‘A giant of Irish trad music’: The Chieftains fiddle player Seán Keane dies

Musician joined trad band in 1968 and recently performed for US president Joe Biden in Ballina

Tributes have been paid to the Chieftains fiddle player Seán Keane, who died on Sunday morning.

“The sadness is very real. My wonderful, kind and brilliant fiddle playing big brother passed unexpectedly at his home in Rathcoole, Co Dublin this morning,” James Keane said on social media on Sunday.

The trad musician grew up in Drimnagh, Dublin 12, and was a member of Ceoltóirí Cualann in the 1960s. Keane joined The Chieftains in 1968 and performed with some of the trios and duets formed by Paddy Moloney in the 1960s. He also recorded a solo album, Seán Keane, along with a duet album with his fellow Chieftain Matt Molloy.

The National Concert Hall described Keane as “a talented musician whose music transcended cultural boundaries and inspired listeners from all over the world”.


“We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Seán Keane,” a post on the NCH Twitter page said.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said Keane had been “a giant of Irish trad music”.

“Just weeks ago, Seán performed for President Biden in Ballina,” US Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin said in a post on Twitter.

Biden was “genuinely moved to see The Chieftains together again for one last time,” she said.

“Sean’s remarkable career saw him play with the worlds greatest musicians, and collect 6 Grammy awards with The Chieftains, bringing traditional Irish music to a new audience in the US and around the world. May he rest in peace”.

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times