Master Composer Lou McMahon Spreads Her Wings On May 15 At Berlin’s Neue Stage Friedrichshain

And lo, the chrysalis was opened: Visionary Irish composer Lou McMahon is headed to Germany for a high-profile concert that will mark the next stage in the life of her groundbreaking 2023 album, Butterfly Wars.

Thanks to funding from Culture Ireland and her country’s Department of Foreign Affairs, the artist and her Lou McMahon Ensemble+ will be traveling to Deutschland as part of the cultural-exchange program An Irish Season in Germany. Violist Ed Creedon, Violinist Phoebe White, Violinist Elena Kyoko, and Cellist Callum Owen will take the stage with McMahon when they perform Butterfly Wars LIVE May 15 at Berlin’s Neue Stage Friedrichshain. Presented as part of Zeitgeist Irland 24—“a celebration of the richness and diversity of contemporary Irish culture”—the show will see the Ensemble+ joined by the Zest Dance Studio Berlin, the Berlin Drum Experience and the Gut Reaction Theatre Company for a multidisciplinary, transnational amplification of the record’s innovative sounds and thought-provoking themes.

The performance represents a bold step into physical reality for Butterfly Wars, a six-track concept record that blends contemporary classical melodies, baroque-teen storytelling and video-game music and methodologies to explore themes of artificial intelligence and the human experience. A hybrid audio journey and gameplay narrative, Butterfly Wars invites listeners to embark on an epic adventure alongside the enigmatic character X-Lú as she navigates gothic realms, battles terrifying species and grapples with profound questions about her identity. Each track follows the structure of video-game music, incorporating elements like game-over-screen stems, emotional shifts and character leitmotifs that are designed to loop and trigger, making for a quirky sonic experience.

While she’s in Germany, McMahon will also be performing live in the studio of Radio Hagen 107.7 at a date to be determined. And later this fall, the Ensemble+ will perform Butterfly Wars LIVE at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, as part of the Metronome series.

The five instrumentals on Butterfly Wars were composed and arranged around the skills of the Ensemble+, which McMahon assembled from members of the prestigious National String Foundation and RTÉ Orchestras and with support from the Arts Council of Ireland and The Glens Arts Centre in Manorhamilton, Leitrim) Also appearing on the album are Joe England (drums) and Bernard O’ Neil (double bass). McMahon herself plays piano and sings on the track “Mysteria,” a solemn processional that makes the absolute most out of its stately two-chord pattern.

“If you like the Bridgerton soundtrack and string ensembles like The Vitamin String Quartet or Kronos Quartet, you might like Butterfly Wars,” McMahon undersells.

The experts are far more effusive. The renowned Bernard Clarke of RTÉ Lyric FM, Ireland’s national broadcaster, has described McMahon’s work as “immersive and rapturous.” She’s also won three Communicator Awards for a music video she made in collaboration with film and TV composer Shie Rozow. Currently, McMahon is writing an instrumental piece especially for Hollywood’s most in-demand trombonist, Alex Iles, who can be heard on John Williams’ original Star Wars theme.

In addition to her classical compositions for piano, strings and voice, McMahon’s repertoire as a singer-songwriter includes folk-rock numbers she’s recorded with the likes of Terry Woods of The Pogues—work that’s landed her in the Ultimate Guide to Irish Folk. And she loves contributing audio reports to Luke Clancy’s Culture File on RTÉ, researching and interviewing celebrity guests. She even created the musical score for the show.

The German premiere of Butterfly Wars LIVE is the latest item on McMahon’s rapidly expanding international résumé, which has already included exposure on radio and TV not only in her native Ireland, but also in Slovakia and the United States. Watch for further updates as the performing campaign continues; these are some Wars any nation would be happy to see invading their borders.