Music and Dance

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Acton, Charles

Acton, Charles (1914–99), music critic, was born Ball-Acton (but changed the former surname by deed poll in 1939) on 25 April 1914 in Iron Acton near Bristol, Somerset, England, into a family that can be traced back to the twelfth century, and with an estate (till 1944) at Kilmacurragh…

Aiken, Jim

Aiken, Jim (1932–2007), music promoter and businessman, was one of seven or eight children born to Joseph Aiken and his wife Annie (née Fagan), and was raised on the family farm in Jonesborough, Co. Armagh, close to the border. After completing his secondary education, he studied…

Aiken, (Mary) Maud

Aiken, (Mary) Maud (1898–1978), musician, was born 13 August 1898 in Dublin, younger of two daughters of John J. Davin , grocer and alderman, and Mary Davin (née O'Gara). In 1914 she entered the Royal Irish Academy of Music and was awarded the Coulson scholarship (1914), the Coulson…

Alexander, Cecil Frances

Alexander, Cecil Frances (1818–95), hymn-writer, known in her family as Fanny, was born in Eccles St., Dublin, second daughter (and third among seven children) of John Humphreys and Elizabeth Frances Humphreys (née Reed). Her mother's brother was Thomas Reed (1796–1883), a general…

Allister, Jean Maria

Allister, Jean Maria (1932–2012), contralto singer, was born on 26 February 1932 in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, the first child of Samuel Allister, a driver and salesman, and his wife Margaret (née Hill). She had a younger brother. At first the family lived in Margaret Avenue in the town…

Andrews, William (‘Billy’,‘Bill’) Nathaniel

Andrews, William (‘Billy’,‘Bill’) Nathaniel (Mac Andrieu, Liam) (1873–1939), musician, was born 9 January 1873 in Dublin, son of Arthur Andrews, printer, and Elizabeth Andrews (née Dunne), both protestants. He studied classical music and was instructed on the piano by his aunt (…

Ashe, Andrew

Ashe, Andrew (1756×1759–1838), flautist, was born in Lisburn, Co. Antrim. His parents' names are unknown. When he was about nine, Andrew was sent to school near Woolwich, England; from an early age he loved music, and on his own initiative paid for lessons out of his allowance.…

Balfe, Michael William

Balfe, Michael William (1808–70), composer and musician, was born 15 May 1808, at 10 Pitt Street, Dublin (renamed Balfe Street in 1917 by the Dublin Corporation, later demolished), and baptised in the parish church of St Ann, Dawson Street, Dublin. He was the third child and only…

Baptist (Crow), Rachael

Baptist (Crow), Rachael (fl. 1750–73), a celebrated black singer in Dublin's pleasure gardens in the 1750s, had a musical career as soloist and entertainer that spanned almost a quarter of a century. Nothing is known of her parents or early history. Her first recorded…

Barry, Billie (Lillian)

Barry, Billie (Lillian) (1921–2014), performer and stage school founder, was born on 27 January 1921 in Drumcondra, Dublin, the youngest of fifteen children to John Clarke-Barry, orchestra leader and musician, and his wife Anne (née Hughes), an amateur operatic singer. The family were…

Barry, Margaret (‘Maggie’)

Barry, Margaret (‘Maggie’) (1917–89), folk singer, was born 1 January 1917 in Peter Street, Cork city, one of five children of Timothy Cleary and his wife Mary or Margaret (née Thompson ); the family were travellers who had been loosely settled in the Cork city area for two…

Bax, Sir Arnold Edward Trevor

Bax, Sir Arnold Edward Trevor (1883–1953), composer, was born 8 November 1883 in Streatham, London, the son of prosperous quaker parents. His father, Alfred Ridley Bax, was a barrister of the Middle Temple, who, possessed of private means, devoted the greatest part of his…

Beckett, John Stewart

Beckett, John Stewart (1927–2007), musician, conductor and composer, was born 5 February 1927 at the Red Cottage, Kilgobbin Road, Sandyford, Co. Dublin, youngest of three children (two sons and one daughter) of Gerald Beckett, medical doctor, and Margaret ('Peggy') Robinson Beckett (…

Beckett, Walter Keohler

Beckett, Walter Keohler (1914–96), composer, musician, and writer, was born 27 July 1914 in Dublin, youngest of four children of James Walter Beckett (qv), building contractor and TD, and…

Behan, Dominic

Behan, Dominic (1928–89), writer, balladeer, and broadcaster, was born 22 October 1928 in Dublin, fourth child of five children of Stephen Behan, house painter, and Kathleen Behan (qv) (née Kearney). Educated at St Agatha's School,…

Bell, George Derek Fleetwood

Bell, George Derek Fleetwood (1935–2002), musician and composer, was born 21 October 1935 in Belfast, the son of William Bell, a banker. When he was two, a doctor told his parents that he was going blind and suggested musical toys as therapy. He was in fact merely short-sighted, but…

Bernelle, Agnes

Bernelle, Agnes (1923–99), singer and actress, was born Agnes Elizabeth Bernauer on 7 March 1923 in Berlin, Germany, daughter of Rudolph Bernauer (1880–1953), a Jewish-Hungarian actor, playwright, librettist, and theatrical director and impresario, and his second wife, Emmy (née Erb) (b…

Best, Edith

Best, Edith (1865–1950), musician, was born 11 July 1865 in Dublin, youngest of fourteen children of Eldred Oldham , Dublin merchant, and Annie Oldham. Educated at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, she studied under Margaret O'Hea, winning the Lord O'Hagan's prize (1883). One of the…

Bewerunge, Heinrich

Bewerunge, Heinrich (1862–1923), musicologist, educator, and composer, was born 7 December 1862 in Letmathe, Westphalia, Germany, the second of nine children of Heinrich Hermann Bewerunge (1836–1901), a building contractor from Lüchtringen-an-der-Weser, and his wife, Maria…

Birchensha (Berchensha, Birchenshaw, Birkenshaw), John

Birchensha (Berchensha, Birchenshaw, Birkenshaw), John (fl. 1641–1681), musical theorist, composer, teacher, and violist, was probably born in Dublin. He may have been the younger son of Sir Ralph Birchensha (fl. 1602), author of the verse account A discourse…

Blackwood, Helena Selina

Blackwood, Helena Selina (1807–67), baroness of Dufferin and Clandeboye , later countess of Gifford, author and songwriter, was born in England (possibly in London or Tunbridge Wells, Kent), second child and eldest daughter of Thomas Sheridan (eldest son of…

Boucher, Edgar William John ('Billy')

Boucher, Edgar William John ('Billy') (1918–2003), musician and broadcaster, was born 5 December 1918 in Dublin, the son of George Alexander Boucher, a plumber, and his wife Sarah Maria (née Jones), a dressmaker; he had two older brothers and two or three older sisters. The family…

Bowles, Michael Andrew

Bowles, Michael Andrew (1909–98), musicologist and founder of the Radio Éireann Symphony Orchestra (later the National Symphony Orchestra), was born 30 November 1909 at Riverstown, Co. Sligo, eldest son among six daughters and two sons of Patrick Bowles, a shopkeeper, and his wife…

Boydell, Brian Patrick

Boydell, Brian Patrick (1917–2000), composer and musicologist, was born 17 March 1917 in Dublin, son (with two younger sisters) of James Boydell, maltster, and Eileen Boydell (née Collins, daughter of Alfred T. Collins (qv)), both of…

Boyle, Ina (Selina Adelaide Philippa)

Boyle, Ina (Selina Adelaide Philippa) (1889–1967), composer, was born 8 March 1889 in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, daughter of Rev. William Foster Boyle, curate in Powerscourt parish, and his wife Philippa Augusta Jephson. Her father made violins and cellos as a hobby. She grew up at…