News & Star Arts Correspondent Pat McEvoy pays tribute to the brilliant composer who dedicated his life to music in Waterford
IT is with great sadness that I record the passing of Eric Sweeney – composer, performer, teacher, friend.
Eric Sweeney was a modest man of immense musical talent whose contribution to the arts in Waterford was truly outstanding. Eric succeeded composer and musician Fintan O’Carroll in the Music Dept. at Waterford Institute of Technology and was Head of the Music Dept. from 1998 until his retirement in 2010.
Eric was a brilliant musician with a vision for the place of music in WIT. He was successful in recruiting top-class teacher-performers that allowed him place performance front and centre in the college’s music degree and the employment of the college’s graduates in the Music Dept. was a source of pride to him.
Eric’s musical career is astonishing in its breadth and longevity. Eric studied in Ireland, England, Belgium and Italy before settling in Waterford. His music has been performed by groups such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Chamber Choir Ireland, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Prague Chamber Orchestra, European Union Chamber Orchestra, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and the Ulster Orchestra among others.
Recent projects include the incidental music for the film ‘Down the Ladder’ and the operas ‘Ulysses’ (2015), ‘The Green One’ (2014) and ‘The Invader’ (2013), with libretto by Mark Roper, which premiered in Waterford and subsequently at the National Opera House, Ireland in 2014.
He was Composer-in-Residence at Waterford Healing Arts Trust in 2018 and, with poet Edward Denniston, produced ‘Hospital Voices’ which was premiered in November 2018. Eric was also organist at Christ Church Cathedral for 27 years.
Eric supported virtually every classical music event in Waterford and joined up the dots for me – when there were many dots – on challenging scores and composers. His knowledge of classical music was as big as Tramore Bay – as was his willingness to share it and answer the many questions that came his way.
Eric will always be regarded as a major player in the musical tradition of Waterford. God bless you, Eric; you were one of our own.
The Waterford News & Star would like to express its sincere condolences to Eric’s wife Sally and to his children Catherine, Rachel and Manus and grandchildren Rhian, Eoin and Lanna.