Paddy Moloney leaves a legacy of Irish music

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Co-founder of the Chieftains Paddy Moloney (1938-2021). Image: Barry McCall

Founding member of the Chieftains Patrick “Paddy” Moloney passed away on October 11 at the age of 83. As the leader of the revolutionary Irish group, Moloney played several different musical instruments with legendary skill, although he was praised the most and longest for his abilities with the uilleann pipes and the tin whistle. Under his leadership, the Chieftains made Irish traditional music an international phenomenon and left their unique imprint on a wide range of diverse musical genres. The echo still reverberates and will continue to resonate for decades to come.

Moloney was born in Donnycarney, Dublin, in 1938 to John and Catherine (née Conroy) Moloney. His future in Irish music was foreseen at the age of six, when he received the plastic whistle he had seen in a shop window as a Christmas present. At eight, he was learning uilleann pipes under the tutelage of Leo Rowsome. Although the mainstream genre was seen as a dying star, even falling into the background of country-western groups in Ireland, Moloney believed in its immortal appeal. “I just had great faith in him and in what I was doing with music at the time,” he said in 2012 to New York Times. “I’ve always thought, ‘Damn, this music deserves the same. I want to play at Carnegie Hall and Albert Hall. ‘ “

“I don’t think there are any limits to Irish music. You can play it in so many ways ”,

The original chefs: Derek Bell, Kevin Conneff, Paddy Moloney, Sean Keane and Matt Molloy.

It became his life’s mission: to pay the bills as an accountant, he played with the traditional group Ceoltoiri Chualann before forming his own group. The Chieftains’ debut album came out in 1964, and despite well-meaning encouragement to re-establish themselves as a Celtic rock band, Moloney, who by then had turned to album production, and the band members kept their day job and have remained true to their origins.

“I have always been very proud of Irish music. I was not going to be bought out or taken back, ”Moloney said Irish America in an interview in 2003. “You liked it or you didn’t like it. With me, the music came first.

Their big break came with the Stanley Kubrick movie Barry lyndon, whose soundtrack included their iteration of “Women of Ireland” and won the Oscar that year. They sold out at the Royal Albert Music Hall in London and quickly became a global name, bringing new sound to music creators ranging from Van Morrison and Paul McCartney to Mongolian throat singers. The band’s fluid ability to adapt and work with any other style of music can be attributed to Moloney, whose philosophy of music was more intuitive than theoretical. “Rather than reading books like musicologists and others do, I’m just going to sit with people and play,” he shamelessly told Irish America in 2003.

The ability to permeate any form of music they came across made them household names. As musician Tim O’Brien said Irish America, “There’s a joke in the world of traditional music: why did the chicken cross the road? And the answer is: record with the Chieftains.

They performed during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Dublin in 1979, for a record audience of 1.35 million. In 1989, they were appointed Music Ambassadors of the Republic of Ireland. Moloney took this honor seriously, as it coincided with his own goals for the group. The Chieftains certainly lived up to the aspiration, even breaking through language barriers in their popularity with a major fan base in Asia. Although Moloney liked the phenomenon, it certainly did not surprise him; it was the large-scale achievement of a long-term goal.

“When we start playing,” he told the Washington Post, “People realize that you don’t have to be Irish to appreciate or understand Irish music, and that’s the bottom line.”

Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains playing the Song of Hope which he also performed as a homage to Ground Zero in 2002.

A man with many causes close to his heart, Moloney has repeatedly drawn on his own star power and diverse network of connections. From supporting students of traditional Irish music through scholarships and performance opportunities, to honoring the fateful and forgotten position of an Irish battalion in the US-Mexican War, which inspired the album chieftains San Patricio. Perhaps most touching was Moloney’s solo performance at Ground Zero in 2002, where he was invited to play at a memorial service for Matthew O’Mahony, a longtime fan who died in the 9/11 attacks. . For Moloney, the memorial for one has become a tribute to many, and he said Irish Americana, “While I was playing, the mechanics of the music disappeared and my heart went into it. I felt like I saw them all – faces, faces without images.

He is survived by his wife Rita; sister Sheila; the children Aedín, Aonghus and Padraig; and four grandchildren.


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