A WELL-KNOWN West Belfast musician will be remembered as a "musical genius" by all who knew him.

John Fitzpatrick (55) died suddenly on July 13 on his beloved Achill Island in County Mayo.

John is known by many for his role in the band Nightnoise whom he joined in 1997 and in more recent years as a member of the Broken String Band and Casey's Crew, gigging with other well-known musicians including Brian Kennedy, Noel and Liam Barr, Marino Angelone, Rab McCullough, Ray McAreevey and many others.

Born in November 1967, he grew up in the Fruithill area of Andersonstown.
He started playing the violin at nine years of age and by sixteen was already working professionally in theatre, orchestras and chamber groups. After studying for several years he gained a place in the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

At the same time John was exploring traditional fiddle styles and teaching himself acoustic guitar, on which he began to write his own compositions. Quick to adapt to new influences, John was soon playing blues and jazz with local bands in Manchester and Belfast and became a popular stand-in artist, flexible enough to span the crossover between traditional, blues, country and classical.


Graduating in 1990, he set about researching key points of technique often neglected by academia. Within a few years his active sense of individual aspects in traditional fiddle styles and modern trends made him a keenly sought-after session musician across the island of Ireland as well as abroad.

He gained extensive experience in live and recorded television, working with artists such as Christie Hennessey, David Soul, Chris de Burgh and David Gates, developing his talents as an arranger and composer and playing a key role in the BAFTA Awards in Belfast.

He joined Nightnoise in 1997, touring Spain and North America.

John's sister Barbara said: “He was a genius from an early age. He had a remarkable brain. Musically, he was gifted from an early age. He was great at memorising the notes.

“He was great at improvising and harmonisation as well as all different styles like jazz, folk and classical.

“He was so highly thought of. People were in awe of me because I was John Fitzpatrick’s sister.

“He was a much-loved brother to all of the siblings and he is deeply missed by us all and the wider music community.”

Over the years John developed a deep love for Achill Island, where he passed away suddenly on July 13.

Jeff Johnston of Ark Music in the USA collaborated with John and the late Brian Dunning on some contemporary Celtic instrumental recordings.

“He had a gentle spirit, a poetry-infused imagination, a devastatingly subtle wit and God-gifted playing,” he said.

Billy Cairns, Musical Director of Choral Societies, added: “As we travel through the world of music, occasionally we find a bright light – we did in John.

“John was a perfect gentleman, a gifted musician with the soul to express his craft in an exceptional way.”

The death of John – son of the late John and Meta – is deeply regretted by his wife Cathy, his son Conor, his brother Kieran, sisters Pauline, Anne and Barbara, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, cousins and the entire family circle.