By Sadhbh Hendrick
NUI Galway’s Centre for Irish Studies has announced the appointment of Caitlín Ní Chualáin as Sean-Nós Singer-in-Residence for this year. For readers unfamiliar with the term, ‘sean-nós’ is generally understood to refer to songs in the Irish language. This is a style of singing, hailing from the Gaeltacht regions of Ireland. Singers perform solo, without instrumental accompaniment. Sean-nós singers tell a story through the art of song, combining vocal techniques such as nasalisation and ornamentation to produce a unique and beautiful style of singing.
From the Gaeltacht area of An Teach Mór Thiar, Indreabhán, Caitlín draws on the rich tradition of sean-nós singers from her locality. Caitlín won Comórtas na mBan at the Oireachtas in the years 2005, 2008 and 2014, and the coveted Corn Uí Riada, the premier competition for sean-nós singing at the Oireachtas festival in 2016.
SIN spoke to Caitlín herself to get her view on this new position: “I just have to say what a great honour it is for me to be appointed in this role. Not only does it mean a lot to me personally, but it is great to see Sean-nós being recognized by a national University, and particularly a national University that is so close to the Conamara Gaeltacht”.
A major influence on Caitlín’s style is drawn from her late father, Máirtín Pheaits Ó Cualáin, a winner of Comórtas na bhFear at the Oireachtas in 1944 and 2001. This is evident in the fact that the song Loingseach Bhearna, one Caitlín is closely associated with, is one learned from her father. She added, “I am very excited to have the opportunity to share with others, what I got from my dear father Máirtín Pheaits Ó Cualáin, who passed away in 2013”. Caitlín herself is married with seven children, several of whom are already singers and musicians in their own right. A regular on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Caitlín also works as a journalist, and at concerts and workshops.
Dr Méabh Ní Fhuartháin of the Centre for Irish Studies welcomed the appointment, saying: “We are delighted to have Caitlín Ní Chualáin join us as Sean-Nós Singer-in-Residence this year. Caitlín has a very distinctive voice, which encapsulates the rich tradition that surrounds her. This appointment represents a fantastic opportunity for our students.”
Caitlín will deliver a series of workshops at NUI Galway and will contribute to the expanding Sean-Nós Archive Collection. The workshops are free and open to the public and will begin on Tuesday, 1 October, at 7pm at the Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway. Caitlín encourages all to attend, “I hope people will take the opportunity to come to the classes, and enjoy a rare taste of our Irish heritage”.
This project is funded by Ealaín na Gaeltachta, Údarás na Gaeltachta and An Chomhairle Ealaíon, in association with the Centre for Irish Studies at NUI Galway.