JJ McNamara invited to Dublin International Piano Competition

Story by John Donohoe

Friday, 6th April, 2018 12:15pm

JJ McNamara invited to Dublin International Piano Competition

JJ McNamara

Chances are, if you grew up in a house where there was too much music around you all day long, you'd get fed up of it fairly quick.
Not so with JJ McNamara. The young pianist, who has just launched a debut CD of music, was immersed in it from a young age, as a son of RTE music director and Late Late Show pianist, Frank McNamara, who runs a recording studio at the family home at Rathbeggan, near Dunshaughlin.
The 18 year-old is now studying at the Guildhall School of Music in London, with legendary English pianist, Martin Roscoe, and has been selected as one of only six Irish pianists selected to take part in the Dublin International Piano Competition next month. 
“I've recorded 400 or 500 CDs, but this one was the most enjoyable I've worked on,” his father, Frank, said at the launch of the CD, simply and aptly called 'Debut', at Dublin venue  No 25, Fitzwilliam Place.  
“It was a great pleasure and something I'll never forget.”
JJ and his father paid tribute to his teachers, Gogoshka Kinkladze, Padhraic O’Cuinneagain and Jonathan Middleton.
“I get very hard to teach my own,” Frank laughs.
JJ, who started piano at four, explains he used the Kickstarter' method to raise money for the album and help towards his studies in London, and is very appreciative of all who made donations. He was awarded a scholarship to London Guildhall School.
“I'm only a few months over there, and it's great. You get a lot of time to spend practicising, as it is all geared very much towards being a performer.” 
His mother, former RTE presenter Theresa Lowe, adds that when JJ calls home, he loves to play new pieces over the phone to them.
“When I haven't heard him for three or four weeks, I can hear the improvement,” Frank McNamara says.
The 'Debut' CD certainly demonstrates the talents of the young piano player, with music by Haydn, Chopin, Liszt, Debussy and the hugely challenging 2nd Piano Sonata by Sergei Rachmaninov.
Born into a very musical family, whenhe was 11, JJ toured Ireland with his parents and siblings on the McNamara family tour, playing 13 venues in which he performed some Beethoven and Chopin. In 2011 at the age of 12 in the Newpark Music Festival, he received the highest ever mark of 97 in the Concerto Cup and was the youngest ever winner of the award for his performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto (1st movt). 
Since then JJ has won first prize in many national piano competitions, most notably in April 2014, when he was awarded first prize in The Junior Piano Concerto Competition in the Feis Ceoil performing Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 2, 3rd movement (with Frank on second piano) and multiple prize winner at Sligo Feis, Piano Academy National Music festival and Arklow Feis for the second year in a row. 

In April 2015, JJ performed the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 live on the John Murray Show RTE Radio 1 and followed it up with his debut at the Convention Centre, Dublin with a solo lunch-time concert for the Dublin International Video Games Festival, performing Liszt, Beethoven and Chopin. Two days later, JJ was a soloist on the main stage in the Video Games Live Concert performing his own arrangement of video game themes in a mash up with Mephisto waltz, Wilde Jagd and the Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 by Liszt.   
He was delighted to be selected by Barry Douglas for the young musicians programme at the Clandeboye Festival in 2015 and  in 2016, was awarded the World Piano Teachers special prize at the Junior Chopin International Competition in Poland.
Also in 2016, JJ won his first International Competition - Masters of the Sonata - an online competition for his performance of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Sonata.
In March of this year, he won the GCSE online series for performance of a piece by Haydn, and in April at the Feis Ceoil in Dublin, JJ was awarded the Betty Clarke medal for his repertoire performance and performed at the prizewinners’ gala concert at the National Concert Hall.
Also in April, he was a finalist and prizewinner in the International Spanish Piano Competition, Xabia Concurso.
In October, JJ was invited by the National Symphony Orchestra of Moldova to perform as soloist in Tchaikovsky’s 1st piano concerto in a live radio and television broadcast to 76 countries.

Tonight, Friday 6th April, JJ McNamara plays with the Navan Silver Band  in St Patrick’s and St Seachnails Church in Dunshaughlin, in a concert to help finance his studies in London.  Hora Builders are  sponsoring the grand piano and the staging.   



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