Behind the Scenes with Ryan McCarty


Choral Arts: Choral Arts is thrilled to perform your composition, An Fear Róin, in our upcoming live performance, I Hear America Singing. We know you’re a talented composer; can you tell us about your other pursuits?

Ryan McCarty: I’m a Senior Manager at a federal consulting firm, specializing in data/analytics for federal clients.  On the side I also construct crosswords, with my puzzles appearing in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

Choral Arts: What inspired or informed your composition of An Fear Róin ?

Ryan McCarty: My husband is a fluent Irish speaker and teaches Irish classes across D.C., and I wanted to do a collaboration with him on a choral composition that used some original Irish text.  He wrote the full text for “An Fear Róin” or “The Seal Man” as a story based on Irish folklore inspired by selkies, which are seal creatures from Celtic mythology. I then took that text and set it to music, pulling inspiration from some Irish folk melodies and instrumentation. It was a wonderful experience to combine our passions together into an original piece of art!

Choral Arts: What album, recording, or artist are you listening to most right now?

Ryan McCartyI listen to a pretty wide variety of music – pop, R&B, classical, jazz, etc. – so it’s hard to narrow down.  I’d say at the moment I’ve been particularly entranced with “Wisteria” by säje, a newish all-female vocal jazz supergroup. The piece is an amazing composition with an enviable melodic contour and harmonic sensibility, plus an all-around gorgeous vocal performance. They received a GRAMMY nomination for their very first original composition, and I have a feeling they’ll get big.

Choral Arts: Tell us about a moment of connection or transformation through music.

Ryan McCarty: One moment of musical connection that comes to mind was on a European tour with the Princeton Glee Club where we stopped for several days in Leipzig, the home of several famous composers including the one and only Johann Sebastian Bach.  We had the opportunity to perform at Thomaskirche, the church where Bach served as Kapellmeister and where his remains reside today.  Performing his stunning motet “Singet dem Herrn” in the sanctuary just feet away from his tomb was a surreal connection with a man who’s music had inspired me for years.  But that wasn’t all – we later performed Bach’s “Magnificat” in one of the church services in which I sang the aria “Quia fecit mihi magna”. Again – a thrilling and surreal connection. I was beyond honored to be able to share Bach’s music in his space not once, but twice, and it’s something I’ll never forget.

Listen to Choral Arts performing An Fear Róin here.

An Fear Róin is programmed alongside many great American compositions at Choral Arts upcoming performance, I Hear America Singing.