The annual Gradam Ceoil Awards – the “Oscars” of Irish traditional music – have been announced by TG4 in anticipation of the awards ceremony in the Whitla Hall in Queens University Belfast on Halloween night.
This year’s winners are headlined by Musician of the Year Angelina Carberry, Singer of the Year Niall Hanna, and Composer of the Year Steve Cooney. The Young Musician of the Year is Sorcha Costello, while at the other end of the career spectrum, Seán Ó Sé is to be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The final award for Outstanding Contribution goes to the Glengormley School of Traditional Music.
Born in Manchester, Angelina Carberry has lived in Longford since the 1990s, returning to her musical roots. The extended Carberry family are acclaimed performers: Angelina’s father, Peter, plays the button accordion, his uncle Peter the uilleann pipes, his son Noel also the uilleann pipes and Peter’s grandsons, Diarmuid and Kevin, also play the uilleann pipes.
Angelina started playing traditional music on the tin whistle, but soon took up the banjo – the instrument of choice of her grandfather, Kevin, a well-known player at céilidh and house dances in Longford. Though banjo aficiandos detect echoes of her grandfather’s style, Angelina is very much a virtuoso in her own right.
She has recorded a number of albums – Memories from the Holla (1998 with Peter Carberry, John Blake, Laoise Kelly and Liz Kane), Angelina Carberry and Martin Quinn (2004), An Traidisiún Beo (2005 with Peter Carberry, John Blake, Martin Quinn, Laoise Kelly and Martin Gavin), Pluckin’ Mad (2014, with Dan Brouder), A Waltz for Joy (2017, with Dan Brouder and others)
She was also a member of the acclaimed all-female band, the Bumblebees whose line-up has included last year’s Musician of the Year, Laoise Kelly on harp, Colette O’Leary on accordion, Liz Doherty on fiddle and Angelina on banjo and mandolin.
In many respects, Niall Hanna from Tyrone was born to sing. Growing up with the legacy of his grandfather, Geordie Hanna, and grand-aunt, Sarah Anne O’Neill, Niall has been immersed in music from a very early age and is widely known as an exponent of the Ulster traditional song repertoire and as a writer of songs. Secure in his own singing foundations, Niall has demonstrated the confidence and the musical curiosity to take on a range of innovative projects.
Steve Cooney will be recognised as Composer of the Year. Born in Melbourne Australia in 1953, he came to Ireland in 1980 and maintains his connections with the Aboriginal culture there, into which he was initiated. He has ancestral links with Tipperary, Cavan, and Galway. Steve Cooney is best known for his development of an influential style of guitar accompaniment to traditional Irish dance music which he developed in West Kerry and for which he won the National Entertainment Award with Séamus Begley in 1997.
From Tulla in east county Clare, fiddle player, Sorcha Costello will receive the title of Young Musician of the Year. Sorcha’s musical lineage is peerless; her mother Mary MacNamara is a renowned concertina player and her grandmother Ita’s musical pedigree reached back generations.
This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Cork native Seán Ó Sé who first rose to fame as a singer, singing and recording the most popular song An Poc Ar Buille, with Seán Ó Riada and Ceoltóirí Chúlainn back in the 1960s. Since then, his voice has been recognized as one of the great voices of this country and cannot be surpassed while singing.
The Glengormley School of Traditional Music is awarded the Outstanding Contribution Award for 2021. Over its twenty-year history, this thriving cultural hub has nurtured countless musicians, many of whom have gone on to work professionally. The summer courses in Donegal bond young people socially and musically and instil in them a deep passion for music-making.
The full list of TG4 Gradam Ceoil 2021 recipients reads as follows:
- Ceoltóir na Bliana / Musician of the Year: Angelina Carberry
- Ceoltóir Óg / Young Musician of the Year: Sorcha Costello
- Cumadóir na Bliana / Composer of the Year: Steve Cooney
- Gradam Saoil / Lifetime Achievement: Seán Ó Sé
- Amhránaí na Bliana / Singer of the Year: Niall Hanna
- Gradam Comaoine / Outstanding Contribution: Glengormley School of Traditional Music
Gradam Ceoil TG4 is the premier annual traditional music awards scheme and academy. An independent panel of adjudicators selects recipients each year. It is not a competition. The Gradam Ceoil recipients are presented with a specially commissioned piece by leading sculptor John Coll as well as a small stipend.
This year’s awards will be presented at the Gradam Ceoil TG4 Concert in the Whitla Hall in Queen’s University Belfast and will air on Halloween night at 9:30pm.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, tickets will not be on sale to the public for this concert.