Cork lecturer set to celebrate music by female composers through the ages

Roisín Maher, along with her sister Cliona, curates the annual Finding A Voice Festival next month. She tells us more about herself in our weekly Person to Person feature
Cork lecturer set to celebrate music by female composers through the ages
CIT Lecturer, Cork School of Music Roisin Maher

Roisín Maher, along with her sister Cliona, curates the annual Finding A Voice Festival next month

Tell us about yourself;

I’ve been a lecturer at CIT Cork School of Music since 2004 but before that I worked with lots of different arts organisations including Crash Ensemble, Opera Theatre Company, and the Contemporary Music Centre in Dublin.

I did a degree in music in UCC and then a Masters at the University of Leeds — where I became a Leeds United fan for my sins!

I then spent two and a half years working in Sierra Leone in West Africa with Voluntary Service Overseas.

When I came back to Ireland, I was based in Dublin for a long time but then moved to Cork in 2004.

Three years ago, myself and my sister Clíona set up the concert series, Finding A Voice, in our home town of Clonmel. All the concerts are of music by women composers through the ages, taking place every year around International Women’s Day, March 8.

Where were you born?

In Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

Where do you live?

Right now, I live in Courtmacsherry in beautiful West Cork, but I’m still up and down to Clonmel a lot because my mum and sister still live there, as well as my mother-in-law.


Husband Mick and two daughters, Aisling, aged 13, and Orlaith, aged 10.

Best friend?

My sister Clíona.

Earliest childhood memory?

Watching Clíona, aged 18 months, launch herself down the stairs in her playpen  having managed to open the childproof stair-gate!

Person you most admire?

If I had to say one person, it would have to be Hildegard of Bingen, which seems strange because she was a 12th century nun! She was a composer as well as a writer, mystic, healer and visionary who was renowned across Europe in her day. I just think she was such a trail-blazer at a time when options for women were so limited.

Person who most irritates you?

Anyone who still thinks there are no great women composers!

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

I don’t mind as long as they listen to the National Campaign for the Arts and double arts funding by 2025.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

Backpacking around Ghana one summer in my twenties with my friend Samantha.

Favourite TV programme?

Right now I’m really enjoying RTÉ’s HerStory series but if I had to pick my favourite of all time, it’s probably Buffy The Vampire Slayer — I’m currently re-watching it with my daughter!

Favourite radio show?

I love listening to Lyric FM, especially Blue of the Night and Evelyn Grant. Also Matt Cooper on Today FM for my daily dose of current affairs.

Your signature dish if cooking?

I make a mean lasagna! I’m currently trying to perfect a veggie version as we’re trying to eat less meat at home.

Favourite restaurant?

Monk’s Lane in Timoleague for Sunday lunch and nights out and Ichigo Ichie for (very) special occasions!

Last book you read?

I’ve just finished reading Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music by Anna Beer. It’s a great introduction to some of these incredible composers and musicians.

Best book you read?

So hard to pick just one! Two favourites are Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye and Jane Austen’s Sense And Sensibility.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

I’m listening to a lot of Mary Lou Williams at the moment ahead of our CSM Big Band concert in March. She was definitely one of the great jazz composers and performers so I can’t wait to hear her music ‘live’ for the first time!

I’m also discovering the music of Mary Kouyoumdjian — she’s a young American-Armenian composer. Isabelle O’Connell is playing one of her pieces next month and her music is amazing — very powerful.

Favourite song?

This probably changes on a daily basis but I’ll say Amy Beach’s Ah, Love, But A Day! if classical and otherwise Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now.

One person you would like to see in concert?

Laurie Anderson in Clonmel – why not?! A girl can dream…!

Do you have a pet?

Not yet, although my youngest daughter is waging a campaign to get a dog so it’s probably only a matter of time!

Morning person or night owl?

Definitely a night owl!

Your proudest moment?

Probably last year at our Clara Schumann concert where the seven piano reflections we had commissioned for her 200th anniversary were performed for the first time — I was so proud to have been involved.

Spendthrift or saver?

Bit of both.

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

Better roads!

What makes you happy?

Walking on the beach with my family.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who tried to change things for the better.

What else are you up to at the moment?

Right now, we’re gearing up for our next series of concerts in Clonmel from March 5 to 8 so there’s a lot going on! We’ll have eight concerts over the four days, as well as talks and workshops. There’s always such a buzz around the town and I’m really looking forward to some brilliant music!

I’m also putting together the programme for Finding A Voice 2021 so it’s definitely a busy time of the year, but it’s all worth it!

Finding a Voice Festival takes place in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, this year from March 6 to 8. Full details on

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