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Irish music lost one of its outstanding singers in June when Rita Keane, Caherlastraine, County Galway, passed away. Her recorded works are few, numbering just two albums with one in general circulation from Claddagh. Along with her sister Sarah, she was a great source of songs and inspiration to a generation of musicians who blossomed during the 1970’s.

The influence both Rita and Sarah had on the ballad in Irish traditional music in the last 25 years of the 20th century was profound. Through their niece Dolores Keane and her siblings, the sensibility of Rita and Sarah’s songs reached a worldwide audience.

Dolores Keane came to live with her two aunts in 1957 when she was only 4 years old and the following year made her radio debut. There followed an intense dozen or so years where the young woman absorbed much of her aunts’ repertoire and by the time she made her first album with her soon to be first husband, Johnny Faulkner, the legacy of the Keane sisters was set to make its mark on a whole generation of new singers both female and male who were captivated by Dolores’ rich alto voice. Her subsequent spell with DeDannan brought the singing legacy of her aunts to national recognition In recognition of the influence the sisters have had on the tradition both Rita and Sarah received the TG4 Gradam Saol, Lifetime Achievement Award for traditional song in 2006.
Our condolences go out to the extended Keane family.

Permalink - Posted: July 28, 2009 at 12:58 pm