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Sean O Riada
Composer [Seán Ó
Riada] - CMC
Ceolas Chieftains discography
SEAN O RIADA: Irish composer
and folk musician | Irishrollcall
Why Sean O’Riada is Irish music’s pop icon | Clonakilla
This group, organised by Sean O'Riada, was in many ways the forerunner of the Chieftains.
It included O'Riada, Paddy Moloney, Martin Fay, Sean Keane, Michael Tubridy, Peadar
Mercier and Sean Potts.
Reacaireacht and Riadaigh Gael Linn CEF 010
The Playboy of the Western World Gael Linn CEF 012
O Riada sa Gaiety Gael Linn CEF 027
O Riada Gael Linn CEF 032
Sean O Riada
BORN: August 1, 1931, Cork, Ireland
DIED: October 3, 1971, London, England
Sean O'Riada was the founder of the modern school (which is to say, the authentic
ancient-style of playing) Irish folk music and, equally important, a vital nationalistic
voice in the orchestral music of Ireland. Best known today as a composer, he was
also present at the recording of the first album by the Chieftains, and founded
the folk chamber orchestra Ceoltoiri Cualann, Paddy Moloney's group before forming
Sean O'Riada (or John Reidy, in English) was born in Cork, Ireland in 1931, and
attended University College, Cork. He received his Bachelor of Music degree in 1952,
and served as assistant music director for Radio Eireann in 1954 and 1955. In 1955,
he became the music director of the Abbey Theater in Dublin, a post he held until
1962. The following year, he became a lecturer at University College, Cork, a post
he held until his death in 1971. During this period, he composed prolifically in
all areas, including music for plays, 2 ballets, various orchestral suites symphonic
pieces, several choral works, masses, chamber pieces, and piano works, and three
notable pieces of film music.
- A Magazine For The Irish Worldwide
Sean O'Riada was born in Cork City in 1931. One of the great figureheads in European
nationalistic music, he was brought up in Bruff, Co. Limerick and educated at University
College, Cork (B. Mus. degree 1952). Appointed Assistant Director of Music on Radio
Eireann in 1952, he stayed there until 1955 when he took over as the musical director
in the famed Abbey Theatre. He stayed with the Abbey until 1962, composing the score
for the tilm Mise Fire in 1960 and, most famously, the score for the film version
of The Playboy of the Western World in 1963. This last piece made him a household
name in his homeland. He also composed "Mna na h'Eireann" ("The Women of Ireland")
which forever proved the musical eloquence of his writing.
He assembled the Ceoltoiri Chualann in the late 1950s, a team of musicians dedicated to musical
virtuosity and a sense of Irish tradition. This team recorded albums such as Reacaireacht an Riadalgh,
The Playboy of the Western World, Ceol na nUasal, O RiaAa sa Gaiety (a live album recorded at the
Gaiety Theatre in 1969) which included "The Women of Ireland". "The Women of Ireland" became a sort
of musical shorthand motif for Ireland, being used extensively in film soundtracks such as
Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, radio plays such as Alan Berrie's The Monument, and television
documentaries; it was also covered by Rate Bush.
The Ceoltoiri Chualann team would later become The Chieftains under piper Paddy Moloney and
achieve international acclaim.
Irish traditional music moved onto the international stage in the second half of
the twentieth century. There were many reasons but one of the major influences was
Seán Ó Riada who gave it a position and status it never had before.
He is one of the most fascinating and significant characters in twentieth century
Irish artistic life - composer, musician, (jazz, classical and traditional), raconteur,
film-maker and academic. In this wide ranging account of his life and work a friend
and colleague looks behind the mask Seán Ó Riada held up to the world
and reveals the complex personality of the unique individual.
Sean O Riada: His Life
and Work by Tomas O Canainn Irish traditional music moved onto the international stage in
the second half of the twentieth century. There were many reasons, but one of the
major influences was Sean O Riada, who gave it a position and status it had never
previously had. He is one of the most fascinating and significant characters in
twentieth-century Irish artistic life - composer, musician (jazz, classical and
traditional), raconteur, film-maker and academic. In this wide-ranging account of
his life and work, a friend and colleague looks behind the mask O Riada held up
to the world and reveals the complex personality of a unique individual.
From his schooldays in County Limerick to student days in Cork city and then working
in Dublin and Cork, the author paints a vivid picture of an ambivalent talent. RTE
had a considerable influence on his and his problems with the radio/television station
are documented here as are his work for the Abbey Theatre and at University College
Cork. O Riada's move to Cuil Aodha with his family is analysed together with his
involvement in local initiatives, including the choir and his famous liturgical
music. Finally, there are intimate details of his last days and his death in a London
During his short life, O Riada crossed paths with a host of personalities and had
many financial, professional and other crises. The result is a fund of anecdotes,
many almost surreal, told in this book. Also included are his hilarious Irish Times
articles, reminiscent of Myles na gCopaleen at his best, the highly amusing Charles
Acton correspondence and the great critic's obituary for O Riada.
Shane MacGowan and Victoria Mary Clarke (Grove Press) 359 pages
Reviewed by Rory Dubhdara, Young Gael Socialist Vanguard
“...The audience dwindled and dwindled (as the Pogues began to play Celtic
music less and less). And the songs on the first follow up album (“Peace and
Love”) were awful. And the songs on the third album (“Hell’s Ditch”)
were absolutely pathetic. It’s like what the Chieftains did with Sean O’Riada
of the group. I was the one who actually f**king could write, compose Irish tunes,
in the Irish tradition. And write lyrics in the Irish tradition but make them about
modern subjects. And I could also arrange old tunes, like 19th century, 18th century
tunes, and take the ‘these’ and ‘thous’ out, and rewrite
the lyrics so they made sense...And I would add a riff. A hornpipe, maybe to introduce
it. I added riffs to the tunes, which is an innovation for Irish music...I was bringing
it into the 20th century in the same way that O’Riada was doing it...I didn’t
realize that this was gonna f**k up my idea for t he group. My idea for the group
is what I’m doing now. From now on we’re doing a lot more traditional
stuff (for the Popes). We already have. We were doing ‘Poor Paddy On the Railway’,
‘Spanish Lady’, and stuff. But after Frank (Frank Murray, the manager
for the Pogues before he was fired) , traditional Irish tunes were taboo. And there
was a democratic vote taken on that. Forcing all the pressure on to me to write
all the music...I was the one who from a baby had been ingesting Irish music….(But)
I couldn't teach James (James Fearnley, the Pogues piano, cello, mandolin and accordion
player) any kind of Irish accordion style. The Tipperary one was the one I was trying
to, cause that’s the one I know. And its very easy for a beginner, if you
get him young enough. But its very difficult for an adult, because it used the black
notes, black buttons, as percussion. And they’d use that with a bodhran, which
had been banned by Ceoltas. All the real musicians , country musicians, used bodhrans,
but you wouldn’t see a bodhran in Clare (Clare was the location of the official
headquarters of Ceoltas). Untill Sean O’Riada said, ‘F**k it...I’m
gonna conduct this bunch of idiots, who wouldn’t be able to play a note without
my f**king genius’...He was a modest man, Sean O’Riada. ‘I’m
gonna play the bodhran, and be a conductor’, and he shocked Ceoltas, horrifically...And
he also used an orchestra who were drunk and out of tune. Ceoltas disapproved of
him as a rebel and as far as they were concerned the bodhran is completely out.
There is no percussion in traditional Irish music. There’s only the upright
piano, the harp, the pipes, and the fiddle, and a tenor voice, if you were going
to use your voice….So you can imagine the f**king wailing caterwauling f**king
shite that was coming out on records, y’ know and on the radio, before O’Riada
came along. And O’Riada played the music. ..arranged all the old tunes, and
wrote several Masses in Irish, which Ceoltas also disapproved of ...This was all
rebellion, know what I mean? And Ceoltas would’ve done anything to destroy
him, but he was instantly loved by every body...He was a driven man, he said f**k
the rules! From the mid 1950’s to the early 1960’s, O’Riada was
the sound of Ireland, to most Irish people, and certainly to most Irish Americans.”
With Sean O’Riada as his main role model and source of inspiration, Shane
set out to save Irish music from both the stale dogma of tradition and the trendy
aspects of modern “Irish music” like Irish fusion (Black 47, etc.) and
“new agey music falsely called “Irish” like Clannad or Enya, and
progressive rock (Moving Hearts and Christy Moore, U2, and latter Pogues, especially
after Shane left the band) that were taking Irish music far from its tribal roots.
Music Magazine - April '05
to Help Start Irish Music Archive
Savage to Help Start Irish Music Archive
By Sean Smith
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has appointed Irish Studies Associate Director
Robert Savage Jr. to a commission that will establish a national music archive for
Savage sits on the 16-member board of the Sean O'Riada Trust, named for the late
composer and musician who was a key figure in the modern revival of Irish traditional
music forms. The board soon will begin developing plans for the fall 2000 opening
of an archival materials center.
"O'Riada, while dedicated to traditional music, was very intrigued with the idea
of using modern technology and culture in its expression," said Savage, who joins
former US Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith as the only Americans on the
board. "The O'Riada Trust will work on that same principle, making materials available
through the World Wide Web and other technology, as well as more traditional methods.
Ultimately, the trust hopes to be part of a global connection that includes the
Library of Congress - which is working with the board - universities, schools, interpretive
centers and other locations.
- 2005-06-08 Ahern hails musical legacy of O'Riada collection
Wednesday, June 08, 2005 :
Ahern hails musical legacy of O'Riada collection
The great musical legacy of Sean O’Riada will live on
for many generations to come, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said today as he received the
entire O’Riada collection on behalf of the nation.
The collection, which includes original scores, correspondence, possessions and
2,000 books, is to be housed in University College Cork’s Boole Library after
the university was given more than half a million euro by the Government to purchase
and preserve it.
The presentation was part of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s tour of the Lewis Glucksman
Gallery at UCC and was made to the accompaniment of surviving members of O’Riada’s
Sean O Riada was one of the first to stick his neck out, brazenly describing
the bodhran as our native drum, adding his view that its history goes back to pre-Christian
times. Others, while not denying that it could have had an ancient role, take the
view that its introduction as a musical instrument is a more recent phenomenon.
In 1996 singer Kate Bush recorded the Peadar Ó Doirnín lyric
Mná na hÉireann for the compilation album "Common Ground.
were the group of traditional musicians Ó Riada gathered together who were
entrusted with the mission of restoring Irish traditional music to popular appeal.
Some of the concerts given by Ó Riada and Ceóltoirí Chúalann
were recorded and are still available on disc, and these give some idea of the atmosphere
of excitement. The music is played with great verve, rhythm and feeling, and the
personality of Ó Riada shines through. The repertoire was Irish dance music,
airs and the compositions of Carolan and the older harpers. Ceóltoirí
Chúalann also featured a singer Seán Ó Sé, who was a
tenor. Seán Ó Sé's singing style and the accompaniment devised
by Ó Riada was yet another innovation.
At one memorable concert, in Dublin's Gaiety
Theatre in March 1969, Ó Riada produced a new piece, a song entitled Mná
na hÉireann (Women of Ireland). The music composed by Ó Riada was
to accompany an eighteenth century poem by Peadar Ó Doirnín, whose
bicentenary was the occasion for the concert. Seán Ó Sé sang
the song but it is today more commonly recognised in Ireland as an instrumental.
Ó Riada died in 1971 at the tragically young age of forty. His legacy also
includes the enormous Irish success of his music for the film Mise Éire (I
am Ireland). It made Ó Riada a household name, and raised the status of Irish
music amongst a section of society who had never taken any interest in it before.
Guided by his vision, traditional music changed radically, and became accessible
to a modern Irish audience, and through this traditional music the cultural life
of Ireland was invigorated. (The information on Seán Ó Riada above
is taken from the book "Bringing It All Back Home " by Nuala O
Mná na hÉireann was recorded
by The Chieftains for the film Barry Lyndon, and the score of that film won an Oscar.
Paddy Moloney, frontman of The Chieftans, and a founding member of Ceóltoirí
Chúalann, said of this track:
"Seán Ó Sé
used to sing it as a song, but when I recorded Chieftains Four, as a tribute to
Seán (Ó Riada) I did a special arrangement of that tune, an instrumental
arrangement. It was very popular and in fact I used it for Stanley Kubrick's film,
Barry Lyndon, which won an Oscar. It was out of devotion to Seán that I recorded
it and in the film it worked beautifully as a love theme."
Sunday 1 February, Millenium Forum, Derry, Co.Londonderry 15.00
Friday 6 February, Derry Journal
Rare Musical Treat for Derry
Many music lovers who hold the name of Sean O'Riada in great reverence are more
accustomed to linking the name of Ireland's most renowned 20th century composer
with traditional music or the musical scores of films like 'Mise Eire' through which
he revolutionised 20th century music in Ireland.
It is not generally appreciated that O'Riada was just as remarkable a composer of
serious classical music. He gave many of his works in the classical idiom the title
Nomos, accompanied by a number. Though very highly regarded for their serious musical
content, they have been more frequently performed outside of Ireland than at home.
The Ulster Orchestra, under the baton of Stephen Barlow, gave the Derry audience
in the Millennium Forum what might justifiably be described as a historic musical
treat last Sunday with its very capable performance of O'Riada's Nomos No.l.
O'Riada's work is not an easy piece for either orchestra or audience. Many of its
themes have an eerie atonal quality and the several sections are often just loosely
associated, being related together more by rhythmic content, rather than the lyrical
qualities more popularly associated with O’Riada's better known works—at
one point the rhythmic thread is sustained by the rapping of knuckles on the double-bass