Sean Keane - Passion for a Song

by Fred Johnston

Sean Keane Irish SingerHe always knew that he wanted to be a singer more than anything else. Sean Keane talks to Fred Johnston.

Sean Keane was born in 1961 "at the foot of Knockma," Castlehackett, between Tuam and Headford, into a family already famous for singing and music. A move to Carragh, still in the parish of Belclare, brought him "two fields >from my aunts, Rita and Sarah," who lived in Caherlistrane in East Galway.

There were instruments all over the place in his world and for a time the young Sean tried the accordion and fiddle. But he started singing at fleadhs at the age of seven, then took a first prize in the Connaught Fleadh for singing in English. Then Sean went on to win no fewer than 13 All Ireland medals in succession. Reel Union comprised Sean, his sister Dolores, accordionist Mairtin O'Connor and Johnny Faulkner. Then with Johnny Ringo McDonagh, Sharon Shannon, Cathal Hayden and Frances Black, Sean was a founder of the traditional group Arcady.

The lure of the footlights beckoned for a time; he had a prominent role in Druid Theatre's production of Sean Tyrell's musical adaption of Brian Merriman's famous poem 'The Midnight Court', and worked for a period on Tom McIntyre's play Sheep's Milk on the Boil with the Abbey Theatre.

What constitutes a traditional song? "The traditional is an ongoing thing," says Sean, "the music of the people." He takes as an example a song 'The Man form Connemara', which features on his new album and was written by Robbie O'Connell. When, he asked, will it come to be considered a "traditional song."

Sean loves to sing. Songs of all types, all sorts of themes. If the song is good, he says, what else matters?