Galway-born conductor Eímear Noone will be the first woman to take charge of the orchestra at the 92nd Academy Awards, this Sunday February 9. Here she tells THE GLOSS how when she is not on tour, she spends weekends on the beach in California or along the Wild Atlantic Way in Connemara …
When I am on tour with an orchestra the schedule is often brutal. The crew and I will end a show at 10.30pm, tear down the stage, sleep on the bus, then wake the next morning in a new city and start all over again. We pay no attention to what day of the week it actually is. Therefore, we have a tradition called “Roadie Friday”. This can be any day of the week which is followed by a day off. I love Roadie Friday – it is a chance to exhale and really enjoy the people I work so hard for – my family. My husband Craig [Stuart Garfinkle, co-producer with Noone of the Dublin International Games Music Festival] and sons Eliam  and Maël Aaron  will often accompany me and I’m fortunate to have performed in stunning locations. I did three concerts at Sydney Opera House [with the Sydney Symphony] where my dressing room had a 180-degree view of the harbour. I often incorporate time off into my schedule and I stayed in Sydney for three days taking in the sights.
We also went en famille to China where I did 15 performances in 14 different cities. Eliam experienced every mode of transport from rickshaw to bullet train. I have a particular affection for Chinese audiences as they are huge fans of video gaming music. Composing this genre began accidentally, in my first year studying music at Trinity. I was asked to participate in a recording which happened to be for Metal Gear Solid. It is one of the top games of all time and based on that work, I was brought over to Hollywood as an orchestrator’s assistant. That’s how I ended up orchestrating for Jason Hayes on the original World of Warcraft – the star orchestrator who had hired me couldn’t be bothered with “game music” so when he landed the job, he had me do a lot of the work. Therefore my second job in the gaming world was orchestrating for World of Warcraft, which now has over 100 million players. I later ended up composing for the game as well [for which Noone received the Hollywood “Music in Media Award” in 2014].
As my career has become more and more demanding [Noone has worked with The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Dallas Symphony, The Royal Philharmonic and the national symphony orchestras of Spain, Ireland, Poland, Denmark and Qatar to name a few], I am slowly learning how to really enjoy the time off I have. We live in Malibu, having moved into a tiny apartment on the beach in 2007. Eleven years later it is still too small but it is very hard to trade a two-storey view of the Pacific for a bit more space.
“I see my friends Pierce Brosnan and Roma Downey all the time.”
At home, I enjoy weekends with breakfast in bed, or going out to a lovely Guatemalan café called Lily’s in Malibu – it’s not fancy but the food and company are magnificent. I’ll often catch up for lunch with my best Irish girlfriends including Caroline Monahan, Kirsten Sheridan and Dearbhail McDonald in Venice or at Soho House Malibu. I have to make an effort to go into Hollywood as it is very easy to stay in the neighbourhood – our apartment complex has four barbecues on the beach. Most Saturday afternoons you’ll find me cooking with my neighbours and friends sharing a few bottles of wine as we watch the children play and the waves come in. Otherwise Craig and I will frequently do happy hour at the Sunset Restaurant on the beach.
We go home to Ireland at least three times a year and having a foothold in both countries is a privilege. We shuttle between Portmarnock and East Galway – I’m from Kilconnell. I like to spend the whole summer in Ireland. We have our routine down to a fine art. First stop after the airport is a drink in Gibney’s in Malahide and some gluten free fish and chips from Beshoff Brothers (I’m coeliac). We also frequent Il Panorama in Howth, which is owned by friends. When I have international visitors in Dublin I’ll take them to Kehoe’s and O’Donoghue’s for traditional music, while the Rustic Stone and Avoca’s cafés are other must-dos.
In Connemara we stay at the Renvyle House Hotel – it’s so friendly and the wild Atlantic is just over the wall: the ocean is in my blood. Galway City never gets old and I usually base myself for meetings in the lobby of the g Hotel – I’m biased as its design director Philip Treacy comes from a neighbouring village to my own.
When I’m home I also catch up with designer Claire Garvey in Temple Bar – we collaborate on my stage costumes. I decided early on in my career she would create more dramatic looks. For gaming audiences, cosplay [where the audience dress as characters] is de rigueur which requires me to up my game. However, during the recent “Callas in Concert” tour [across US, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Europe] I had to wear black so it wouldn’t interfere with the hologram of Maria Callas. For the show, I synchronised the isolated historical performance of Callas’s voice and a hologram of her on stage with a live symphony orchestra – the first time any such concert has been attempted with a hologram operatic soloist
My composition work encompasses every genre as I love to challenge myself – from classical to electronic dance music, to rhythm and blues. Performing with Gladys Knight was both an artistic and aural treat. That said, I’m not star-struck in the traditional sense, unless it’s Dolly Parton, who is a class act. I see my friends Pierce Brosnan and Roma Downey all the time. Roma [from Derry] has made a huge contribution to LA society and is one of the most powerful producers. There are famous parents at Eliam’s school but it’s now our normal. Recently I had dinner at Avra in Beverly Hills – one of my favourite restaurants in town – and Quentin Tarantino was sitting behind me. I think Irish people are respectful of privacy and tend not to bother celebrities. However I did get very excited recently when I saw Gloria Allred, the formidable women’s rights attorney, in Malibu but in general, my facial recognition hardware needs an upgrade.
My schedule is very unpredictable juggling work and family. I look forward to some downtime when I get back to writing – both a book on conducting and more music – as it’s hard to follow these creative pursuits while on the road.
Reflecting back on my wild Dublin days – if my friends and I were home by five in the morning that was early. Now if dinner is after five in the evening, it’s late. When I’m not working, the highlight of my day is reading to my son before he goes to sleep. The perfect finale to my weekend.