Ruth Uí Riada talks to Aindrias Ó Muimhneacháin about life with her husband, the composer Seán Ó Riada.
Ruth Uí Riada (née Coughlan) met Seán Ó Riada (at that time John Reidy) in University College Cork (UCC) when they were undergraduate students. They married in 1953 and spent time in France before returning to Ireland to raise their family.
Their interest in the Irish language and their native culture was sparked upon reading Daniel Corkery's book 'The Hidden Ireland’. Seán was also working in The Abbey Theatre at the time.
The Ó Riadas first immersion in Gaeltacht life was time spent on holidays in Dún Chaoin in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht with Thomas Kinsella and his family, and it was there that Ruth realised there was something unique about the Gaeltacht community which sparked her desire to learn the language,
Thuigeas go raibh meonach difriúil acu, agus bhí suim agam ann...
A lecturing position in UCC for Seán heralded a return to the Galltacht (English-speaking areas), but while they were staying with Seán’s mother a chance meeting with one of his cousins in Baile Bhúirne led to them finding a home in Cúil Aodha in the Múscraí Gaeltacht,
'Sé an rud ab fhearr a tharla dúinn riamh.
Seán’s interest in traditional music began prior to their move to Cúil Aodh however. Research for a music series for Radió Éireann, lead him to the holdings of the Folklore Commission, which deepened his interest in the genre.
He was asked by playwright Bryan McMahon to compose music for his play ‘The Honeyspike’ and at the same time had a drama of his own in the Damer Theatre. The cast would regularly gather in the Ó Riada home in Galloping Green for céilís, and it was from these sessions that the traditional band Ceoltóirí Chualann emerged,
Do chuir sé an grúpa le chéile.
Given his background, it was difficult for Ó Riada to strike a balance between traditional music and classical music, Ruth believes. At the time of his death he was working on a project involving Cór Chúil Aodha, Ceoltóirí Chualann and the Symphony Orchestra, and this may have signaled a new stage in his career.
1963 saw the foundation of Cór Chúil Aodha, a parish choir composed of male singers. This was the period of the Second Vatican Council, when new music was required for Mass in the vernacular. Having attended a liturgical conference in Glenstal Abbey Seán Ó Riada started the choir, which lead to his composition of a Mass in the Irish language,
Thosnaigh sé le rudaí beaga i gcomhair an Comaoin...agus do lean sé ar aghaidh as san.
This episode of ‘Mo Scéal Féin’ was broadcast on 25 October 1972. The interviewer is Aindrias Ó Muimhneacháin.
'Mo Scéal Féin' ('My Own Story') featured interviews with men and women living in the Gaeltacht about their lives.