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Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin - 1950-2018

Musician, composer, performer and educator Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin died on 7th November 2018 at the Milford Care Centre in Limerick after a lengthy illness. He was 67.

Mícheál was born in Clonmel in Co Tipperary, and between 1969 and 1973 he studied music at University College Cork. Here, he was influenced by Seán Ó Riada, and like him, Mícheál’s interests incorporated both classical and Irish traditional music. It was while in Cork that he met his wife, Noirin Ni Riain, and after he graduated in 1973, the couple moved to Ring in Co Waterford where they worked as teachers and learned Irish. Mícheál returned to Cork as a music lecturer in 1975, and he went on to become professor of the music department of UCC.

In 1994, he left UCC and began work with the University of Limerick as its first professor of music. Here, working closely with his second wife, Helen Phelan, he founded the Irish World Music Centre, which was later re-named the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance – bringing the opportunity for the academic study of many different types of music that were not otherwise covered in Ireland. The Academy has attracted students from all over the world and Mícheál remained there until his retirement in 2016. After retiring, Mícheál continued to hold the title of Emeritus Professor of Music, and he kept performing until his illness prevented him from doing so.

Mícheál recorded several albums over the years, beginning with a self-titled album on the Gael Linn label in 1976, and incorporating a string of collaborations with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the RTE Concert Orchestra. He also played with Van Morrison, The Gloaming and many other traditional musicians. These groundbreaking albums placed his incredible piano playing at the heart of traditional Irish music, while demonstrating how the tradition and classical forms could go hand in hand.

Through his work teaching and inspiring others, as well as through his own music, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin has left an incredible legacy.