Tell us about yourself;
My name is Sinéad O’Halloran and I’m a 26- year-old cellist, touring musician and festival curator. I grew up in Blackrock but ended up studying music in universities in the U.S, Germany and the UK. With violinist Mairéad Hickey, I set up the Ortús Chamber Music Festival, which takes place annually in Cork city and county, bringing together the world’s finest young musicians for concerts, education and outreach work in the community.
After freelancing with various ensembles for the past few years, I recently joined the internationally acclaimed Marmen Quartet, with whom I look forward to touring worldwide over the next few years.
As well as playing music, I’m also a big fan of yoga, good food and working with children.
This year’s Ortús Festival takes place in various venues from September 3 to 5.
Where were you born?
I was born in Cork.
Where do you live?
Good question! I officially live in Manchester at the moment but now that I have joined the Marmen Quartet, we have such a busy touring schedule that I’m pretty much on the road for the next few months!
I’m very close to my family. I’m the youngest of three girls. My older sisters both have young kids so one of my greatest pleasures is spending time with my little nieces and nephew!
I’m super-lucky to have an amazing circle of friends from all parts of life. I have a really close group of girlfriends who I have known since primary school, as well as some wonderful musician friends all over the world. However, if I had to choose just one, I would have to choose my boyfriend who has been an incredible support, particularly as I navigated my way through the pandemic.
Earliest childhood memory?
Running around the garden with my dad, building castles with my building blocks, and hearing stories about what Santa’s elves were building me for Christmas. I must have only been about three years old.
Person you most admire?
My mum! Her attitude towards life has always inspired me to be positive and have faith that what’s meant for me won’t pass me by. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her constant encouragement and support.
Where was your most memorable holiday?
One of the perks of being a touring musician is getting to travel the world. A stand-out tour for me would definitely be when we went to the Caribbean to play Mendelssohn Octet. Our hotel in Barbados was right on the beach and we had lots of free time to explore the area, sample the local delicacies, go swimming with turtles… It really felt like paradise!
Favourite TV programme?
My guilty pleasure is definitely Married At First Sight Australia.
Favourite radio show?
I don’t listen to the radio much but I am very into podcasts. I tend to listen to a lot of Irish podcasts as it makes me feel at home! My favourite one at the moment is The Laughs of Your Life with Doireann Garrihy.
Your signature dish if cooking?
I’m a big fan of Italian (vegetarian) food so I mainly cook a lot of pasta and risotto. A recent discovery is a beetroot, feta and walnut risotto — so good!
I always make sure I get to The Good Day Deli when I’m back in Cork.
Last book you read?
I’m currently reading The Comfort Book, by Matt Haig and I am really enjoying it!
Best book you read?
A stand-out book for me is The Boy That Was Raised As A Dog, written by child psychiatrist Bruce Perry. Throughout the book, he explores how trauma affects a child’s brain, using case studies from previous patients, and how they can get through this trauma.
Impossible to choose! But a very dear friend of mine got married recently and my quartet colleagues and I performed an arrangement of the Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun — I haven’t been able to stop singing it since! So perhaps that’s up the top of my list (for today at least!).
One person you would like to see in concert?
There’s this amazing young Icelandic/Chinese singer songwriter and cellist who has the most incredible voice (very Ella Fitzgerald vibes). Her name is Laufey Lin and I’ve tuned into some of her Instagram live performances lately, but would absolutely love to see her live!
Morning person or night owl?
Definitely more of a night owl!
Your proudest moment?
That’s a difficult one. I’ve been really lucky to have some spectacular highlights in my career to date. Perhaps leading the European Union Youth Orchestra cello section at the Armistice Day centenary in front of 84 heads of states and televised to a live audience of millions worldwide. That was a pretty surreal experience!
Also, playing in Carnegie Hall with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. I felt like my childhood dreams were coming true.
Spendthrift or saver?
I like to think that I have a good balance between spending and saving, however I try to only buy clothes from second hand charity shops if possible!
What makes you happy?
My nieces and nephew, spending time with the people that I love most, doing yoga, performing, dancing, working with inspiring musicians.
How would you like to be remembered?
I hope to be remembered as someone who followed their heart and lived a life full of gratitude, kindness and adventures.
What else are you up to at the moment?
I’m very busy preparing for our sixth Ortús Chamber Music Festival, which takes place in Cork from September 3 to 5. I have eight amazing musicians joining me from all over the world for live concerts and online events, so it’s a lot of work, but very exciting to be able to play for Irish audiences again after such a difficult 18 months! You can book tickets on ortusfestival.ie — I would love to see you there!