Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (CCE), formed in 1951, was a significant driving force in promoting Irish traditional music and culture through its many Fleadh Cheoil events held throughout the country. At this time Ireland was in the midst of a traditional music revival that was forged by nationalist dreams, ideals and patriotic desires to regain our almost forgotten traditional melodies. And it was at the same time during the 1950s that a little known Irish composer was to take up a post in the Abbey that would spawn the beginnings of a new direction in Irish traditional music, his name was Seán Ó Riada (1941-71).This essay will focus on his contribution and legacy to traditional Irish music.
Ó Riada’s father, a fiddle player, taught him traditional fiddle and his mothers love of traditional music was passed down to him from an early age.
The Ó Riada household -or Reidy as it was known then -was full of Irish Music.
Both his parents were traditional Irish musicians and sang songs and danced
unabashedly at home if the moment suited them.
His mother’s goal was to further her son’s education beyond that of her own. Ó Riada was a gifted child and with the encouragement of his parents he took piano, organ and violin lessons. He entered University College Cork in 1948 and qualified with a B.Mus. degree in 1952. In 1953 he moved to Dublin and began to work as Assistant Director of Music in Radio Eireann. Frustrated by the lack of opportunity to compose new music he left Radio Eireann in 1955. He travelled to Paris seeking work as a musician leaving his wife Ruth and baby son Peader in Dublin. His efforts to find work in France produced very little, and he suffered ill health and squalid living conditions. Ruth went to Paris to ensure his return. Once he...