The sudden death of Irish musician and scholar Mick Moloney at the age of 77 last Wednesday, July 27, has been mourned by his many friends and colleagues in Ireland and his adopted home of America.
Moloney, a global distinguished professor in Irish studies at New York University and a renowned musician who toured the world, died in his Manhattan apartment.
A native of Co Limerick, Moloney immigrated to America in 1973. He leaves behind a partner, Sangjan Chailungka, in Bangkok, Thailand, where he spent chunks of time each year, a son, Fintan, and four siblings.
Reaction to Moloney’s untimely passing was universal in praising him for his singular contributions to Irish music, academia, and culture.
“What he accomplished in 77 years was not only a most extraordinary legacy that managed to elevate everyone equally to a higher plateau in Irish music in rarified air that he breathed. I am so grateful that he touched my life for 48 years and most recently at the Catskills Irish Arts Week where he played an especially vital role all week in myriad ways but always with full and loyal support,” said Paul Keating, Irish Voice traditional music columnist who is currently on leave.
Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chair of the Advisory Board at Glucksman Ireland House said, “I am so devastated at Mick Moloney’s sudden death. As a beloved professor at Glucksman Ireland House, Mick will always be remembered for his seminal research on Irish American music, teaching, joyous concerts, and exuberant banjo playing. All of us at Glucksman Ireland House – faculty, students, board, and friends – send sincere condolences to his family.”
We are heartbroken by the passing of our longtime friend and colleague, Mick Moloney. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis. pic.twitter.com/XWSMYVY8b8— Glucksman Ireland House NYU (@GIHNYU) July 28, 2022
A statement from the Irish Arts Center said, “Mick’s impact on Irish American culture, and his influence on the growth and development of Irish Arts Center, are immeasurable. We are so grateful for the thousands of stories and musical moments we shared over the last 15 years, and extend our condolences to his family and to the enormous community of artists, audiences, and colleagues he supported and influenced so generously over the course of his marvelous, profoundly consequential life.”
The Irish Repertory Theatre posted a statement that said, “Irish Repertory Theatre mourns the sudden passing of our dear pal Mick Moloney, whose music and voice will live on in the Irish American psyche and in our hearts for generations. We had been working with Mick and his brilliant collaborator, Leni Sloan on a documentary of a little-known history of the Irish and African American diasporas, Two Roads Diverged. This story was one of Mick’s great passions and we are comforted that we can contribute to his glorious legacy in a meaningful way.”
Irish fiddle player Athena Tergis, who regularly toured with Moloney, said on Facebook, “Mick was my mentor, my collaborator, my dear friend, and my musical partner for over 20 years. When we played together, there was another force that took hold of my bow, it often surprised me and I was always aware it was special and so much greater than me or him alone. I am so grateful to have had the privilege to walk in his aura on so many adventures, and our musical connection brought a joy to my heart I will treasure forever.”
Life is different today without Mick Moloney in it, yet his spirit lives on in the incredible, worldwide community he fostered and nourished his whole life. All who knew him, felt his incredible power to connect, inspire and to shed light on injustice. He never wavered in his dedication to human rights, equality and building community... weather it was regular phone calls to check on friends, publishing letters and articles in support of justice, or honoring the many in our community who would otherwise never had had a stage from which to shine... Mick was always working to build us up, to encourage, to support, to make new connections, build bridges and deepen connections with those he loved. Mick was my mentor, my collaborator, my dear friend and my musical partner for over 20 years. when we played together, there was another force that took hold of my bow, it often surprised me and I was always aware it was special and so much greater than me or him alone. I am so grateful to have had the privilege to walk in his aura on so many adventures, and our musical connection brought a joy to my heart I will treasure forever. Here are a few clips that bring that joy back for me. Thank you Mick. You gave us all So Much.Posted by Athena Tergis on Friday, July 29, 2022
Cherish the Ladies founder Joanie Madden, a fellow recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship said, “Mick literally changed the lives of countless Irish musicians, singers, and dancers in America and I am one of those very lucky and thankful recipients. He was a champion of all things Irish and did more for the progression of Irish music, song, and dance in America than anyone I know. Through his many ideas and collaborations, he brought us all to the major folk festivals around the nation and introduced me to so many artists who became my lifelong friends in music and dance.”
REST IN PEACE MICK MOLONEY Hi Folks, this is Joanie Madden. Unfortunately, I was viciously hacked on Facebook and at...Posted by Cherish the Ladies on Friday, July 29, 2022
Tributes to Moloney also came from Ireland. President Michael D. Higgins said, "Dr. Moloney was an admired global distinguished professor at Glucksman Ireland House, New York University, as part of their Irish Studies Program and Music Department," the president said. His passing is a loss to the musical heritage of Ireland, to Irish America, and to Irish music worldwide." Moloney received the Distinguished Presidential Award from Higgins in 2013.
Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole tweeted, “Desperately sad to hear of the death of Mick Moloney. His depth of knowledge, both artistic and scholarly, was genuinely unique. And he shared it with the exemplary generosity that made him such a luminous presence.”
Desperately sad to hear of the death of Mick Moloney. His depth of knowledge, both artistic and scholarly, was genuinely unique. And he shared it with the exemplary generosity that made him such a luminous presence. https://t.co/1SOVF14U8J— Fintan O'Toole (@fotoole) August 2, 2022
*This column first appeared in the August 3 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.