Kieran’s living the dream after big screen breakthrough!

Kieran Leonard

Kieran Leonard.

ASIDE FROM being among the highest grossing films of 2014, what do hit movies The Hobbit and How To Train Your Dragon 2 have in common?

Answer: They both feature the playing of Enniskillen’s Kieran Leonard.


The percussionist and All-Ireland winning bodhran player made his silver screen debut this year playing the latter on the score of How To Train Your Dragon 2 – while his bodhran samples also appear in the latest Hobbit film.

The 23-year-old graduated from Trinity College in London this year with a Bachelor of Music in performance, orchestral percussion and timpani with jazz drums – and is set to do a post-grad next year.

Kieran’s a member of the current All-Ireland winning Knockmore Ceili band and also said that he could be the youngest percussionist to play on a feature film in the last 30 years.

His big break this year came through his teacher at Trinity College. Gary Kettel – known as ‘Mr Movie’, has played on the likes of Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean, and two years ago he brought to class the score to the first ‘How to Train your Dragon’ film.

“We had a class in my second year on film music and one of them was on the score of How to Train Your Dragon 1’. He asked if anyone played the bodhran – I said I did. And he said ‘My god if we’d had you a week ago!’,” explained Kieran.

“The next thing (two years later), he rang me and said, ‘Look this is not a joke but you’re going to get a phonecall from Isabelle Griffith’ – who is the biggest fixer in the world essentially – ‘when they ring, answer and say yes’.”

After a brief phonecall Kieran soon found himself at AIR Studios, and face-to-face with renowned film composer John Powell.


“I had people moving my music stand for me, turning my pages of music – and I had about seven different stations with bodhrans and different sticks.

“But in my head it was sheer panic – I thought, I really have to get this right. But once I had the headphones in and the click started it was fine. It was a lot of pressure because you had to be able to do it on the spot.”

And watching the film back?

“It’s mad watching it. I watched it by myself in my room. The studio sent out a lovely copy of the soundtrack – and then when the movie was out they sent me the DVD. I thought it was amazing.”

Not long after, Kieran got a call from the same office asking his availability to record for the latest Hobbit film.

And while he didn’t record from scratch like the previous film, his bodhran samples were used in movie released late this year.

“What they actually did was use my samples – so I don’t get a credit. But I was still booked for it and they used samples of what I had done for the bodhran.”

In the next few months Kieran will continue with his post-grad, specialising in timpani.
“I’ve freelanced with nearly every amateur and semi-pro orchestra in London so I’m now waiting for a breakthrough into the pro ranks – which could take a long time.

“The next thing is I’ll finish my year. I’ve been auditioning for orchestras and trying to get freelance work. Touch wood, I think I’ve been provisionally booked for How To Train Your Dragon 3,” he said, adding that he would like to thank Peter Watson, Bob Quick, Pat McCabe, Simon O’Hare and Stevie Magee for their help down the years.

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