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Founder of The Chieftains was `a giant of a figure in Irish life'

Tributes have been paid to The Chieftains founder, Paddy Moloney, who has passed away. Picture by Lorcan Doherty Photography
Marie Louise McConville

FOUNDER of The Chieftains Paddy Moloney has been described as "a giant of a figure in Irish life" as his death was announced.

In a statement, the Irish Traditional Music Archive said Mr Moloney had "made an enormous contribution to Irish traditional music, song and dance".

"Few people can lay claim to having the level of impact Paddy Moloney had on the vibrancy of traditional music throughout the world," it added.

Married to artist, Rita O'Reilly, the couple had three children.

The popular musician, from Donnycarney in Dublin, was just six years old when he began to learn the tin whistle and eight, when he took on the uilleann pipes.

He founded The Chieftains in Dublin in 1963 and they became one of the best-known Irish traditional groups in the world, recognised as cultural ambassadors who pushed musical boundaries, blending traditional music with contemporary sounds.

They became the first Western musicians to perform on the Great Wall of China and the first ensemble to perform a concert in the Capitol Building in Washington DC.

During their career, they won six Grammys, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2002 BBC Folk Awards.

They also collaborated with a variety of well-known musicians, including Sting and Willie Nelson and performed for Pope John Paul II on his 1977 visit to Ireland and Queen Elizabeth II on her Irish visit.

Mr Moloney's scoring and composition work has also appeared in films including Braveheart and Gangs of New York.

In 1968, he took on the role of managing director of Claddagh Records.

He ran the label for seven years during which time he also produced, co-produced or supervised 45 albums.

In 1981, Mr Moloney performed the very first traditional music concert with The Chieftains at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.

He later served on the board of the National Concert Hall and in 2007, with The Chieftains, was awarded the inaugural NCH Lifetime Achievement Award.

President Michael D Higgins said Mr Moloney had "extraordinary skills as an instrumentalist" and was at the "forefront of the renaissance of interest in Irish music, bringing a greater appreciation of Irish music and culture internationally".

"He brought a love of Irish music not just to the diaspora, but to all those across the world who heard his music and appreciated it for its own sake as it transcended all musical boundaries," he said.

"His legacy will remain with us in the music which he created and brought to the world".

Catherine Martin, Minister for Arts, said Mr Moloney had been "a giant of the national cultural landscape.

"Through the Chieftains, he brought the joy of Irish music to a global audience," she said.

"His music was a source of celebration and pride for all of us".

Gay McKeon, Chief Executive of the Na Píobairí Uilleann (NPU), the Society of Uilleann Pipers, described Mr Moloney as "a giant of a figure in Irish life".

"Paddy Moloney was a wonderful piper, an incredibly creative musician and a powerful performing artist," he said.

"We have lost one of the country's foremost artists whose legacy is inestimable at this point".

Maura McGrath, Chairperson of the National Concert Hall, said Ireland had lost "a true talent, and advocate for traditional music with the passing of Paddy Maloney".

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