Kirk O’Riordan

composer | conductor | saxophonist



Kirk O'Riordan’s music has been referred to as “unapologetically beautiful” and is often praised for its uniquely “visual” qualities that depict a wide range of striking moods. His debut compact disk, Strange Flowers, was released by Ravello Records in November, 2013 and was praised by Audiophile Audition as “one of the most impressive and beautiful collections of chamber music I have heard in awhile….This is all just so lovely and invokes exactly the emotions that good music should be able to induce in all of us."
Gramophone Magazine praised O’Riordan as “a composer for whom imagery is a defining inspiration.…[he] is a deeply sensitive composer who savours going gently into the night.” (April 2014). A recording of his Twenty-Six Preludes for Solo Piano—by pianist Holly Roadfeldt—will be released in November, 2016 by Parma Recordings.

O’Riordan (b. 1968) is an active composer, conductor, saxophonist, and teacher. His music has been performed in Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Finland, Italy, and Russia; and in thirty of the fifty United States. Performances of his works have been featured at the Ravenna Festival (Italy), the Indiana State University, University of North Carolina, Greensboro and Western Illinois New Music Festivals, the 2008 Eugene Rousseau Birthday Celebration, national and regional conferences of the Society of Composers, Inc. and the College Music Society; and in concert by such performers as the Eaken Piano Trio, Tresillo, The Moran Woodwind Quintet, Orchestra Bruno Maderna (Italy), the Arizona State University Chamber Winds and Symphony Orchestra, the Northwestern University Contemporary Music Ensemble, the Cleveland State University Orchestra, the University of Colorado Chamber Wind Ensemble, the University of Delaware University Singers, the Williamsport Chamber Chorus and Orchestra, the Susquehanna University Orchestra and Chamber Singers, The Lafayette College Concert Band, Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Percussion Ensemble, the SKIN Ensemble, Frederick Hemke, Timothy McAllister, Lawrence Stomberg, Marianne Gythfeldt, Kenneth Tse, Jeffrey Lyman, Emily Bullock, Steven Stusek, Andrew Rammon, Reuben Councill, John Perrine, and Holly Roadfeldt.

Kirk is the recipient of numerous awards as both a composer and a performer, including annual ASCAPlus awards, a Composer's Assistance Program grant from the American Music Center, the 2001 Arizona State University Composition Competition, the 2000 Contemporary Music Society competition, and an ERM-Media Masterworks Prize. In addition, his Cadenza for Piano Trio was one of two works selected by audience members at the CMS Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Super-regional Conference for performance at the 2008 CMS National Conference.

Kirk's music has been broadcast on, among others, KBAQ, WQSU, WTUL, and WVIA radio. Recordings of his works appear on the Ravello, Centaur, ERM-Media and EnF labels, and feature performances by Lawrence Stomberg, Marianne Gythfeldt, Holly Roadfeldt, Frederick L. Hemke, The Kiev Philharmonic, and Farrell Vernon. He has recently received commissions from AVIDduo, Saxton Rose, and Holly Roadfeldt. He recently completed his first opera: The Masque of Edgar Allan Poe, a one-act chamber opera loosely based on Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” on a libretto by Lafayette College colleague Lee Upton. The work was premiered by the University of Delaware Opera Theater in November, 2016. Other projects have focused on music for dance: his River Lights for Orchestra (as recorded by the Kiev Philharmonic) was used by dancer/choreographer Ben Munisteri in his piece, Robot vs. Mermaid. O’Riordan has also collaborated with dancer/choreographers Carrie Rohman and Nandini Sikand. Recent projects include a concerto for Taiko Ensemble and Concert Band (for the Lafayette College Percussion Ensemble and Concert Band), and underscoring for a Lafayette College Department of Theater production of Mary Zimmerman’s play Metamorphosis, and a new work for Viola and Piano for Michael Hall and Holly Roadfeldt.

In 2009 Dr. O'Riordan joined the faculty of Lafayette College where he serves as Associate Professor of Music and Director of Bands, teaching courses in music theory and composition. In addition, he teaches in the First-year Seminar program and conducts the Lafayette College Concert Band and Contemporary Music Ensemble. During his time at Lafayette, the Concert Band has been hailed for its ambitious and adventurous programming, having performed works such as Husa’s Music for Prague 1968, his own orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition, and world premieres by O’Riordan, Zach Jones (Lafayette class of 2013) and William Pfaff.

Prior to his appointment at Lafayette he served on the faculties of Bucknell University and Susquehanna University where he taught music theory, composition, music appreciation, and (English) writing. He has also served on the faculties of Lock Haven University, Colorado Christian University, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and Paradise Valley Community College. He holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Arizona State University (the first recipient of that degree from ASU); the Certificate of Performance in Saxophone from Northwestern University; and three Master of Music degrees (composition, saxophone performance, and conducting).

Kirk has studied composition with Rodney Rogers, Randall Shinn, James De Mars, Glenn Hackbarth, Jay Alan Yim, Burton Beerman, Marilyn Shrude, and Donald M. Wilson. He has studied saxophone with Frederick L. Hemke, John Sampen, Eugene Rousseau, and Iwan Roth.


Full Biography:

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Short Biography (161 Words):


"Kirk O’Riordan’s Twenty-six Preludes for Piano composed for his wife and pianist, Holly Roadfeldt, are similarly atmospheric and proceed to unfold like a magical tapestry. Each of the 26 Preludes seemingly comprising of warp and weft forming a myriad of pixels of little pictures that ultimately combines to form a moveable feast for both eye and inner ear. O’Riordan’s miniatures are informed by languorous beauty and profundity, the lyrical variations of each often feature elaborate embellishments, as well as sudden dissonant figurations that seem to mimic the gravity-defying leaps of the gazelle, and even – in No. 21, a certain darkness. However, a gossamer-like filament links each of the preludes and O’Riordan seems to revel in boundless invention, wide expressive range, technical challenges and intellectual cachet."
--Raul da Gama, World Music Report (Full review here).

"The Chopin is the carrot perhaps for those tentative about exploring new music. The second disc here features a complete set of 26 preludes which Roadfeldt commissioned from Kirk O’Riordan. O’Riordan teaches at Lafayette College where he is noted for his programming as the Director of the college’s concert band. The pieces here were composed between 2013-2014 and premiered in November, 2014. The formal organization here is a bit different then using different key centers. For this work, O’Riordan uses a musical idea, or “thread”, that becomes transformed as the set proceeds often with these lines coming together. The result is a more large-scale connected cycle of pieces that should hold up well on repeated listening. The style which opens this set may feel more like a minimalist flurry of arpeggios, but the music does not stay on a pitch level. The accessible language lands firmly in a sort of post-romantic tradition with open intervals which makes some of the dissonant moments rather easy to appreciate. The energy of the first prelude flows into the second only to be brought to a rather stunning stop in the mysterious third prelude. These shifts of mood create a unique sense of drama in the piece as a whole helping to see some of the larger connections as the work unfolds. The set is an important addition to the literature with the same sort of requirements for subtlety and technique found in the Chopin. Some of the slower moments have an almost impressionist quality, hearkening perhaps to another famous set of piano preludes, those by Debussy. As the set progresses, the lines become slightly more angular settling in to a more contemporary sound. Therein lies the additional appeal both of this set of pieces and Roadfeldt’s project exploring this particular piano art form."
--Steven Kennedy, Cinemusical (Full review here.).

"This is one of the most impressive and beautiful collections of chamber music I have heard in awhile. As other reviewers have commented, Kirk O’Riordan’s music is “unapologetically beautiful.” It also should appeal to just about anyone for its expressive nature and picturesque vocabulary.....I am completely impressed with Kirk O’Riordan’s work based on just this short sample. I have described each piece herein as beautiful or plaintive or restful and so they are. This is not heady, complex, “academic” music requiring analysis to appreciate its intent; it is better than that. This is all music that – with or without any background information – any listener would find a pleasant experience and, in the case of the last three works, may find deeply provocative and meditative. This is all just so lovely and invokes exactly one of the emotions that good music should be able to induce in all of us."
--Dainel Coombs, Audiophile Audition (Full review here ).

“The Six works on ‘Strange Flowers’ reveal a composer for whom imagery is a defining inspiration. Each of the pieces -- beautifully played -- has a title that establishes a mood or a particular emotional world. O’Riordan is a deeply sensitive composer who savours going gently into the night.”
--Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone Magazine (April 2014) Full review here).

"Moments, Once Remembered by Kirk O’Riordan is a piece in five movements (Toccata, Ostinato, Canon, Barcarolle, Recitative and Dance) for sopranino and classical guitar. The writing, as well as the instrumentation, demands the utmost control of both instruments and require the sopranino to adapt to a musical situation with extreme attention to balance and blend of the instruments. Both performers negotiate these challenges very successfully and provide a poised, as well as pensive interpretation of this piece."
--Frank Bongiorno, The Saxophone Journal (Vol. 37 #2, Nov/Dec 2012).

Night of Summer Stars, a premiere also choreographed by Carrie Rohman, was billed as “a duet between dance and music” and lived up to this expectation. The Lafayette College Percussion Ensemble accompanied the four dancers using unorthodox percussion techniques - including playing on crystal glasses and whistling. The combination of the music and the repeated movements created a trance like effect. The energy of the dancers was constant the whole time – during both sharp, larger movements and subtle, barely perceptible movements – which added to the trance effect. The only thing that jerked me out of the meditative trance was when some of the dancers’ feet squeaked on the stage during turns."
--Rachel Turner,

"Most successful is the new glittery-costumed sextet “Robot vs Mermaid,” in which Mr. Munisteri evokes a strange, alluring world as well as displays his sophisticated structural intelligence. Curving shoulders and undulating bodies are contrasted with geometric physical shapes; the dancers barely touch yet seem intimately connected. The long, ominous tones of Kirk O’Riordan’s music [River Lights for Orchestra] and Kathy Kaufmann’s subtle lighting design underscore the mysterious partings and joinings onstage. We want to know more."
--Roslyn Sulcas, New York Times

“Robot vs. Mermaid,” the last piece, was choreographed lowest to the ground. Many of the dancers moved in and out of prone positions, perhaps as mermaids, perhaps lizards on the sea floor, propelled by slithering muscle movement. The costumes were exotic and sparkly and the music was a haunting hum, “River Lights” by Kirk O’Riordan."
--Martha Sherman, The Dance View Times

"Kirk O'Riordan’s five-movement work, Moments, Once Remembered for sopranino saxophone and guitar is a nearly seventeen-minute piece that may well be the highlight of the program. The musical language was lovely and the combination of colors was equally beautiful. In addition to Vernon’s stellar playing, guitarist Laura Lydy shows herself to be a powerful musician as well."
--Dr. Clifford Leaman, University of South Carolina. Saxophone Symposium Vol. 35 (2012)

"Kirk's "Pressing forward, pushing back" is is indeed enlightening. In addition to war on human inertia, I heard echoes of the past century. I believe that Kirk is getting us ready for the time ahead."
--Dr. Jing Luo, Bloomsburg University

On Three Pieces for solo Piano: "The 'Moto perpetuo' first movement is true to form. The active arpeggiations and crashing chords propel the piece to its final cadence. 'Cadenza' begins with soft oscillations in harmony which expand throughout the range of the piano and a repeated-tone figure begins to take control of the motion. These two contrasting ideas are brought together and monolithic chords emerge and decay at the close. 'Toccata' is a monophonic ride through nimble passages in the piano’s lower register. The piece spreads out in true tocccata fashion and coalesces with huge banging chords. Exceptional writing and performance!"
--Jay Batzner, Central Michigan University SCI Region VI Conference Blog, 2004

On Temptation for solo Bassoon: "[The] idea is very effectively portrayed in this excellent seven-minute work. Simple lyrical material is presented and then developed; cautiously at first and then more adventurously. After being subdued, the material is again explored more ambitiously, eventually even with wild abandon including multiphonics and very fast virtuoso passages, only to end in restraint."
--Jon Beebe, Appalachian State University The Double Reed Vol. 23 No. 3, 2002


Email Kirk

234 Williams Center for the Arts
Lafayette College
Easton, Pennsylvania


Copyright © 2016 by Kirk O’Riordan. All rights reserved.