Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Irishness at its very best' - hundreds attend service for beloved musician Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin

Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin's funeral mass took place in St Senan's Church, Kilrush this Monday morning. Photograph Liam Burke Press 22
Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin's funeral mass took place in St Senan's Church, Kilrush this Monday morning. Photograph Liam Burke Press 22

Ralph Riegel

THE late composer and musician Prof Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin (67) was hailed as "a hero" for his vast contribution to Irish culture as hundreds attended his Requiem Mass today 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.

Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin's funeral mass took place in St Senan's Church, Kilrush this Monday morning and the President Michael D. Higgins attended. Photograph Liam Burke Press 22
Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin's funeral mass took place in St Senan's Church, Kilrush this Monday morning and the President Michael D. Higgins attended. Photograph Liam Burke Press 22

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

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

Mourners were told that the musician had meticulously planned his 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 the ancient Greco-Roman tradition.

The Tipperary-born musician had even selected the specific compositions to feature in his Requiem Mass including his celebrated piece 'Termon' which was composed in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States.

Legacy: Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin passed away on Wednesday night after a long illness
Legacy: Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin passed away on Wednesday night after a long illness

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

Fittingly, both also featured in his funeral arrangements.

President Higgins said the world was poorer with the passing of the respected musician, performer, composer, academic and broadcaster.

The Galway politician said Prof Ó Súilleabháin "represented much of what is Irishness at its very best."

"Proud of his roots in Clonmel and Murroe and a close associate of famous musicians and musicologist such as Sean O Riada, Aloys Fleischmann, John Blacking and John Baily, Prof Ó Súilleabháin was renowned as a unique pianist and composer," he said.

President Higgins also said the musician would be remembered thanks to his vast legacy both in terms of his compositions and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance which he had proudly founded and led for over two decades.

His three sons, Eoin, Luke and Micheal, also paid a special tribute to him at the Requiem Mass.

Eoin delivered the eulogy while Luke and Micheal both read out special poems about their father, one of which was entitled 'My Father.'

Micheal's poem was a self composition.

"Micheal'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 Miko the Clown on the way in. Mike represents the cycle (of life). The Archangel Michael, that figure in all cultures, that carries our soul from this world into the next."

"I want to express the profound gratitude on behalf of Micheal's family to all of you here today and to all who have so articulately and decisively expressed what Micheal has meant to them in so many ways."

"We are so grateful for that."

"Finally, I want to say that all the respect and honour and the esteem and the love that has been poured out and showered on Micheal, 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."

"That we may love one another as he loved us."

Fr Mark Patrick Hederman, a friend of the musicians, celebrated the Requiem Mass and delivered the homily in which he hailed Prof O Suilleabhain as "a hero."

"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."

"(But) he was also a brother, a husband, a father, a step-father and to all of these we extend our sympathies in a very special way."

The mourners proved a who's who of Ireland's arts and political worlds.

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

Composer Bill Whelan of 'Riverdance' fame attended along with University of Limerick founder, Prof Ed Walsh, while music at the Requiem Mass was provided by the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Cantoral, singers Sile Denver, Iarla O Lionaird and Lillis O Laoire along with Ken Edge on saxophone and Padraic Kane on uilleann pipes.

After the Requiem Mass, Prof Ó Súilleabháin's remain were taken for a private cremation ceremony.

At the ceremony, a special oration was delivered by Oxford historian, Sir Christopher Frayling.

Prof Ó Súilleabháin is survived by his wife Prof. Helen Phelan and their

son Luke, his sons Eoin and daughter-in-law Andrea, Mícheál 'Moley'

and partner Namu and Eoin and Mícheál's mother Dr. Nóirín Ní Riain, his brother John

O'Sullivan and his wife Patricia (Clonmel) as well as his extended family in Ireland and abroad.

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