If a culture is to grow, if a musical tradition is to be as robust and as enduring as it might be, it needs active champions in the greater community and in academia. Pianist, composer and teacher Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, who died after a long illness yesterday aged 67, was both.
Too young to be in the vanguard of the 1960s revival, he made a significant contribution to consolidating the new-found acceptance of — and worldwide enthusiasm for — Irish music.
A lecturer at UCC in the 1970s he went on to help establish the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.
Through that work, he established formal structures for the study of our music, and other countries, that may not have been available to earlier generations. That facility makes a valuable contribution to building Ireland’s cultural image and presence, as students from more than 50 countries have passed through its doors.
Ó Súilleabháin was also a greatly admired interpreter of traditional tunes. His 1987 recording, The Dolphin’s Way, was hugely influential and remains so to this day.