Irish musicians and arts lovers who contributed to the cultural area of County Cork and also the world.
Saint Finbarr’s Cemetery on the south side of Cork City holds the resting place of many well-known names. However, there is a small section in the middle of the vast graveyard known as Musician’s Corner where there lies five people who contributed massively to the arts in Cork and further afield.
Buried in Musician’s Corner is pianist Charles Lynch, Composer Sir Arnold Bax, renowned Professor of Music Aloys Fleischman, Sean Neeson, the first Director of Radio Eireann in Cork, and famed ballet teacher Joan Denise Moriarty.
Sean Neeson took up the post of Director of Radio Eireann, in Cork, in 1927. He was a talented traditional musician and encouraged a weekly live concert of local musicians, which was broadcast on Sunday nights across the country. Neeson also brought the concept of radio plays to Radio Eireann, beginning in 1928, with a play called “The Passing of Miah” performed by the Leeside Players.
Neeson, who was originally from Belfast, was a member of Sinn Fein and supported the Anti-Treaty side during the Irish Civil War. Because of his politics he found himself imprisoned in Newbridge Prison Camp, in Kildare, in 1923.
He was released in 1924 and married Geraldine O'Sullivan who was a music teacher in Cork and an accomplished pianist. Neeson later took up a post in the University of Cork City's music department teaching traditional Irish music before going on to direct Radio Eireann, in Cork.
Charles Lynch was born the son of a British Army Colonel, in Cork, in 1906, and went on to become an internationally renowned pianist.
While still only a teenager, Lynch won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, in London. While in London he quickly rose to prominence as a pianist during the 1920s and 30s and he would regularly broadcast piano recitals on the BBC.
When World War II broke out, Lynch returned to Ireland which suited him greatly as he had declared himself a pacifist. Lynch rose to be Ireland's most prominent pianist with famous recitals such as Sean O'Riadas Nomos No.4, in 1959. He made history in 1971 when he played the entire set of Beethoven's symphonies in Trinity College over four successive Saturdays.
Lynch lectured at UCC and at the Cork School of Music. He died at the age of 77 and was laid to rest next to the other great musical names in St Finbarr’s Cemetery.
A name renowned with the teaching of music in Ireland was Aloys Fleischmann. Born in Munich, in 1910, the young Aloys would find himself calling Cork his home when his parents relocated to Leeside shortly after his birth to continue their own musical careers. Aloys senior was Choir Master and organist of St Mary’s Cathedral on the north side of the city.
Aloys studied music at UCC and after graduation went on to further study at the Academy of Music in the city of his birth, Munich. When he returned to Ireland in 1934, Aloys became Professor of Music in UCC. It would be a position he held until 1980.
Aloys took it upon himself to learn the Irish language and spoke it fluently. He also dedicated himself into a life-long study of Irish traditional music.
He became conductor of the Cork Symphony Orchestra and spent nearly 40 years researching Irish music for his magnum opus sources of Irish traditional music. Unfortunately, it remained unpublished by the time of his death, in 1992, but in 1999 it was launched in UCC, by President Mary McAleese.
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Joan Denise Moriarty
Within Musician’s Corner stands a tall grave marker in the style of an ancient Celtic ogham stone which marks the resting place of Joan Denise Moriarty. She became associated with ballet in Ireland, but she also excelled through all aspects of dance choreography.
Her family had roots in Mallow, but Moriarty's early years were spent in London and Liverpool where she studied ballet and Irish step dancing. She was also a keen traditional musician and a member of a Gaelic League branch, in Liverpool.
Moriarty's love of Irish music led her to taking up the pipes and she became renowned for her skill on the traditional war pipes, which she often performed in public.
Joan Denise Moriarty returned to Ireland in 1933 and set up her first school of dance in Cork. In 1940, she established the famed Moriarty School of Dance in Cork City.
In 1947, she founded the Cork Ballet Group which gave weekly performances in the city's Opera House as well as travelling extensively around the country.
Moriarty remained active in the city's culture and arts scene until her death in 1992.
Sir Arnold Bax
Although born and raised in London, composer Sir Arnold Bax fell in love with all things Irish through his avid reading of WB Yeats and his music took on a style of Celtic romanticism. His compositions won him great acclaim and Bax was bestowed with a knighthood in 1937. It was an honor he accepted even though he proclaimed that he was a supporter of Irish nationalism!
When he moved to Dublin in the early 1900s he found himself socializing in the same circles as Padraig Pearse, A.E Russell and Countess Markiewicz among others. After the Easter Rising, Bax wrote several prices in memory of Pearse who he had befriended.
Bax wrote several concertos and symphonies as well as poems and short stores with a nationalist flavor that he wrote under the pen name of Dermot O'Byrne.
Throughout his career, Bax was commissioned only once to compose a film score, which was for the 1948 film Oliver Twist.
For all his fame and glory Bax considered Cork a personal haven of tranquility and just weeks before his 70th birthday he died there of a heart attack in 1953. Sir Arnold Bax was fittingly buried alongside other musical elites in a small plot of St Finbarr’s cemetery forever known as Musician’s Corner!
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