Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros44-2Comptes rendusJohn O’Keeffe, The Masses of Seán...

Comptes rendus

John O’Keeffe, The Masses of Seán and Peadar Ó Riada: Explorations in Vernacular Chant

Erick Falc’her-Poyroux
p. 164-165
Référence(s) :

John O’Keeffe, The Masses of Seán and Peadar Ó Riada: Explorations in Vernacular Chant, Cork, Cork University Press, 2017, 298 p. + audio CD.

Texte intégral

1Seán Ó Riada once expressed his strong attachment to his country, after a few months spent in Paris, stating that he would “rather be breaking stones in Ireland than be the richest man living in Europe”. One of the main elements of this attachment was certainly his love of the Irish language: after his nomination at University College Cork in 1964, he decided to settle with his family in the Múscraí Gaeltacht area of Cúil Aodha (Coolea) in West Cork, where his mother originated. This is also where he composed his two masses and where his son Peadar grew up.

2This book studies the two masses composed by Seán Ó Riada (1931-1971) as well as the mass composed by his son Peadar Ó Riada (born 1954) and was appropriately published fifty years after the Vatican II reforms on music, and in particular the Musicam Sacram of March 1967, which radically changed the way liturgical music could be composed for the Roman Catholic mass, by giving more freedom to composers on the language they could use for its celebration and consequently developing the participation of the congregation.

3John O’Keeffe, the author of the book, is Director of Sacred Music at the Department of Theology, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and Director of Choral Groups. In the seven chapters of the work, he proposes a very technical and thorough study of the three masses in Irish with many score extracts giving detailed and sometimes lengthy musical examples, accompanied by their lyrics. The book also includes an audio CD with complete recordings of the masses, as well as an impressive bibliography and a general index.

4The musical environment where Seán Ó Riada’s masses were composed, in Coolea, County Cork, constitutes the first approach of the volume, while the second chapter describes the intimate relationship between music and lyrics, in a historical context as well as in the geographical context of South West Ireland. The following two chapters analyse respectively Seán Ó Riada’s first mass – and the first ever in Irish Gaelic – Ceol an Aifrinn [Music for mass], as well as his second opus, Aifreann 2 [Mass 2], both composed for the Benedictines at Glenstal Abbey, County Limerick, while chapters 5 and 6 examine in detail Peadar Ó Riada’s own composition Aifreann Eoin na Croise [Mass for St. John of the Cross], composed for the Carmelite community of Dublin.

5One of the most important features of this book, apart from the fact that no lengthy study of these musical opuses had previously been published, resides in the way it convincingly demonstrates a strong link between the composers and their environment, be it linguistic, musical or historical. Obviously, previous knowledge of the Catholic liturgy, as well as solid musical theory knowledge, will be necessary to fully appreciate the extent of the author’s demonstration, but most chapters can be approached candidly and will display what the author probably had in mind when writing them: to testify to the huge musical legacy of the Ó Riadas, as well as their indisputable attachment to their country and its Catholic background.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Erick Falc’her-Poyroux, « John O’Keeffe, The Masses of Seán and Peadar Ó Riada: Explorations in Vernacular Chant »Études irlandaises, 44-2 | 2019, 164-165.

Référence électronique

Erick Falc’her-Poyroux, « John O’Keeffe, The Masses of Seán and Peadar Ó Riada: Explorations in Vernacular Chant »Études irlandaises [En ligne], 44-2 | 2019, mis en ligne le 06 mai 2020, consulté le 22 septembre 2021. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Erick Falc’her-Poyroux

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search