Song of Letters (2016) 7 mins

Soprano and trumpet. Composed for a music-theatre site-specific promenade performance Whispers of Heaton directed by Caroline Clegg which premiered at Heaton Hall, Manchester November 11-13th 2016.

Cimmerian (2015) 4 mins

Soprano and fixed audio. Commissioned by Arts and Disability Ireland’s One Beat at a Time on-line space curated by Dylan Tighe. The project showcases three original songs inspired by, and expanding our understanding of, mental distress, discovery and wellbeing by three Irish artists with lived experience.  Text and music by Ailís Ní Ríain. Recorded by the Irish vocalist Sue Rynhart. 

“Cimmerian, a person who lives in a land of perpetual darkness at the edge of the world.”

Eyeless (2012) 13 mins

For folk singer and eight voices. Music and poetry by Ailís Ní Ríain. Commissioned by Béal Festival Ireland in 2012. Premiered by Iarla O Lionaírd and EnsemBéal singers, Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, November 2012. Funded by the Irish Arts Council & Arts Council England.

“One of the new works that left the strongest impression was Ailís Ní Ríain’s Eyeless, a kind of adoringly reverential altar to the voice of sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, with backing from EnsemBéal.” – Michael Dervan, The Irish Times, 2012

Mourning Bracelet (2012) 5 mins

Baritone and piano. Commissioned by York Late Music. Premiered in York by Jeremy Huw Williams. The text is by Carole Bromley and is a reflection by Charlotte Bronte on an empty house without her sisters.  The ‘mourning bracelet’ is a bracelet of her sisters’ hair worn around her wrist.

In Sleep… (2010) 15 mins

Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Clarinet, Bassoon, Trumpet, Trombone, Piano and Percussion.  Commissioned by The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s 10:10 Ensemble with Lore Lixenberg. Words and music by Ailís Ní Ríain. 2010. Premiered at The Cornerstone, Liverpool in 2010.

“I awake with you on my tongue, I am eloquent only in sleep When splashes of wisdom Fall from my mouth so easily. Colours form and slide A prism of light eclipsing all doubt I lie here among wet blankets of unease Damp with the sweat of conscience. I’ve been fighting for peace for too long…”

Sawn-off Opera (2008-2011) 55 mins

All libretti by David Gaffney. Scored for vocal quartet (soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone) and piano. 10-15 mins duration each. Music by Ailís Ní Ríain. Developed at Opera North in Leeds, UK in 2011. Three of the operas were performed at Tete a Tete Opera Festival in London’s Riverside Studios in 2009.

‘We Know We Got Soul’ was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 ‘The Verb’ and premiered live in the BBC studios Maida Vale in 2008. The project has been kindly supported by Arts Council England, Opera North and the RVW Trust.

Rivers Take Them (2011) (Duet)
Bloodlines (2011) (Quartet)
Girls on Heat (2011) (Trio)
The People with Complicated Shoes (2009) (Trio)
We Know We Got Soul (2007) (Duet)

End with Words of Hope (2010) 10 mins

Soprano, Clarinet (& optional Speaker). Premiered by Paul Roe and Elizabeth Hilliard as part of Béal Festival at The National Concert Hall of Ireland, 4th November 2010 with texts by Sappho, from the Greek Anthology and Ailís Ní Riain.

End with Words of Hope is a song-cycle composed in 2010 for Béal Festival. I decided to set four texts taken from the tombstone inscriptions and translations of Sappho and the Greek Anthology and ‘mirror’ them with my own texts which encourage hope beyond love.

“Let all the world be still I will end with words of hope For they are ours to hear For they are ours to share For they are all we have.” – Ailís Ní Ríain

Stones (2008) 5 mins

For a male choir of any number. Commissioned by English Heritage, Horse & Bamboo & Pennine Groundwork. Premiered at The Boo, Rossendale, East Lancashire by the Rossendale Male Voice Choir. Rossendale is notable for its quarrying history; the flagstones in Trafalgar Square, London were quarried in Rossendale.

This piece was composed in recognition of the men who toiled, were injured and lost their lives working in the Rossendale’s ‘Valley of Stone.’

Spurious Balancing (2003) 3 mins

A contemporary madrigal for three male voices. Text: Ailís Ní Ríain. Premiered by Les Jeunes Solistes, Avignon, France, 2003.

“What heals me, stifles me. A maddening illusion  where you witness  the besieged mind  and I surrender my solitude. Outward  (heinous journey) Inward  (irreconcilable memory) Onward. Onward.”

A Song for My Body (1998) 11mins

Mezzo-soprano, flute, trumpet, cello, piano and percussion. Text: by the Irish Writer Christy Brown. Premiered at National Concert Hall of Ireland, 2007. The piece is dedicated to those who were killed and injured in the Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland in 1998.

“Taunted by the tantrums of your absurd cravings, Your flashing prima-donna swoops of needs, The gold and grey of your solitudes ad solstices, I call to you in baffled tenderness and fury in the ceaseless fray, You lag forever a million heavy years behind.” – Christy Brown


Eyeless (2012)
14 mins
Text by Ailís Ní Ríain (in Irish & English)
Folk singer and 8 part choir

Valley of Stone (2008)
5 mins
Male voice choir
[No text]


Break Down De Doom (2017)
23 mins
Music by Ailís Ní Ríain
Text by Mac Wellman
Mezzo-sop, flute, violin, viola, cello

In Sleep… (2010)
15 mins
In 5 movements.
Text by Ailís Ní Ríain
Mezzo-soprano, flt, clar, bassoon, tpt, trom, pf, perc

Spurious Balancing (2003)
5 mins
Text by Ailís Ní Ríain
Counter-tenor, tenor, baritone

A Song for My Body (1998)
12 mins
Text by Christy Brown
Soprano, flute, trumpet, cello, piano, perc

Solo Voice

Cimmerian (2015)
5 mins
Text by Ailís Ní Ríain

Mezzo-soprano & tape

Song of Letters (2016)
6 mins
Text by Caroline Clegg
Soprano &Trumpet

Attrition (2001)
14 mins
Song cycle in 4 movements.
Text by Kenneth Clarke
Soprano & piano

Songs for Soprano (1995/6)
5 mins

She Tells Her Love,
This Moment,
Child Of Our Time