President Michael D. Higgins has paid tribute to renowned fiddle player Seán Keane of The Chieftains, who died unexpectedly on Sunday at the age of 76.
President Higgins said that Mr Keane’s “virtuosity and skill was unique and has influenced so many musicians across the traditional arts”
He added that Mr Keane’s “incredible talent as a fiddle player brought so much joy to so many and was enjoyed and admired by audiences all over the world”.
President Higgins’ full statement reads: “It is with sadness that lovers of Irish music and traditional arts across the world will have heard of the death of Seán Keane.
“Seán’s incredible talent as a fiddle player brought so much joy to so many and was enjoyed and admired by audiences all over the world.
“His virtuosity and skill was unique and has influenced so many musicians across the traditional arts. Indeed, Seán has been described as the ‘musician’s musician’. His generous legacy to traditional music and the arts will be remembered for generations to come.
“We are indebted to the Irish Traditional Music Archive who hold so many of Seán’s recordings and will ensure this legacy lives on and will be enjoyed through the ages.
“May I express my deepest condolences to his children, Páraic, Deirdre and Darach and his grandchildren, to his extended family, to his friends in The Chieftains and to his wide circle of friends and musical colleagues.”
Keane’s family revealed the news on social media when Seán’s brother James said: “The sadness is very real. My wonderful, kind and brilliant fiddle-playing big brother passed unexpectedly at his home in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin this morning.”
Seán Keane was born in Drimnagh in 1946.
Growing up, he cut his teeth in the Pipers Club in Dublin and relished learning from renowned players such as Seamus Ennis and Willie Clancy and the sean-nós singer Joe Heaney.
He joined Ceoltóirí Cualann in the 1960s before joining The Chieftains in 1968.
He also performed with some of the duos and trios formed by Paddy Moloney and released a solo album along with a duet album with fellow Chieftains member Matt Molloy.
Tributes have poured in for Keane since his death was announced.
The Irish Traditional Music Archive said it was “devastated” to learn of Keane’s death, describing him as a “beacon” for traditional music.
They said in a statement: “His powerful fiddle playing married technical virtuosity with an incredibly insightful and sensitive understanding of what made Irish traditional music distinctively beautiful.”
US Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin paid tribute to Keane, noting that he had performed for US President Joe Biden in Ballina just weeks ago.
She said Biden was “genuinely moved” to see the Chieftains perform together one last time.
She said: “Sean’s remarkable career saw him play with the world’s greatest musicians, and collect 6 Grammy awards with The Chieftains, bringing traditional Irish music to a new audience in the US and around the world. May he rest in peace.”
The National Concert Hall paid tribute saying: “We’re deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Seán Keane.
“A talented musician whose music transcended cultural boundaries & inspired listeners from all over the world. Our condolences go out to his family & friends during this time. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said Keane had been “a giant of Irish trad music.”
Seán was predeceased by his wife, Marie, in 2020. He is survived by his three children, Páraic, Deirdre and Darach, and by his grandchildren.
Seán came to London with Matt Molloy for the Return to London Town Festival in 2021. The duo also came to the ICC in Hammersmith last year.