seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Joan Denise Moriarty, Ballet Dance & Choreographer

joan-denise-moriartyJoan Denise Moriarty, Irish ballet dancer, choreographer, teacher of ballet and traditional Irish dancer and musician, dies on January 24, 1992. She is a key figure in the development of both amateur and professional ballet in Ireland.

Little is known of Moriarty’s early life. Her year of birth is estimated between 1910 and 1913 but no documentation has been found. The place of her birth is also unknown, and even the country is uncertain. She grows up as the daughter of Michael Augustus Moriarty, an alumnus of Stonyhurst College and contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and his wife, Marion (née McCarthy). The Moriartys are originally from Mallow, County Cork, where her grandfather John Moriarty was a successful solicitor.

Moriarty is brought up in England. She studies ballet until her early teens with Dame Marie Rambert. She is an accomplished Irish step-dancer and traditional musician, and becomes the champion Irish step-dancer of Britain on April 24, 1931. She also wins a swimming championship. She is a member of the Liverpool branch of the Conradh na Gaeilge.

In the autumn of 1933 Moriarty returns with her family to their native Mallow in County Cork. In 1934, she sets up her first school of dance there. From 1938 she also gives weekly classes in Cork in the Gregg Hall and Windsor School. During the 1930s she takes part in the Cork Feis, annual arts competitions with a focus on traditional dance and music, competing in Irish step-dancing, warpipes and operatic solo singing. She performs on the warpipes in various public concerts and gives at least two broadcasts. In 1938 she is invited by Seán Neeson, lecturer in Irish music at University College Cork, to perform at a summer school which the Music Department organises for primary school teachers.

Moriarty’s mother dies in February 1940. The following November she moves to Cork where she sets up the Moriarty School of Dancing. The early years during the war are very difficult financially. In the early 1940s she performs with her dancers in musicals and variety shows at the Cork Opera House.

In 1945 the composer Aloys Fleischmann invites Moriarty to perform in his Clare’s Dragoons for baritone, war pipes, choir and orchestra, which had been commissioned by the national broadcasting company, Radio Éireann, for the Thomas Davis centenary. Moriarty agrees, on condition that his Cork Symphony Orchestra would play for her Ballet Company’s annual performances, which marks the beginning of a lifelong collaboration.

Branches of the Moriarty School of Dance are established in Bandon, Clonmel, Fermoy, Killarney, Mallow, Tralee, Waterford, and Youghal. Moriarty bequeaths her Cork school to Breda Quinn, a long-standing member of the Cork Ballet Company, who runs it with another Moriarty student, Sinéad Murphy, who creates a new dance school, Cork School of Dance, after Breda’s death in 2009.

Moriarty founds the Cork Ballet Group in 1947, the members recruited from her school. It gives its first performance in June of that year at the Cork Opera House. In 1954 the group is registered as a company under the name “Cork Ballet Company.” The company’s final season is 1993, the year following Moriarty’s death.

Irish Theatre Ballet is founded by Moriarty in the summer of 1959, and gives its first performance in December 1959. It is a small touring company of 10 to 12 dancers, which travels all over Ireland, going to some 70 venues annually with extracts from the classical ballets, contemporary works and folk ballets. In an attempt to resolve the constant financial difficulties, the Arts Council in 1963 insists on a merger with Patricia Ryan’s Dublin National Ballet. The amalgamation does not bring a solution to the financial problems besetting both companies and, after one joint season, the amalgamated company, Irish National Ballet, has to be disbanded in March 1964.

In 1973, the Irish government decides to fund a professional ballet company, the Irish Ballet Company, and entrusts it to Moriarty. Like Irish Theatre Ballet, it is a touring company which travels all over Ireland in two annual seasons. The company has a number of striking successes between 1978 and 1981. In 1983 the name of the company is changed to Irish National Ballet. The severe recession in Ireland during the 1980s and shrinking funds force the Irish National Ballet to disband in 1989.

Moriarty spends almost 60 years working for ballet in Ireland. Her amateur Cork Ballet Company is still the longest-lasting ballet company the country’s history. Her two professional touring companies bring ballet to all parts of Ireland for 21 years. She receives numerous awards for her work, among them an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland in 1979.

During the last years of her life, Moriarty suffers ill-health, but continues her work with the Cork Ballet Company, bringing the shows to towns in the county. She dies on January 24, 1992 in Dublin.

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Birth of Pianist Charles Lynch

charles-lynchCharles Edgeworth Cagney Lynch, Irish pianist who premiers works by several important 20th-century composers, is born in Parkgariff, County Cork, on October 22, 1906.

Lynch’s father is a British army colonel and his mother comes from a well-known Cork business dynasty, the Suttons. While still a young boy, the family moves to Greenock in western Scotland and it is there, at the Tontine Hotel, that the young pianist gives his first public recital at the age of nine. When he is fifteen, he wins a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studies under York Bowen and, later, Egon Petri.

Lynch becomes a popular recitalist in London during the 1920s and 1930s. He gives the first performance in England of Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, having been coached beforehand by the composer. Sir Arnold Bax‘s Fourth Piano Sonata (1932) is dedicated to the 26-year-old Lynch, whom Bax later describes as “Ireland’s most imaginative pianist.” In addition to concert recitals he broadcasts regularly with the BBC and, in 1937, acts as assistant to Sir Thomas Beecham at Covent Garden. Lynch is the Ballet Rambert‘s pianist for many years, having helped Marie Rambert form the company.

A pacifist, Lynch returns to Ireland following the outbreak of World War II, where he becomes the country’s premier concert pianist. During this phase of his career he premiers a number of works by leading Irish composers, including Brian Boydell‘s Sonata for Cello and Piano (1945) and Sean Ó Riada‘s Nomos No. 4 (1959). Lynch also performs in the world première of English composer Ernest John Moeran‘s Cello Sonata in A minor, given in Dublin in May 1947. He is joined by the composer’s wife, cellist Peers Coetmore.

In February 1971 at Trinity College, Dublin, he plays the entire set of Franz Liszt‘s transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies over four successive Saturday evenings.

Lynch continues to give public recitals throughout Ireland until shortly before his death at the age of 77. He also lectures in music at University College Cork and gives masterclasses at the Cork School of Music. In 1982, Lynch receives a doctorate in music from the National University of Ireland.

Lynch’s technique is remarkable for the stillness with which he sits, making the most difficult of music seem almost technically unremarkable. His recorded legacy is small, but includes music by Samuel Barber, Ernest John Moeran‘s Violin Sonata (with Geraldine O’Grady, violin) as well as music by Irish composers such as Aloys Fleischmann.

Toward the end of his life he lives in very reduced circumstances. He dies in Cork on September 15, 1984 at St. Finbarr’s Hospital and is buried near Sir Arnold Bax in St. Finbarrs Cemetery, Glasheen Road, Cork.


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Birth of Seán Ó Riada, Composer of Irish Traditional Music

seán-o-riadaSeán Ó Riada, Irish composer and arranger of Irish traditional music, is born John Reidy in Cork City on August 1, 1931. Through his incorporation of modern and traditional techniques he becomes the single most influential figure in the revival of Irish traditional music during the 1960s.

Ó Riada receives his primary education at St. Finbarr’s College, Farranferris. He moves to St. Munchin’s College in Limerick where he completes his Leaving Certificate in 1948. He plays violin, piano, and organ, and studies Greek and Latin classics at University College Cork, with Aloys Fleischmann and graduates in 1952. While at College, Ó Riada is the auditor of the UCC Philosophical Society.

Ó Riada’s career begins in 1954 as a music director at Radio Éireann, after which he works at the Abbey Theatre from 1955 to 1962. He lectures in music at University College Cork from 1963 until his death in 1971. He leaves a lasting influence as founder and director of the ensemble Ceoltóirí Chualann beginning in 1961. Ó Riada becomes a household name in Ireland through his participation in Ceoltóirí Chualann, compositions, writings, and broadcasts. His best-known pieces in the classical tradition include Nomos No. 1: Hercules Dux Ferrariae (1957), but he becomes particularly famous for his film scores Mise Éire (1959) and Saoirse? (1960).

In 1963 Ó Riada is appointed lecturer in music at University College Cork. He moves to Cúil Aodha in West Cork, an Irish-speaking area, where he establishes Cór Chúil Aodha, a male voice choir.

He becomes involved in Irish politics and is a friend of several influential leaders. Ó Riada drinks regularly at a local pub which still advertises itself as being his local. He develops cirrhosis of the liver. He is flown to King’s College Hospital in London for treatment and dies there on October 3, 1971, two months after his 40th birthday. He is buried in St. Gobnait‘s graveyard, Baile Bhuirne, County Cork. Willie Clancy played at his funeral.

Two schools are named “Scoil Uí Riada” after him – a Gaelscoil in Kilcock, County Kildare, and another in Bishopstown, Cork City. In 2008, a life-sized statue is erected in the grounds of Sépéil Naomh Gobnait, Cúil Aodha.