‘When I moved to LA, I had to learn to drive in one day’

Wild Geese: Eimear Noone, Los Angeles

Composer and conductor Eimear Noone

Composer and conductor Eimear Noone

 

Music has coursed through Eimear Noone’s veins since childhood. Originally from, Kilconnell in Co Galway, the pioneering composer, conductor and arranger was given a tin whistle as a child and could play by ear straight away.

Aged 15, an army band played a concert at her school in Ballinasloe and during the performance, the conductor invited her to conduct. Unbeknownst to him, she had studied scores and technique.

“I remember standing on the podium and feeling that this was a defining moment.” Even the band said, ‘You should be a conductor’.”

During those school years in the 1990s, Noone travelled to Dublin every Saturday for flute and piano lessons at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

A degree in music at Trinity College Dublin was her next step. But not wanting to just “do college”, she co-founded the Dublin City Concert Orchestra with her classmate Jillian Saunders, which they ran for five years.

“We brought a 65-piece orchestra into Mountjoy prison to perform Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.

“It was amazing to set up an orchestra aged 19,” she says. “I conducted at the National Concert Hall aged 22. We did lots of amazing things, even though we had no clue. But it did set me up for my future career as we did everything from music to admin, logistics, PR, everything.”

But the US was calling and Noone took a film composing course (part of the UCLA Extension Film Scoring programme) on an artist’s visa, where she was hired to do some orchestration on a video game project. It was 2004 and the game was called World of Warcraft.

“For those who know video games, it’s pretty huge. Needless to say, I didn’t know it at the time when I was working on it.”

It was the beginning of a successful video game score career. Just when the Celtic Tiger was kicking off, Noone decided Dublin wasn’t offering the opportunities she needed and upped sticks to Los Angeles.

It wasn’t all sunshine and superstars. “When I moved to Los Angeles, I knew two people. I had to learn to drive in one day. I somehow passed [the driving test] and went straight to hire a rental car and pulled on to the Pacific Highway. It’s not something I would advise anyone to do.

“I think most people stay for two years, because it’s so hard. Everyone who is there has had the corners knocked out of them,” Noone says of her adoptive home where she has now been living for 13 years. “But, because it’s so tough, people are humble. They know what it’s like to be at the bottom of the pile, so they’re grateful for what they have.”

On the plus side, Los Angeles is the creative hub of the world and people can do amazing things there. “Without the shackles of begrudgery, you can go far there.

“People want to give you a chance, because you could be the next big thing, so they treat you accordingly. But reputation is everything so you need to keep your side of the street clean.”

Noone says there is a great sense of community in Los Angeles. “That’s how we sustain our careers. There are a lot of collaborations happening. The Irish community there is particularly tight and very successful. A lot of the Irish in Los Angeles would have tried to get a project off the ground [at home] to no avail, but are thriving here.

“We have lots of events from Irish Week to the Irish Oscars and everything in between. There’s a lot of support here and a willingness to collaborate and take risks.”

Since living in Los Angeles, Noone’s impressive body of work has ballooned to 26 film and video game titles including World of Warcraft: the Warlords of Draenor and Diablo III. She has written music for films including Mirrors, the Hole (2012), the Gus Van Sant film Sea of Trees starring Matthew McConaughey, and more.

She has also worked with Gladys Knight and Macy Grey. “It was incredible. I even had a letter from Macy Grey when I went for my visa.”

Noone conducted performances of games music with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. She also co-founded the Dublin International Games Music Festival along the way. Despite living full-time in Los Angeles, global travel is constant.

Currently she is on tour with a show, Callas in Concert. “It’s pretty groundbreaking because Maria Callas walks onstage in hologram form. This is what I love about my career: you take risks and you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. We’re performing in over 30 venues around Europe.”

Noone is married to US composer Craig Stuart Garfinkle, and the couple have two children and live in Malibu.

“It’s great for kids here, but you have problems in LA, you don’t have in Ireland. Last year, she watched the hills across the street from her LA home ablaze.

“I was on tour and saw the news that Malibu was on fire. I didn’t know if the house was going to burn down. But everyone around us was so supportive. It really brought people together. “I love that about LA. But I love coming home regularly and touring in Europe allows that.

“Ireland has changed a lot and the village I’m from is much more quiet now as people emigrate or move to bigger cities. It’s sad. Ireland is home, but so is Los Angeles and I love it here.”

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