Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b John Reidy, '31, Cork, Eire; d '71) Folklorist, composer and broadcaster. One of the great figureheads in European nationalistic music, he was brought up in Bruff, Co. Limerick, educated at University College, Cork (B. Mus. degree '52). Appointed Assistant Director of Music on Radio Eireann '52, he stayed there until '55 when he took over as the musical director in the famed Abbey Theatre. Took on the Irish version of his name during this time. Stayed with the Abbey until '62, concurrently composing "Hercules Dux Ferrariae (Nomos No. 1)' and "Five Greek Epigrams (Nomos No. 2)', the score for the film Mise Eire '60 and, most famously, the score for the film version of The Playboy of the Western World '63. This last piece made him a household name in his homeland. Also composed "Mná na hEireann' ("The Women of Ireland') which forever proved the musical eloquence of his writing. Assembled the Ceoltóiri Chualann in the late '50s, a team of musicians dedicated to musical virtuosity and a sense of Irish tradition. This team recorded extensively on the Gael-Linn and Claddagh labels, including albums such as Reacaireacht an Riadaigh, The Playboy of the Western World, Ceol na nUasal, O Riada sa Gaiety (a live album recorded at the Gaiety Theatre in '69 which included "The Women of Ireland'), Ceol an Aifrinn and Aifreann 2, all on Gael-Linn, and The Battle of Aughrim and his last album O Riada's Farewell, an anthology of traditional Irish music played on the harpsichord. The Ceoltóiri Chualann team would become the Chieftains under piper Paddy Moloney and achieve international acclaim. O'Riada's music had the charm, strength and poignancy to enter the popular imagination like that of few others; "The Women of Ireland', for example, became a sort of musical shorthand motif for Ireland, being used extensively in film soundtracks such as Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, radio plays such as Alan Berrie's The Monument, and television documentaries; it was also covered by Kate Bush.