Ever since we learned the shocking news on Wednesday last that Mick Moloney had suddenly died, thousands of tributes have been written by people of all walks of life who dearly loved him.
Mick was a giant in every way, in traditional Irish and Irish American music, in research and writing, in teaching and in mentoring new generations of musicians. His achievements were recognized by the President of Ireland who awarded him the Distinguished Presidential Service Award for contributions to Irish culture in Ireland and worldwide. In the United States, Mick was awarded the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. These recognitions are the highest honors bestowed by each government on a traditional artist.
For the last quarter century, Mick was Global Distinguished Professor at New York University and Glucksman Ireland House. He taught and supervised students in Ethnomusicology and Irish and Irish American Studies. The growth and maturation of the public and educational programs at Glucksman Ireland House are unthinkable without his contributions. These include his award-winning undergraduate teaching, numerous Ph.D. and MA mentees, the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra, and most especially, two research programs in cultural history: one centered on Irish and Jewish relations in New York City (captured in his Compass Records CD, “If It Wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews”), the other centered on the long and complex history of collaboration and competition between Irish and African-Americans. A documentary film of Mick’s collaboration with Lenwood Sloan on this subject was being made at the time of his untimely death.
Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Chair of the Advisory Board at Glucksman Ireland House, said, “I am so devastated at Mick Moloney’s sudden death. As a beloved Professor at Glucksman Ireland House, Mick will always be remembered for his seminal research on Irish American music, teaching, joyous concerts, and exuberant banjo playing. All of us at Glucksman Ireland House – faculty, students, Board, and friends – send sincere condolences to his family.
Professor Kevin Kenny, Director of Glucksman Ireland House, noted, “I knew Mick as a colleague and a friend for twenty-five years, both at NYU and at Boston College. I have many warm memories of our time together but what I will always remember most is his extraordinary calm as a performer, his complete mastery of his art.”
Mick was unfailingly generous in sharing his many talents, only last weekend playing to large crowds at the Belfast Celtic Festival in Maine, including patiently encouraging the young musicians who attended the festival.
Although we’ve been friends for decades, I had the pleasure only recently of taking his History of Irish American Music MA class at NYU, relishing Mick’s immense love of research, his inclusivity, his humanity, and his talent for teaching. After class, Mick was always happy to join students for a cuppa tea at a local hostelry.
Mick combined in remarkable ways the scholar’s wisdom and deep learning, the teacher’s ability to convey that wisdom in fresh and memorable language, the entertainer’s bravery and charisma to be at home on stage before dozens or tens of thousands, and the gentleman’s regard for all other humans of whatever station.
Mick donated his talents to many public causes, memorably performing online from Thailand for a series of “Irish for Biden” events in 2020.
On Wednesday evening our family listened to recordings of his music, including “If it wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews.” During this song, our two-year-old granddaughter suddenly got up and started dancing joyfully to the music and we all joined in. It seemed a fitting way to remember Mick, a constant source of joy and inspiration.
There will be many occasions to mourn our great loss and to celebrate Mick’s achievements. For now, we send our deepest sympathy to his family. For Mick it can truly be said, Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís. ♦
Paul Meade says
God bless you Mick; we miss you so much, but we will see you again a little later.
John Barr says
The Mick made memories. Mick was recipient of the 1st Michael Flanagan Award, as the finest banjo player in Ireland. The Flanagan family grieves the loss of this iconic musician and dear friend, .
Donie Carroll says
This indeed is a heartbreak for all of us that knew Mick Moloney. I had the great delight
to share some songs and tunes with him a few days before his passing at Mary O’s
trad session last Thursday night, and to drive him to his apartment later in Bleeker Street.
We made some more plans for lunch, and another session on Monday night as we said goodbye but alas that was our last parting. I’ve been at the Mercy Center in Bangkok on many occasions with Mick and the fundraising efforts that we enjoyed together will continue at the New York Irish Center on Saturday October 22nd with a star studded lineup including the great Tommy Sands. Mick we love you pal.
John McAuliff says
We have lost a great person whose spirit was larger than most. Mick and I became friends when we both lived in Philadelphia. People may not be aware of his broad progressive interests, including the long and costly struggle for peace and justice in Northern Ireland. He and the Green Fields of America accompanied Peter Yarrow on a performance tour of post-war Vietnam to heighten understanding of the ongoing impact of Agent Orange and to raise funds to benefit its victims, sponsored by the Fund for Reconciliation and Development. Mick made several more musical visits to Vietnam on behalf of the Embassy of Ireland and Agent Orange assistance. He and the Green Fields also traveled four times to Cuba with FFRD, beginning in 2014 before relations with the US were normalized. Their most recent visit in 2019 was sponsored by the Irish embassy to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Cuba-Ireland relations. While living in Bangkok, Mick traveled regularly to the border of Myanmar to help endangered minorities preserve their traditional culture. Enjoy their tour of Holguin and Santiago https://youtu.be/-1FnKrBurpA and their first performance in Havana. https://youtu.be/WXtUseVO2UU A very basic four part video of the 20th anniversary concert is here https://youtu.be/B3Jw1wSU3RI