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Sunday 22 September 2019

Composer Ó Súilleabháin hailed as a 'hero' for his vast lifetime contribution to arts and culture

Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin’s friend Simon, as Miko the Clown playing the part of a funeral director, at yesterday’s funeral at St Senan’s Church, Kilrush, Co Clare. Picture: Eamon Ward
Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin’s friend Simon, as Miko the Clown playing the part of a funeral director, at yesterday’s funeral at St Senan’s Church, Kilrush, Co Clare. Picture: Eamon Ward
Fiddle player Connie O’Connell and The Chieftains flute player Matt Molloy. Photograph by Eamon Ward
Martin Hayes from The Gloaming with choreographer and former Riverdance female lead dancer Jean Butler. Photo: Eamon Ward
Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin: ‘A contemporary Orpheus... he was a teacher and a guru’

Ralph Riegel

The late composer Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin (67) meticulously planned his own funeral - even having a clown greet mourners in a nod to ancient Greco-Roman tradition.

The Tipperary-born musician was hailed as "a hero" for his vast contribution to Irish culture as hundreds attended his Requiem Mass in his beloved Kilrush, Co Clare.

President Michael D Higgins - a lifelong friend of the University of Limerick professor - attended the Requiem Mass at St Senan's Church in Kilrush as the first act of his second presidential term.

Fittingly, one of the initial acts of President Higgins's first term was to visit the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance which Prof Ó Súilleabháin founded.

The funeral was held at St Senan's Church at the specific instruction of the musician who died last week at Milford Hospice in Co Limerick.

Mourners were told that the musician had planned his own funeral, from the use of a wicker coffin, to mourners being personally greeted by Miko the Ritual Clown played by Simon Thompson, in honour of ancient tradition.

He had even selected the music to feature, including his celebrated piece 'Termon', which was composed in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States.

Prof Ó Súilleabháin had a lifelong fascination with the life of St Senan, and areas around Kilrush associated with him.

President Higgins said the world was now poorer for his passing. The Galway politician said Prof Ó Súilleabháin "represented much of what is Irishness at its very best".

His three sons, Eoin, Luke and Mícheál, also paid a special tribute, with Eoin delivering the eulogy while Luke and Mícheál both read out special poems.

"Mícheál's great intention was that today would be a celebration. Every part of the ceremony he did meticulously plan," Eoin said.

"You may have noticed Míko the Clown on the way in. Míko represents the cycle [of life]. The Archangel Michael, that figures in all cultures, that carries our soul from this world into the next.

"I would like to say that this is a great moment to cut to the quick on his core teaching and his core message, which is that honour that we hold here today, we would hold for every sacred soul on the planet."

Fr Mark Patrick Hederman celebrated the Requiem Mass.

"For many of us, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin was a hero. A contemporary Orpheus who brightened our lives with heart-rending music. For others, he was a teacher and a guru and a guide."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was represented by his Aide de Camp Commandant Caroline Burke.

Composer Bill Whelan, of 'Riverdance' fame, attended the funeral, along with University of Limerick founder Prof Ed Walsh, while music was provided by the Irish Chamber Orchestra, choral group Cantoral, singers Síle Denvir, Iarla Ó Lionáird and Lillis Ó Laoire, along with Ken Edge on saxophone and Padraic Kane on uilleann pipes.

Prof Ó Súilleabháin is survived by his wife, Professor Helen Phelan, their son Luke, his son Eoin and daughter-in-law Andrea, son Mícheál and partner Namu, and Eoin and Mícheál's mother, Dr Nóirín Ní Riain.

Irish Independent

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