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Movers & Shakers: John Gilhooly
By Keith Clarke
December 3, 2013
When Irish-born John Gilhooly became artistic and executive director of the Wigmore Hall in early 2005, aged 32, it made him the youngest leader of any of the world’s great concert halls. He had been executive director since January 2001, and was passed over for the hot seat when longstanding director William Lyne retired in 2003. Gilhooly played a blinder in the background during Paul Kildea’s tenure as director, and was the obvious choice following Kildea’s shock resignation after just two years.
Gilhooly has overseen the hall’s artistic, financial, and administrative transformation over the past 13 years. His tenure as artistic director has seen record box office returns and the highest-ever membership levels, as well as a doubling of overall revenue including fundraising.
The fruits of his labors are borne out in the 2006 refurbishment of the hall, the acquisition of a 250-year lease for the venue, and the expansion of programming in both traditional and new directions. He has also built the largest chamber music and song series in the world and introduced an ambitious new-music and commissioning scheme. Plus, he established the highly regarded CD label Wigmore Hall Live In, named Gramophone’s Record Label of the Year 2011.
His accomplishments have not gone unnoticed: At the top of his trophy list is the OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his services to music, awarded to him last June by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He has for three years been chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society, one of the oldest music societies in the world. He holds an honorary fellowship from the Royal Academy of Music and is an honorary member of the Royal College of Music.
True to his roots, Gilhooly is a patron of Irish Heritage, a performing arts group, and the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust. He is also “Music Ambassador” for the London Mayor’s Fund for Young Musicians and a trustee of The Opera Group. Small wonder that he has twice been named one of Time Out London’s “Top 100 Opinion Makers,” and is a presence on The Evening Standard’s “Most Influential” list.
His background seems to have had the ideal ingredients for his current post: A native of Limerick, which boasts a strong chamber music and opera tradition, he read history and political science at University College, Dublin (class of ’94), and studied voice (a tenor) at the Dublin City College of Music and the Leinster School of Music.
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