Every year, TG4, Ireland’s Irish language network, gives out awards honoring traditional musicians. These prestigious awards, known collectively as Gradam Ceoil, are a very big deal in Ireland and in the musical community world wide as well. This year, they were presented at a concert in the Wexford Opera House, and later broadcast nationwide in Ireland. Several of the musicians are well known outside the island of Ireland, other perhaps less so — and two of them are artists I’ve introduced to you in past articles here at Irish Fireside.
The top award, the Gradam Ceoil itself, this year went to Noel Hill. Hill was born in Clare and has lived for some time in Connemara, where he is a respected teacher as well as player of the concertina. What is the concertina? you could be thinking. You might think of it, for quick and rough description, as a mini sort of accordion, not the kind with keys but the button kind. Download Noel’s music on iTunes >>
Pádraic Keane from Galway won Ceoltóir Óg, the young musician award. Pádraic is from a family of pipers and other musically inclined folk — though in his acceptance speech he apologized to his sisters for making a racket practicing his pipes, they both played the fiddle for his set at the concert.
The Hall of Fame nod, Gradam Saoil, was given to Ben Lennon. He is the head of a respected family of musicians, and his wider influence has been felt as a player and a teacher. He lives in Leitrim.
Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin received the musicians award, the Gradam na gCeoltóirí. He is a top class educator at the University of Limerick, a writer, composer, and player. His instrument is the piano.
The award for composer, Cumadóir, went to Liz Carroll. You’ve met the Chicago native Carroll here at the Fireside in her collaboration with guitarist John Doyle and with the String Sisters (Three Irish and Celtic CDs You Should Experience and Three More Irish Celtic & Celtic CDs You Should Experience and Best Celtic Music). She has also worked with Cherish the Ladies, Trian, and Greenfields of America, but it is as a composer that she’s perhaps made her greatest contribution to date: musicians Irish and otherwise have recorded her tunes, and many of her tunes have become session standards wherever Irish music is played. Her instrument is the fiddle. Download Liz’s music on iTunes >>
You’ve met Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh from West Kerry here at the Fireside too, in her collaboration with Scotswoman Julie Fowlis, a recroding called Dual (Three More Irish Celtic & Celtic CDs You Should Experience). On it, they explored the connections between Irish and Scottish Gaelic song. Nic Amhlaoibh has a very fine solo album of her own out, and she’s perhaps best known as the flutist and lead singer with the top Irish traditional band Danu. Muireann won the award for singer, Amhránaí. Download Muireann’s Nic Amhlaoibh music on iTunes >>
Kerry Dexter writes about music and Ireland at Music Road, Wandering Educators, and other places.