Hugh Sheehan is a composer, diatonic button accordion player and electronic musician from Birmingham, England. He writes and performs music at the intersection of chamber music, electronic music, and folk/traditional music. At the core of Hugh’s practice is Irish traditional music (or trad). He hails from an Irish family and grew up immersed in trad, an aurally transmitted, stylistically rich music, full of personal, instrumental, and regional idiosyncrasies. This has been deeply influential on his work, inspiring his fascination in magnifying and sculpting the intricacies, imperfections and internal characteristics of sound.
Hugh's footing in traditional music is complimented by his formal training as a contemporary composer and the coalescence of these two worlds defines his current practice. Bridging the gap between acoustic and electronic sound worlds, Hugh’s work enquires as to how the behaviour of new instruments, interfaces or technology-based processes can translate to acoustic instrumentation (or other media), initiating events, taking their idiosyncrasies as motivic or thematic origin; an approach that his background as a traditional musician substantially informs. His music often yields agency to performers, technology, and aleatoric processes.
Hugh plays with and writes for several projects, including his own ensemble with whom he premiered the evening-length composition Act of Discovery in Finland's national music centre in 2017; accordion duo, Lautamaja and Sheehan; experimental duo, Lore, with whom he released Lore EP in 2017; and accordion/fiddle duo, Sheehan and Grey. In 2018 he released a solo EP of electroacoustic music called Twine.
He also works as a composer, sound designer and performer for theatre, with recent work including productions at the Gate Theatre (London), the Richard Burton Theatre (Cardiff), the Finborough Theatre (London), and Vapaan Taiteen Tila (Helsinki), and The Old Rep (Birmingham) working alongside directors such as Ned Bennett, Christa Harris, Josh Roche, and Charlotte Westenra. In addition to his artistic practice, Hugh curates, produces and promotes live music/arts events. He is co-founder, co-director and chairperson of The Trip to Birmingham TradFest, an Irish traditional music festival in the UK’s second city.
Hugh holds a BMus (Hons) from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and an MMus from the Sibelius Academy. He has won the All Britain Button Accordion title at the Fleadh Cheoil na Breataine and was twice shortlisted for the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. He has been a fellow of: Atlantic Music Festival's Future Music Lab in Maine, USA, working under the direction of Mari Kimura; the NordMIX+ Festival at Lithuania’s Academy of Music and Theatre; and Sō Percussion's Summer Institute at Princeton University, USA.