Sunday 21 April 2019

'It's the most comfortable feeling in the world,' Sibeal Ni Chasaide on performing on stage with her family

Sibheal Ni Chasaide (20) is a singer and a first year physiotherapy student in UCD. She was born and raised in the Gaeltacht area of Rath Chairn, Co Meath. Her first album will be released in June

Sibheal Ni Chasaide
Sibheal Ni Chasaide
Sibheal Ni Chasaide

I get up at 8am. After a shower, I listen to some music to get in a good mood for the day. Then I chat with some of my housemates in the kitchen before we head off to our different lectures.

I live in a house on the UCD campus called Teach na Gaeilge. It's for Irish speakers. There are 24 of us altogether. It's an apartment block, but we say it's a house. It's split into six different apartments.

We speak Irish to each other, and we organise Irish events on campus. We all have a love for the language, and we want to speak it as much as possible. It's very natural for me to speak Irish on a daily basis. I come from a Gaeltacht area - Rath Chairn in Co Meath.

In Teach na Gaeilge, everybody has a different background with trus - some are from the Gaeltacht, some attended Irish-speaking secondary schools, or the Gaeltacht during the summer, and some not even that. Yet somehow we've all ended up fluent in Irish and able to speak it to each other. There is no one here monitoring us, but there is just an agreement that we all speak Irish. That's the only way we could get into the house.

In the mornings, we just talk about our day - normal stuff, like what happened the night before. We've come up with our own slang. So it's a growing language.

As a child, I spoke Irish with my parents at home, and then English came later, in school. My mom is from America. She met my dad and moved to Ireland. His whole family were raised with Irish in the Gaeltacht area of Gweedore, Donegal, and he wanted to carry that down to his own family. My mom pushed herself to learn Irish, so that we could be an Irish-speaking household.

My mom learned her Irish in Rath Chairn, yet it's Connemara Irish. In 1935, a group of people moved from Connemara and set up a little Gaeltacht in Rath Chairn.

I'm in first year in physiotherapy. Some days are very busy, with lectures from 9am until 4pm. I learn about the science of exercise and the anatomy of the body. It's really interesting.

Before I started university, I took a year out to concentrate on singing. I'm signed to Universal and I recorded my first album last year. It will be released in June. I also have an EP, and that has been launched for Seachtain na Gaeilge. It has The Parting Glass, She Moved Through the Fair, Mna na hEireann and Human. I did the EP at Abbey Road Studios in London. I couldn't believe I was there.

My main passion is singing, and I want to be a singer, if at all possible. So I'm going to keep releasing music and see if that works out for me. If not, then I'll be a physiotherapist. Right now, I'm just enjoying learning as much as I can. Sometimes I have to skip a lecture so I can do a performance.

I come from a really musical family. My dad still has a band with his brothers - Na Casaidigh. I grew up listening to them play music.

When they would go on tour, we would go with them. It became so normal to see our family up on stage and to be around that kind of atmosphere. I got to know the process of how to be a professional musician. My dad plays the violin, and I play the harp.

We were quite happy to watch my father and his band perform, but eventually when we got older, we got mixed into the programme. I love when my dad's band has a gig and they ask me to sing a few songs with them. It's a really special feeling being able to get up on stage with your own family. It's the most comfortable feeling in the world, and there's a lovely sense of trust. I've been singing in sean-nos competitions since the age of five. I learnt a lot from doing that.

My uncle, Patrick Cassidy, the composer, lives in LA. I had never met him before. Then he made contact, and told me that he would be in Dublin, as he was recording music for the RTE documentary, 1916 The Irish Rebellion. He asked if I would like to sing on it. We used Padraig Pearse's poem, Mise Eire.

The first time I sang it live was for [then] Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other politicians. Then, eventually, I was asked to sing it for Centenary, RTE's 1916 celebrations for the centenary at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. That show was televised. I didn't realise how many people would be watching it. That was the turning point. I started to get so many different opportunities.

At the time, I was in fifth year in school. My friends at school used to call me Hannah Montana, because in the middle of studying for the Leaving, I'd be over to London. It was like two completely different worlds, and it's still like that. I have my studies and my music, but no matter what, Irish is always there.

If I'm in a shop, speaking Irish, people will actually say, 'I have Irish too,' and you speak a few words with them. I don't know why that happens, but when I hear people speaking Irish, it makes me happy. I say, 'Good for you'. Last year, I recorded The Cranberries' song Linger in Irish for Seachtain na Gaeilge. I think doing these pop songs is a great project.

If I'm travelling in the US or London, I check in with my family. So I still find a way to speak Irish. It'd probably feel strange if I didn't speak it. When I use Twitter, I tweet in Irish and English.

At night, sometimes I dream in English, other times in Irish, but I dream every single night.


@SnaGaeilge @SibealOfficial

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia - events all over the world

Sunday Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life