The Irish Times view on the death of Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin: a visionary explorer

Diverse musical collaborations revealed the pianist, composer and educationalist as truly a musical conquistador

The first member of his family to attend university, Mícheál Ó Suilleabháin revealed that trademark curiosity about, and profound connection with, music from the time he was a toddler, and embarked on a musical path that would bring him to UCC. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

The first member of his family to attend university, Mícheál Ó Suilleabháin revealed that trademark curiosity about, and profound connection with, music from the time he was a toddler, and embarked on a musical path that would bring him to UCC. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

News of the passing of Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin – pianist, composer, visionary educationalist and founder/director of the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance in the University of Limerick – was greeted with widespread sadness across the traditional music and wider arts community this week.

Emeritus Professor of Music at the Academy he founded in 1994, Ó Súilleabháin also recorded a series of visionary solo albums which positioned his chosen instrument, the piano, at the heart of Irish traditional music – while also celebrating the intersections where classical and traditional music could mine rich new seams in unison.

Born in Clonmel, and the first member of his family to attend university, Ó Súilleabháin revealed that trademark curiosity about, and profound connection with, music from the time he was a toddler. He embarked on a musical path that would bring him to UCC, where he studied under Seán Ó Riada, a seminal influence on him, as well as Prof Aloys Fleischmann.

Micheál Ó Súilleabháin could have pursued a professional career as a musician, but instead chose an academic path. His vision for the creation of an Academy in UL devoted to our own native forms of music and dance was revolutionary. Ever the collaborator, his initial securing of sponsorship from Toyota was a ground-breaking example of how business, arts and academia could collaborate in ways previously unimagined.

Among his myriad achievements were the establishment of the Irish World Academy, his pioneering television series, River Of Sound, and his relocation of the Irish Chamber Orchestra to Limerick.

His evocative collaborations with Mel Mercier, his fitting successor as director of the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance, were fleet of foot celebrations of Ó Súilleabháin’s irrepressible musical energy, and their jointly composed (Must Be More) Crispy was a rhythmically challenging delight. His many and diverse musical collaborations revealed what he was: truly a musical conquistador.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.