Musician and broadcaster, Doireann Ní Ghlacáin, has embarked on a uniquely voyage of discovery into the life and influence of her grandfather, Seán Ó Riada, fifty years after his death in October 1971. Iconic to some, controversial to others, Ó Riada is one of the most influential figures in Irish music – not only in the traditional arena but also in orchestral and other genres.
Doireann’s journey has been charted by the scions of another musical dynasty, Felimi and Dónal O’Connor at Táin Media, in a feature-length documentary to be broadcast on TG4 on St. Stephen’s Day (December 26).
As well as extensive archive material, Ní Ghlacáin draws on interviews with members of the Ó Riada family (including her mother Sorcha Ní Riada, her aunt Rachel and her uncle Peadar) as well as friends and contemporaries of her grandfather like Seán Keane and Seán Ó Sé.
The film also includes performances from artists such as Iarla Ó Lionáird, Nell Ní Chróinín, Steve Cooney, Cormac McCarthy, Cór Chúil Aodha and international concert pianist, Barry Douglas.
From Ó Riada’s college days in UCC to his time in the jazz bars of Paris and then back to the Gaeltacht of West Cork and Kerry, the film examines his work as a composer, arranger and broadcaster, and through a mixture of anecdote and analysis, offers a unique understanding of a prodigiously productive life that lasted a mere 40 years.
Apart from his more direct influence on bands like The Chieftains and The Gloaming, Ó Riada’s inspirational spirit can also be traced in other traditional and folk ensembles like The Bothy Band and Moving Hearts.
As the mentor of the late Mícheál Ó Suilleabháin, Ó Riada’s influence may also be traced in the Irish World Music Centre at the University of Limerick as well as in his alma mater, University College Cork.
Of course as an emerging young musician, herself, Doireann is well placed to provide a sense of her grandfather’s continuing legacy among the new generation of artists who are carrying the tradition forward into the future.
Co-written by Doireann Ní Ghlacáin and Feilimí O’Connor and with Neil Martin and Jim Sheridan aboard as executive producers, the documentary is being supported by Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund and by University College Cork.