Martin Joseph Fay, an Irish fiddler and bones player who was a founding member of The Chieftains, died Nov. 14. He was 76 and had been ill for some time.A native of Dublin, Ireland, Fay was a classically-trained violinist. whose initial interest in music was inspired by “The Magic Bow,” a romanticized 1946 film about Nicolo Pagganini featuring Yedudi Menuhin. Fay played in the orchestra of the Abbey Theater, Ireland’s national theater, early in his musical career. Sean O’Riada, the orchestra’s musical director, recruited Fay, who had little interest in Irish music, to be part of the chamber-folk instrumental ensemble Ceoltoiri Chualann. Also in that group was uilleann piper Paddy Moloney, who launched The Chieftains in November 1962. Moloney is the sole remaining founding member of the Grammy Award-winning group that helped to revive and popularize traditional Irish music worldwide and was named as Ireland’s official musical ambassadors.
Fay “had a serious face but would have the rest of us in stitches,” Maloney told Irish newspapers. The Belfast Telegraph quoted him as saying: “As a player, he was fantastic. For instance, the theme music for Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, the first fiddle you hear is Martin. That’s the kind of magical music he leaves behind.” It was The Chieftains’ work on the soundtrack to that 1975 film that helped catapult the group to international stardom. Fay stopped performing with The Chieftains just over a decade ago, having reduced his touring commitments in 2001 before retiring the following year.
On The Chieftains’ official website, his former bandmates posted the following message shortly after his death was announced: “Martin’s memory and music will be with The Chieftains always. He will be dearly missed.”