Tarik O'Regan

Tarik O'Regan


• Born 1978


Tarik O'Regan began the 21st century as a virtual unknown and went on to become one of the most played, commissioned, and recorded British composers of his generation. He has written music in most genres, but his choral works have been especially successful, as evidenced by Threshold of Night (2006) and Triptych (2005). O'Regan's music is mostly tonal or modal and is fairly approachable even as it contains passages of considerable density and draws on a seemingly incompatible diversity of styles. His choral works often exhibit a chant-like solemnity or mystical quality in slower sections, while complex rhythmic features can appear in faster ones. There are minimalist elements in his style, as well as folk traits from Ireland and North Africa (his mother is Moroccan-born). O'Regan acknowledges the influence of jazz and rock music, which are noticeable in works like Rai (2006), a chamber piece that also exists in an orchestral version (2011) and that also draws on the North African popular genre whose name it bears. O'Regan's music is regularly performed in the U.K. and is gaining currency in the U.S. and Europe. His works are available from Harmonia Mundi, Signum UK, Sony, and other major recording labels.

Tarik O'Regan was born in London in 1978. He was a late bloomer, learning to read music only by age 13. His advanced studies were at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he earned a degree in 1999. By this time O'Regan had already turned out several significant pieces, including the vocal work The Tongue of Epigrams (1998) and Three Piano Miniatures (1999).

O'Regan continued studies in composition at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where his teachers included composer Robin Holloway. During this period O'Regan worked for JPMorgan Chase Bank and for the newspaper The Observer, for which he regularly wrote reviews of classical recordings. Severing those ties in 2003, he began serving as composer-in-residence at Corpus Christi College, boosted by the successful 2002 premieres of Cliches (2000) by the London Sinfonietta and The Pure Good of Theory (2000) by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

In 2004 O'Regan accepted the Chester Schirmer Fulbright Fellowship at Columbia University, thus making New York City his base of operations. He also held a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard University from 2004-2005. In 2005 O'Regan was given the British Composer Award in the vocal category for Sainte (2002).

In 2007 O'Regan accepted an appointment at Trinity College, Cambridge, as fellow commoner in the Creative Arts. O'Regan's 2008 Threshold of Night CD on Harmonia Mundi garnered two Grammy nominations the following year for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance. O'Regan began appearing regularly as a music commentator on BBC Radio in 2009, and he would go on the following year to receive high praise for his documentary Composing New York, broadcast over BBC Radio 4. O'Regan's symphonic work Latent Manifest was premiered in 2010 to great acclaim by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Andrew Litton at a BBC Proms Concert. Among the more important recordings of O'Regan's works is the 2011 Harmonia Mundi SACD Acallam na Senórach "An Irish Colloquy," which offers the title work in a performance by the Irish National Chamber Choir led by Paul Hillier.

In the 2010s O'Regan has continued to write works in the choral genres that have made up the bulk of his output. The choral-orchestral A Celestial Map of the Sky, inspired by a pair of Albrecht Dürer woodcuts and commissioned by the Manchester Grammar School, appeared in 2014. The decade also saw O'Regan's first forays into large stage works with the 2011 opera Heart of Darkness, a setting of a libretto by Tom Phillips that adapted Joseph Conrad's classic novella, and the ballet Mata Hari (2016). O'Regan has continued to mix elements from his North African background into his music: Corsair (2014) was a concerto for oud and orchestra. Prolific and energetic, and not yet 40 years old as of 2017, O'Regan seemed a composer for a multicultural British Isles who could be true to their long concert music traditions.