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Professor Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin (died 7 November 2018, aged 67)

Obituary created using articles on and

The leading Irish musician and composer Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin has died at the age of 67.

Micheal was born in 1950 in Clonmel, Co Tipperary and was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers; at the Music Department, University College Cork (UCC); and at the Department of Social Anthropology, Queen’s University Belfast, where he completed his PhD in 1987 on the Dublin traditional fiddle player Tommy Potts.

He met his wife, Noirin Ni Riain, while at UCC, where he studied music under Sean O Riada and Aloys Fleischmann. He graduated with an MA in 1973 and the couple moved to the Ring Gaeltacht in Co Waterford where they worked as teachers and learned Irish. He returned to Cork to join the Music Department of UCC in 1975, where he eventually became Professor. He did a PhD (1987) in Queen's University, Belfast.

Recognised from an early age as a talented musician, Mícheál went on to perform to acclaim throughout Ireland and Europe, and in the United States and Asia, on his chosen main instrument, the piano. He created a unique piano style which fused elements of Irish traditional music, classical music and jazz, and these same elements informed his work as a composer. 

He also scored for film, notably for the 1926 silent film Irish Destiny, which he accompanied live. From 1975 to 2010 he recorded a series of some thirteen long-playing records and was a record producer. 

His numerous musical collaborators included the Irish Symphony Orchestra, the National Chamber Choir, Hiberno-Jazz, and the Abbey Quartet.

He worked as a dynamic and inspirational music lecturer in University College Cork from 1975 to 1993. 

When recruited as Professor of Music by the University of Limerick in 1993 with a brief to establish postgraduate music courses and research, he founded the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, an evolving cross-cultural music, song, and dance educational institution with a concentration on global performing arts. The Academy has drawn students from all over the world and is now regarded as a world centre of excellence. Mícheál became Emeritus Professor of Music on his retirement in 2016.

Mícheál published numerous articles in magazines and journals.

He spent periods as a visiting professor at Boston College (where he established a traditional music archive) and the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

He was the Chairman of the Irish Traditional Music Archive for two terms, 1993–99; a board member of the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Dagda Dance Company, the UL Concert Hall, and the Contemporary Music Centre; Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Ard-Ollamh of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, Clonmel, 2006; and inaugural Chair of the Irish arts promotion agency Culture Ireland 2005–14. 

President Michael D Higgins led tributes with a statement:

"Music lovers all over the world will have heard with great sadness of the passing of Professor Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, performer, musician, composer, academic and broadcaster."

"A representative of much what is Irishness at its best, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin has left us with an indelible legacy, both through his music and through the Academy, which he led for over 2 decades."

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