Conor McAuley announced as NAVIGATOR musician-in-residence

Drummer Conor McAuley performing with his group mcauley/mckeown/mccullagh.

We are happy to announce that our latest artist in residence with the Improvised Music Company‘s NAVIGATOR programme is Conor McAuley, a drummer and composer from Belfast.

The 10-day Navigator Jazz Residency programme was established in 2021, and since then 10 musicians have enjoyed bespoke residencies through venue partners The Source Arts Centre, Thurles, Ballina Arts Centre and The Courthouse, Co. Wicklow and here at An Grianán with pianist Cormac McCarthy in 2021 and vocalist and composer Olesya Zdorovetska in 2022. NAVIGATOR offers jazz and improvising musicians professionally remunerated time and space to develop and perform work, while building creative and professional relationships in new locations.


Conor McAuley works in the seams of free improvisation, post-punk music, Irish traditional music, and human-computer interaction.

His trio ‘mcauley/mckeown/mccullagh’ skirt the borders of free improv, electronics, and Irish traditional music. Part of a vanguard reshaping the sounds of Ireland, the trinity sweep the lines of contemporary practice, foregrounding fiddle and guitar with transcendent electronics in a percussive bath of sound. Their work, championed by Scottish fiddler Aidan O’Rourke, has been featured in festivals alongside the likes of William Parker and Evelyn Glennie, and is known for ‘subverting audiences expectations of traditional music’ (Music Matters, BBC Radio 3), noted as being ‘absolutely special and totally unusual’ (Blas Ceoil, BBC Radio Ulster).

He is co-director of the long-standing improvising ensemble QUBe, at Queen’s University, where he is also a PHD researcher, assistant lecturer, and performance tutor. His activities at the Sonic Arts Research Centre have led to his work being presented across numerous academic institutes, including the Orpheus Institute, Belgium. His regular collaborations have led him to book improvised music nights at independent venues throughout Belfast. The nights feature travelling international artists alongside local improvisers and serve as a way of (co)creating a diverse community of improvisers across the scene, something that is key to the growth and sustainability of experimentation and creativity across the island.

Conor will spend time in Letterkenny this June/July to develop his practice and facilitate improvisation sessions with the local music community as part of IMC’s Navigator Residency programme.

“This is such a great opportunity that IMC and An Grianán have put together. To get the chance to throw myself in and amongst the wonderful community in Letterkenny is such a privilege. Alongside my work developing the drum kit as a vehicle for solo improvisation, I’ll also spend time with other drummers in a workshop setting. I’ll be making some noise and chatting with local musicians, connecting with dancers and artists, and hope to make a visit to Glebe House. I’m also very excited to bring the contemporary sounds of my improvising Irish Trad trio ‘mcauley/mckeown/mccullagh’ to the Letterkenny Blues & Roots Festival.” — Conor McAuley

Daithí Ramsay, An Grianan’s marketing manager said “Conor’s residency promises an exciting journey of artistic exploration and shared experiences, and we are very excited to welcome him to An Grianán. At the centre of Conor’s work is the belief that we become greater by working together rather than as an individual. This sense of community, and the belief in its power to lift us all up, is at the heart of everything we do here, and we are excited to see what emerges from Conor’s conversations and collaborations with our local community.”
The NAVIGATOR residency programme is part of IMC’s commitment to further develop the national scene for jazz and improvised music, improve artist touring mobility, develop audiences nationwide, and develop creative opportunities and fruitful new relationships for musicians.

Aoife Concannon, Creative Producer with Improvised Music Company said: “As we crisscross the country alongside the NAVIGATOR musicians, we are discovering new and thriving improvised music scenes, and dynamic artists such as Conor all around the island. It feels like an exciting time for this music in Ireland.”

The 2023 Navigator jazz residency programme has been expanded to 7 partners across the island of Ireland, with Garter Lane, Waterford, Riverbank Theatre, Newbridge and Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast joining the initial 4 other partners. Three of the residencies are programmed from IMC’s 30/30 programme and the other four residencies by an open call.

You can see Conor and his band mcauley/mckeown/mccullagh perform on Sat 1 July at 12noon in An Grianán’s foyer as part of the Letterkenny Blues and Roots Festival.

UPDATE: find out about workshops with Conor for local musicians here.

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