Sean O'Riada

  Sean ORiada

Sean O’Riada was born in Cork city in 1931 and began learning to play the piano and violin at a young age in school.  As he told a newspaper in 1960, “I have loved music for as long as I can remember. Both my father and mother were traditional fiddlers and we often had local musicians in our house - that was when we were living in Limerick, where there was a very good school of traditional fiddlers…Yes, my father had a wonderful store of music. I remember him telling me that he would walk seven miles, and do a day's work, to learn a tune." 

Irish claddah

Early in his career, from 1952 until 1955, Sean O'Riada worked as Assistant Director of Music on Radio Eirann.  He then moved on to become musical director at the Abbey Theatre.  While working there, he was composing musical scores for Irish films such as Mise Eire in 1960 and The Playboy of the Western World in 1963.  The latter film would make Sean O’Riada a household name in Ireland.
The Abbey Theatre

In his quest to compose traditional Irish music for a production at the Abbey Theatre, O’Riada began to recruit traditional musicians to rehearse weekly at his home.  This group began to gain popularity and eventually began to perform publicly as Ceoltoiri Cualam.  Using his connections at Radio Eirann, Sean O’Riada brought this traditional ensemble sound to a larger audience and Ceoltoiri Cualam became a pop hit.  Some of the members of this group were uillean piper Paddy Maloney, whistler Sean Potts, and fiddler Martin Fay, who would later go on to be part of a popular traditional revivalist group, The Chieftans.

Ceoltoiri Cualam

Ceoltoiri Cualam

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