Sinéad O'Halloran. Photo: Magda Lukas

Cork Profile Sinéad O'Halloran

Cellist and festival curator

When you were small, what did you want to be as a grown-up? A musician, a paediatrician or a fashion designer.

Tell us about your career progression to your role today: I grew up in Cork studying cello at the Cork School of Music. I did further studies in Dallas, Düsseldorf and Manchester. I played with numerous ensembles worldwide and toured for 7 years with the European Union Youth Orchestra. In 2016 I set up the Ortús Chamber Music Festival with violinist Mairéad Hickey and in 2021 I was invited to join the renowned Marmen Quartet, with whom I now work full time.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do? We get to see so much of the world through our tours – the past few weeks have brought us around Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Croatia and the UK, so it’s a wonderful way to get to know different cultures and try new food!

What motivates you? When an audience member comes to speak to me after a concert and tells me that they were moved by my performance; that it made them feel something, excited them or even just transported them to another world for a few minutes. That motivates me to keep doing what I do.

What advice would you give your 15 year old self? I would probably tell her to trust the process and to try not to stress too much about the future! Things have a way of working themselves out!

If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing? If I wasn’t a musician, I would probably be a primary school teacher or kindergarten teacher. I absolutely love working with children and I try to bring music into classrooms as much as possible to satisfy that passion of mine!

What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date ? That’s a difficult question. I’m proud of what we have achieved with the quartet to date; performing in some of the world’s greatest concert halls to rave reviews – but I’m probably most proud of how hard we work to maintain positive relationships within the group. I’m also very excited to be premiering Shaun Davey's new cello concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra on St Patrick’s Day in the National Concert Hall.

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life? Probably my mum. She has always been a huge inspiration to me, and I still value her opinion and advice every day.

What is the life dream now? Probably to continue feeling happy and fulfilled in my professional and personal life!

How do you switch off? Yoga, reading, meditation, walks and Netflix.

What is your favourite Cork memory? At our very first Ortús festival, performing a flash mob of Sam Perkin's piece ‘Pause’ on the train from Kent to Cobh. The sun was shining in the window and the scenery was just beautiful – everyone on the train seemed very moved by the experience and we had such a fantastic day with the visiting musicians, celebrating the fact that we managed to pull off a very successful festival, despite the fact that we were much younger than your usual festival directors back then!

What is your favourite place in Cork? I always love going to the Good Day Deli. The food is exquisite, and the gardens are so charming. It’s like a little getaway in the centre of the city!

Do you have a favourite quote or motto? ‘What’s meant for you won’t pass you by’.

When are you at your happiest? When I’m hanging out with my nieces and nephews.

What is your hidden talent? I used to be extremely good at hula-hooping – winning a Super Quinn’s competition when I was a child after doing it for over 20 minutes! It’s been awhile since I’ve put my skills to the test but I would like to think I’ve still got it!

What might we be surprised to know about you? Even though I spend most of the year on tour, I’m terrible at packing quickly!

Anything else you’d like to share with us? I hope to see you at our festival! I’ve brought together some of the most special musicians that I’ve met all around the world to share some of our favourite music with you. We have 7 different programmes in venues all around the city and county – there is something for everyone! See


Name and position: Sinéad O’Halloran, cellist and festival curator

Age: 28

Lives: London

Family: 2 sisters and amazing nieces and nephews

Pets: Sadly none!

Favourite thing about Cork: The people and the banter!

Least favourite thing about Cork: The weather?!

One thing you’d change about Cork: I would have more flights out of Cork airport