Described by the Washington Post as 'Ireland's leading classical guitarist' and by Michael Dervan in the Irish Times as 'a trailblazer...when it comes to the guitar and guitar-playing in Ireland', Feeley studied at Trinity College, Dublin, Queens College of the City University, New York, and The National University of Ireland, Maynooth, where he graduated with a PhD in music.  He has taught at the American Institute of Guitar, New York, Memphis State University, the Conservatory of Music, Dublin Institute of Technology and the Royal Irish Academy of Music.


In addition to his solo and chamber music concerts, Feeley has performed widely with orchestra: with The American Symphony at Carnegie Hall, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the Ulster Orchestra, and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, among others.  He has won a number of prizes in international competitions, including the Special Award for interpretation in the Mauro Giuliani competition, Italy.

Highly regarded for his performance of new works by Irish composers, he has had many works written for him, which include Guitar Concertos by Jerome de Bromhead, Eric Sweeney and Brent Parker; Quintets for Guitar and String Quartet by Andrew Shiels and Brent Parker; Four Pieces by Jane O’ Leary; a solo Guitar Sonata and Flute and Guitar duo, In Winter Light, by John Buckley; a number of works by David Fennessy, John McLachlan and Ciaran Farrell.  The American composer, Robert Newell, has also written an extended solo guitar work for him.

He is a regular performer at many international guitar festivals and has made recordings with K-Tel, Gael-Linn Records, CBA Classics, Ossiain Records, Castle Communications, a highly acclaimed CD of contemporary Irish music with Blackbox Music, England  and a CD of the music of Irish composer John Buckley with the German company, Celestial Harmonies.   He has also recorded with the Chieftains and famous Spanish Soprano Montserrat Caballes.  

He is also well known for his own delightful guitar arrangements of Irish music which appear on several of his many recordings.  Concerts have taken him around the world and include appearances at the Sydney Opera House, the Old Opera House, Frankfurt, the L'Arena in Verona, and New York’s Carnegie Hall. 

                                           Reviews

‘…outstanding Irish guitarist John Feeley delivered the beauty of this Rodrigo [Fantasia para un Gentilhombre for Guitar & Orchestra] …with the quietness and gentleness it demands…

 

However, it was the Concerto in A by the late-18th-century Italian composer Mauro Giuliani that ignited the audience’s imagination. Feeley captured the sense of excitement of what, at times, seemed like a modern work, while never losing the historic feel of the piece.

 

Overall, a compellingly beautiful concert.’

Sunday Business Post , Dick O’Riordan

 

 

 

‘John Feeley and Berta Rojas took two concertos each and delivered wonderful performances that were greeted with nothing short of an ecstatic response; I was rather moved myself.’

Classical Guitar, England, 2009

 

Feeley succeeded in capturing Rodrigo's retrospective, discreetly nostalgic grace [in Fantasia para un Gentilhombre]. Flying passagework in true classical style afforded a view of Feeley's deceptively easy facility [in Concerto in A by Mauro Giuliani].

Michael Dungan, Irish Times, 2008

 

 

 

‘Feeley played Giuliani’s Concerto op 30. and the early 19th century came to life with a rousing performance from Feeley.’

Classical Guitar Magazine, England

 

John Feeley is Ireland's leading exponent of the classical guitar …[Bach’s ‘Cello Suite no. 2 was] played beautifully by Feeley with his trademark inward concentration. The slow Chaconne - extracted from the Partita No 2 in D minor - was on this occasion even more satisfying, its gradual and intense build-up setting it apart from everything else in the programme.
The Irish Times

‘John Feeley and William Dowdall [are] consummate artists who fully express the depth and breadth of Buckley’s music …beautiful playing.’
Pan, The British Flute Society, March 2005, Leslie Sheills

‘Buckley’s two guitar sonatas are played winningly by John Feeley... Played splendidly.’
The Sunday Tribune, Ian Fox

John Feeley …whose expert arrangements of the folk music of his native Eire are well documented.... The performance is classic Feeley, with every phrase shaped with the tender loving care of a true craftsman.
Classical Guitar, Paul Fowles

‘I much enjoyed John Feeley’s crisp and always beguiling guitar work.  Here is a player of tunes, in the same Celtic sense that David Russell is, a guitarist who can simply sit down and play and know that people will listen. If you are a good musician, as Feeley is, then the same qualities can inform and illuminate all kinds of music. This is not extrovert virtuosity but something that penetrates deeper ... a guitarist whom I personally would like to hear more of.’
Classical Guitar, England

 

Feeley fails to put a finger wrong...the interpretations stand up to the best of the competition.
Classical Guitar, England

In Rodrigo’s unassuming but much loved Concierto de Aranjuez, solo guitarist John Feeley. ranged across a wealth of tone colours from the chaste and lute-like to the pungent and prickly. So silent were his position changes, so crisply regular his strummings, that there was little cause to regret the hefty but clear amplification.

Of the many good reasons for attending the concert, then, it was Feeley’s masterly playing that proved best of all.

Andrew Johnstone, The Irish Times

 

 

The festival’s ‘main event’, was the evening’s concert at the National Concert Hall with Berta Rojas and John Feeley sharing the platform with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Robert Houlihan.  The programme, a Herculean effort, was four guitar concertos played back to back.  This event had a full house at the Concert Hall, and, as such, had a tremendous atmosphere.  John Feeley opened with Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre.  From the smoothness of the strings one could tell our ears were in good hands.  Robert Houlihan guided his band around John Feeley’s gently amplified performance on a exquisite sounding guitar made by Michael O’Leary.

After the interval Feeley played Giuliani’s Concerto op 30. and the early 19th century came to life with a rousing performance from the string players and of course Feeley himself.

Classical Guitar Magazine

 

 

John Feeley is Ireland's leading exponent of the classical guitar. His solo recital, part of the current Walton's Guitar Festival of Ireland, included prudent balances of original music and arrangements, of old and new.

Feeley is well-equipped to respond to one of the standard challenges for all guitarists, namely, that so many great composers wrote so little for the instrument. He therefore makes his own arrangements. It can be argued that changing the medium must invariably change the music, and this was true for Feeley's Bach. In the Suite No 2 for solo cello, for example, in which Bach often ingeniously creates an impression of the continuous presence of two or three voices, the longer-lasting resonance of the plucked guitar string extends the possibilities for sustaining sound. To this add Feeley's discreet use of chords and of the guitar's easier facility in doing several things at once, and you no longer have quite the same miracle of single-voice composition that Bach originally contrived.

That said, it remains beautiful music, played beautifully by Feeley with his trademark inward concentration. The slow Chaconne - extracted from the Partita No 2 in D minor - was on this occasion even more satisfying, its gradual and
intense build-up setting it apart from everything else in the programme.

As for new, original music for guitar, the programme included Jane O'Leary's 1993 Four Pieces and, receiving its premiere in the presence of the composer, Seoirse Bodley's Islands. Despite the title, O'Leary's eight-minute piece comes across as being of one, continuous ethos: wide-ranging and free, halting in manner, featuring spells of contemplation, interspersed with bursts of energy. Bodley introduced Islands as being partially influenced by his recent interest in the philosopher Karl Popper. Whatever exactly this might mean, it was possible to latch onto the composer's new-found interest in "experimenting with the ordinary", even though this half-suggested - most uncharacteristically for Bodley - some kind of Philip Glass-style banality.
 
The outcome, however, was neither dull nor simplistic, but featured a noteworthy clarity in all the music's shifting and combining and juxtaposing, the result of which, in Feeley's committed performance, was something strangely human and persuasive.
The Irish Times, Michael Dungan

 

 

Bach/Feeley – Cello Suites 4, 1 & 3

There were two ghosts at this concert and they were looking over the shoulder of Ireland’s leading guitarist, John Feeley, where they have probably been hovering intermittently over the past number of years.

During that time they will have been keeping an eye on him as he painstakingly wrote down his transcriptions for guitar of Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. On this occasion, Feeley was opening the ninth Guitar Festival of Ireland with a solo recital in which he presented three of the six in his newly published set. The ghosts were those of Bach and of Pablo Casals, the great Catalan cellist responsible for retrieving Bach’s lost masterpieces from obscurity and bringing them to an eager world audience, notably with his recordings in the 1930s.

Plenty of guitar transcriptions already exist, yet the lesser challenge for Feeley’s transcriptions is to please guitarists and guitar audiences. The really daunting task is to satisfy the wider audience – including the two ghosts – who know and love the originals. The English cellist Steven Isserlis describes them as “mysteries” in an effort to convey something of the unique aura in which they are perceived by both players and listeners.

Feeley goes a long way to preserving this aura. While he doesn’t attempt matching the extent to which Bach is committed to the single line in the cello, instead liberally supplementing the melodic line with extra notes that make plain Bach’s often implied harmony, he nonetheless maintains the original’s spirit of unaccompanied, single-instrument miracle.

 

... prevailing sensitivity and expressivity were so constant and genuine and deep. In particular, the sequence of movements from sarabande through two minuets in the Suite No 1 was so beautiful that it surely laid a couple of ghosts to rest.

The Irish Times, Michael Dungan

 

 

Reviews of CD, ‘in winter light’ 

The guitar and flute are played by john Feeley and William Dowdall, consummate artists who fully express the depth and breadth of Buckley’s music, and the whole adds up to an athmospheric listen. I recommend this disc not only for the beautiful playing on it,.’
Pan, The British Flute Society,  Leslie Sheills

 

 


An essential disc for collectors of modern Irish music. Buckley’s two guitar sonatas are played winningly by John Feeley... Played splendidly
The Sunday Tribune, Ian Fox

 

 

Reviews of CD, ‘E-Motion’ 

The Irish guitarist John Feeley gets his recital off to an excellent start, with the mesmeric opening of Ciaran Farrell's Shannon Suite.  The compelling figurations demand virtuosity in the service of poetry, and the athmospheric, somewhat larger than life, recording contributes to the affect. This sets the standard for the whole disc..... the music is never dull and the recording vivid.  Above all the achievement is Feeley's, his commanding technique placed at the service of talented young composers.
BBC: The complete guide to Classical music

 



With eight world premiers on E-Motion, John Feeley does a service to Irish composers for acoustic guitar comparable to that performed by David Starobin for their American counterparts.  Immaculate recording compliments Feeley’s remarkable virtuosity...an abundance of refined writing and exquisite playing.
The Wire (adventures in modern music) London

 



No disrespect to the composers in this CD, but John Feeley is the centre of attention  his formidable technique and sheer musicality can take your breath away.  He benefits here from a superb recording, one of the best I’ve heard, and luckily he’s been given some worthwhile compositions to play.  The listeners  or at least this listener  attention was diverted time and time again from what was being played to how it was played.  The verve and flair with Feeley tackles, for example the title piece, Dawn Kenny’s sprightly, E Motion, makes you want to rush out and buy an acoustic guitar and a good tutor (preferably Feeley himself)
Avant  Issue 10, England


 


...Beautifully played selection of works by eight present-day composers...Feeley's playing is as impeccable as always and the recording is excellent.
The Sunday Tribune, Ireland 

 

Review of CD, ‘Sreanga Oir’

Irish Traditional Music arranged by John Feeley (Gael-Linn CEFC 109)

It is always a pleasure to report on a performer who is not content merely to re-cycle the established repertoire. John Feeley is a time-served classical guitarist whose expert arrangements of the folk music of his native Eire are well documented.... The performance is classic Feeley, with every phrase shaped with the tender loving care of a true craftsman.
Classical Guitar,  England, Paul Fowles


Review of CD, ‘Music from Ireland and Spain’

I much enjoyed John Feeley¹s crisp and always beguiling guitar work.  Here is a player of tunes, in the same Celtic sense that David Russell is, a guitarist who can simply sit down and play and know that people will listen.  If he were a storyteller, he would be a good one. I have already praised his LP of Irish Traditional music, and his Scarlatti is no less persuasive- and perhaps oddly enough, in the same idiomatic way.... If you are a good musician, as Feeley is, then the same qualities can inform and illuminate all kinds of music.  This is not extrovert virtuosity but something that penetrates deeper.... These two concertos [by Brent Parker] add playable music to a repertoire that is noticeably deficient, and are to be welcomed.  So is the record as a whole, exposing as it does the talents of a guitarist whom I personally would like to hear more of.
Classical Guitar, England

 

 

Reviews of CD, ‘Spanish Guitar Classics’

In the wrong hands this programme could have been tedious and, at worst disastrous...Feeley fails to put a finger wrong...the interpretations stand up to the best of the competition.
Classical Guitar, England 

 

 

Injected new life into the old horse.... Feeley shows a strong gift for arrangement throughout the program, including a particularly effective version of Albeniz’s Torre Bermeja. There is a great intensity and energy and attention to musical detail that is seldom achieved in either live concerts or recordings.  Gestures are shaped perfectly at the local level and fit into an overall scheme that is well thought out and confidently articulated.  In the Torroba Sonatina there is perhaps less emphasis on guitaristic manipulation than is often at the fore of other recordings.  But I prefer the strong performance here; it captures more musical thought and feeling.
Guitar Review, No. 106, New York

 

 

He plays these Spanish pieces with exceptional understanding.  His style is intensely lyrical, sensitive and serene.  But what might seem effortless is underpinned by a precise, secure technique.  This is art concealing art, never indulging in mere fireworks (although there are fireworks aplenty), but always at the service of the score. 

Inishbofin Inquirer, Ireland

 

 

John Feeley, brought skillful versatility to a program that ranged from J.S. Bach to winsome jigs Sunday evening at the Church of the Annunciation, one of the John E. Marlow Guitar Series concerts.

Feeley arranged the seven movements of Bach's Suite for guitar and rendered them with hushed gentle ascents, poised phasing and smooth ornamentation.  The faster Courante movement demanded flashy accents, and the Sarabande showed off the economy of his phrasing.

Feeley launched into the challenging Sonata No. 2 for Guitar, written for him two years ago by Irish composer John Buckley.  Free-form intonations with casual tempo mixes and key shifts held together through Feeley's focused finger work.

Feeley closed the program with Isaac Albeniz's classic Suita Espanola employing different tone values for each of the five movements to show character variations for the selected regions....
The Washington Post, USA, L. 
Peat O'Neill

 

There were delicate songs by Dowland, some exhuberant and colorful pieces by Albeniz, arrangements of a lovely set of Irish folk songs and one of Bach's intricate cello suites on the program, all played with careful attention to nuances of tone and texture...a devoted audience rose to its collective feet at both intermission and concert's end.
The [premiere of a] concerto by Irish composer Eric Sweeney, who spoke briefly about the piece, is in three movements that, he explained, are based on traditional Irish tunes…The Sunrise String Quartet and Feeley handled their assignments with poise and confidence.
Washington Post, USA

John Feeley's priority was to do justice to the music, to capture character and shape, and to ensure that they could be shared by his audience.

It was a lesson in quiet communication, for even in the midst of technical challenge, that priority remained clear, and Feeley's calm platform presence gave little hint of the skill involved.

The most forthright exploration of technique came in John Buckley's Sonata No. 1 from 1989. In this composer's characteristic, rhetorical way, it explores every corner of the instrument's possibilities.

Given the concert's range of instrumental and compositional styles, it was all the more striking that Feeley's accomplished playing left little evidence of unidiomatic writing. Tone was impeccably controlled, and an unfailing rhythmic life made each work come alive.  
The Irish Times, Martin Adams  


 


Feeley is a player of the greatest refinement and his gently meditative style made the transcriptions of Albeniz¹s Suite Espanola more Spanish than ever.  He was even more effective in his transcription of Bach’s Cello Suite No 1 played with all the delicacy and singing tone of a vihuela (that less powerful predecessor of the guitar)

I could not attend the recital by Jerry Creedon (guitar) and Eilis O¹Sullivan (flute) but was pleased to be able to hear Frank Burgarten play his own transcriptions of Bach¹s Partitas in B minor and D minor.  This was a recital of great transparence, but for me Feeley had the greatest luminosity.
The Irish Times March, Michael Dervan


 


John O Connor and the wind principals of the National Symphony Orchestra hardly shone in a dynamically restricted account of the Mozart Quintet, a work that seems uncommonly difficult to bring off. Flautist William Dowdall and guitarist John Feeley found the right atmosphere for Takemitsu, and it was Feeley in the Second Guitar Sonata, who managed to capture most clearly the essence of Buckley’s message.
The Irish Times, Michael Dervan

 


The Buckley Sonata provided a good forum for the guitarist and his virtuosity, with fluttering passages and complicated chords...Jane O' Leary's piece breathed a mediteranean spirit and the Raymond Deane's was peaceful and arcadian.
The lush green of the Irish pastures and the clear blue of the sea  could be seen and heard, pure and unadorned, in the traditional pieces that John Feeley played: tender love songs, quiet and hymn-like, beautiful melodies, richly ornamented with trills and mordants…
With a wonderful lightness, Feeley celebrated a jig and with the lively rhythms, you could see the feet of the dancers whirling through the air.
Die Rheinpfalz, Germany, Rainer Kohl


 


For me, the only real highlight of the Galway Arts Festival classical music programme will be John Feeley's classical guitar recital.  He's such a mild-mannered, soft-spoken individual it's hard to imagine Feeley as a trailblazer.  But when it comes to the guitar and guitar-playing, that's just what he's been in Ireland.  There are ways in which his musicianship seems to match his personality, unassuming but thorough.  It's a style that in the broadest sense is covered by the word"musicianly".  No star antics, no playing to the gallery, just the music, plain and simple.  Well, no, not exactly plain and simple.  He's too musicianly for that.
Irish Times, Saturday, Michael Dervan


 


 But the highlight of the evening was the sheer brilliance of Mr. Feeley¹s guitar solos --it confirmed his standing as one of the great international guitarists... stunningly rendered with contrapuntal brilliance and magnificent chording that is the mark of the greatest of players, and one day the world will know that Mr. Feeley is of that ilk.
The Newsletter, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Charles Fitzgerald

 

 


John Feeley has a talent of a high order-- he is a stylish player, well-travelled and, like most Irishmen, has many tales to tell.  He is an intelligent musician with technical security in plenty. Not content with having most of the guitar repertoire at his fingertips, (including several concertos), John has made his own excellent arrangements of traditional Irish folk music by transforming simple melodies into works fitting for a concert hall.  John also pioneers new music by Irish composers.... The challenge of the evening’s most formal and substantial work, the Bach Chaconne, was met with poise, fluency and architectural clarity--this was surely it’s best performance yet at the old Malthouse.
Classical Guitar, England 

 

 

John Feeley gave a fine performance of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, and a good balance was struck between the guitar’s delicate sonorities and the orchestra.

Belfast Newsletter, Ciaran McKeown
 



John Feeley showed his exquisite control of volume - which he could gradually reduce to literally none, with no perceptible stop - and the contrapuntal development in this piece was exciting.... Of the duets, Mr. Feeley’s execution of the tricky passages in Bill Evan’s Waltz for Debbie  was fascinating.
The Irish Times

 

 

The Cello Suite No. 3 and the Chaconne in D minor were played with a great sense of style and some very inventive ornamentation. Showed great affinity with the modern works. Exquisite renditions of traditional music. The sincerity, warmth and authenticity in his playing were complimented by a great sense of humour in his introductions.
The Newsletter, Australian Classical Guitar Society



A very fine guitarist.
The Canberra Times, Australia
 


A thoroughly competent musician and a solid, informed and inspiring teacher.
Classical Guitar, England

 

Feeley is a musician whose undemonstrative stage manner hides an acute ability and sensitivity, and this was more than aptly demonstrated by his evening performance.
The Courier and Advertiser, Dundee, Scotland

 

 

J. S. Bach’s Chaconne represented a challenge to Feeley; by his playing of  it he would stand or fall as a musician....Feeley made his assault on the Eiger with great perspicacity and never once allowed us to dawdle with pedantry.  This was a lovely musical performance in which the sun came out, as it should for the change of key.... Feeley played better than any guitarist from these islands, and was a great pleasure to listen to.
Sunday Tribune, Dublin, Fanny Feehan

 



It is always a pleasure to report on a performer who is not content merely to re-cycle the established repertoire. John Feeley is a time-served classical guitarist whose expert arrangements of the folk music of his native Eire are well documented.... The performance is classic Feeley, with every phrase shaped with the tender loving care of a true craftsman.
Classical Guitar, England, Paul Fowles

 

John Feeley appeared at all times in total control of the music [in world premieres of David Fennessy’s sting like a bee and John Buckley’s Sonata 2] and like everything else he performed, delivered it with dignified aplomb.

City Tribune, Galway
 

John Feeley showed why he is one of the world’s top guitar virtuosos.  His command of the instrument was simply breath taking and his recital will have to be ranked as one of the highlights of this year’s Arts festival.... His wonderful array of classical and traditional pieces, coupled with his affable style, combined to make it a highly enjoyable evening for an enthusiastic crowd.  His programme comprised of some familiar and less familiar classical pieces, which illustrated the brilliance of his ability to make virtuoso guitar music look so fluid and easy. The traditional Irish selections were particularly memorable.  John is well known for his personalised arrangements of Irish music and the audience were rapt as they listened to, among others, a wonderful version of the famous Sally Gardens.
The Roscommon Herald, Ireland

 

 

Irish Guitarist graces receptive audience with sounds of silence.

Chaconne [by Bach]…intricate emotions which sufficed to find their articulation in Feeley’s profound interpretation. 

 

…[In] Mauro Guiliani’s Rossiniana…he pulled off the deliberate, attention-grabbing virtuosity with total conviction and showmanship.

 

…the Irish folk tunes…he brought an even greater intimacy to these pieces.

 

… a wonderful recital and one of the best I have seen, but Feeley’s flawless technique constituted a very small portion of it.

Old Gold and Black, Winston-Salem, USA, Seth Brodsky

‘If you haven't heard John Feeley play his own arrangement of the Bach Cello Suite no.1, you haven't heard the Bach Cello Suite no.1.  From the opening Prelude with all its soulful longing, through the remorseful and mordent filled Sarabande to the final Gigue, it fills your head with memorable emotion which will follow you around for hours, days even -- on the sidewalk, at street crossings, in the elevator (if musak doesn't interfere with it).  You won't be able to shake its haunting counterpoint.  This is what we were given a taste of on March 24th, when Ireland's own was ours for over an hour for the Marlow Series.  It just doesn't get much better than that, except maybe those wonderful O'Carolan melodies as timeless and fresh since the day they were composed.  You can play them straight or dress them up with frilly ornamentation and they still convey a sense of a time gone by, something missed but oh so romanticly remembered.  The mastery of these pieces lies in the musician's ability to turn the notes and phrases as a woodworker skillfully guides the saw to produce a masterpiece of form and motion out of solid matter.  The artist feels it, sees it taking shape and executes.  John Feeley knows these pieces like the back of his hand, and turns phrases into decorative little masterpieces in and of themselves.  What a gift it as to be informed by his mature experience -- another evening enjoyed by all.’

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, D.Drayer