Brendan Mulkere, a London-born Irish musician, festival creator, educator, link between the Anglo-Irish, and fiery fiddler, passed away at the age of 73.
Brendan had a unique aptitude as a fiddler who was also organized. If you knew where to look, you could hear him in the Thatch Céil Band, at lock-ins all over London, at the Kilburn Irish Centre if you could stay up late enough, and even on St. Patrick’s Day, on Trafalgar Square, where a group of students, disciples, and joiners-in were hurling Irish music at everyone.
The place to hear Irish traditional music in its truest form was the Kilburn Irish Centre (ras na nGael), which was home to Brendan’s organizations. An army of Irish and London-Irish musicians was stationed there and rarely left. Groups of Connemara men joined hands and sang Sean-nós together. All of it was organized by Brendan, who also taught incredibly huge classes. His lessons consisted of a meditation on a song and discussions on history, geography, speech patterns, and whatever else that came to Brendan’s mind—which was a lot of the time.
Brendan was raised by his singing mother Angela (née Fogarty) and fiddler farmer father Jack in Crusheen, County Clare. He attended Moyrhee National School in Ruan before enrolling at All Hallows Seminary in Dublin to pursue a career as a priest. He moved to London in the early 1970s after earning psychology and arts degrees from University College London and University College Dublin, respectively. He then taught in elementary and secondary schools before turning to music full-time in 1979.
Brendan established the London-Irish Commission for Culture and Education in 1983, and from 1985 to 1993, it oversaw the month-long Sol Phadraig festival of London-Irish artists. He rose to prominence as a leading exponent and instructor of Irish traditional music.
Brendan’s festivals were ambitious and featured well-known plays including No Blacks, No Irish by Gabriel Gbadamosi, Sidewind by Ray Brennan, which focused on the Birmingham Six families, Cromwell by Brendan Kennelly, and The Poor Mouth by Flann O’Brien. His educational initiatives established connections between Irish and London schools and tested instructional tools that aimed to promote cultural understanding.
In order to inspire a new generation of musicians, he returned to County Clare in 2015. In 2019, TG4, an Irish-language television station, presented him with the Gradam Comaoine (exceptional contribution) award for his work as a professor at Limerick University.
Brendan is survived by his partner, Sharon Coffey, her daughters, Claire, Collette, and Sinéad Egan, as well as his siblings, Hilda, Florence, and Frances. He is also survived by his brothers, Des and Enda.
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