of eclectic fiddle and guitar music, they bring to the stage sympathetic arrangements of traditional Irish music, compositions and songs, old and new. The duo possesses a rare facility to draw pieces into their repertoire from other genres such as classical, jazz and world music and express this material in way which not only displays the sheer range and knowledge of both instrumentalists but also exhibits the wonderful versatility of their instruments. They have proved to be a hit on YouTube, garnering over 100,000 combined hits.
Zoë and John released their first studio album in Nov 2012 entitled Go Mairir I Bhfad_Long Life To You. For this album, they commissioned twelve leading Irish composers to each compose a piece for fiddle and guitar with the aim of collectively presenting a snapshot of traditional Irish music alive today. The renowned composers who took part in the project were Liz Carroll, Steve Cooney, Frankie Gavin, Andy Irvine, Charlie Lennon, Donal Lunny, Máirtín O’Connor, Peadar Ó Riada, Mícheál Ó Súilleabhán, Tommy Peoples, Niall Vallely and Bill Whelan. They also released an exciting live solo album in 2017, Live in Concert.
Zoë has recorded two solo albums to date, both released to critical acclaim. The first, simply titled Zoë Conway, was produced by Bill Whelan and received second place in the Irish Times top five releases of the year. The second, The Horse’s Tail, was released in October 2006 and similarly appeared on the top five trad releases of the year. For this album, she was commended by critics for capturing a sound which harks back to old LP recordings and reveals the raw energy of Irish traditional music. Both albums showcase Zoë’s original compositions alongside older traditional tunes. She also has a DVD, Zoë Conway Live, available through Tara Music.
“Zoë attacked her instrument with lightning strikes. It was, without a doubt, a masterclass in musicianship. Every note, precise. Every stroke, with absolute conviction. Bravo.” Irish Music Magazine