Paddy Glackin takes Gradam as Musician of the Year

Fiddler, Paddy Glackin, has been named as the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Musician of the Year for 2022. A founder member of the Bothy Band almost fifty years ago, Paddy has contributed to the tradition in a variety of ways –  as a performer, broadcaster, researcher, teacher, recording artist and innovative collaborator. From Clontarf in Dublin, Paddy was brought up in the Donegal style of fiddling by his father, Tom. During his primary school years, he took classical violin lessons at the College of Music in Chatham Row in Dublin, which gave him an important technical grounding in music and helped develop his formidable technique.

On a trip to Donegal with his father, Tom, music collector Breandan Breathnach, and Clare fiddler John Kelly, Paddy encountered the music of the travelling fiddler, John Doherty, whom Glackin subsequently identified as his main influence. But Paddy’s musical tastes are not limited to Donegal: as well as John Kelly, Tommie Potts from Dublin’s Liberties and Padraig O’Keeffe from Slíabh Luachra also figure prominently in his formation as a fiddler. Through the influence of his father and these talented fiddlers, Paddy developed an understanding of a variety of fiddle styles while acquiring a substantial repertoire. In 1973, aged 19, Paddy became senior fiddle champion at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.

While the tradition is the source to which he always returns, Paddy has been open to engage with musicians from other genres – including the multi-instrumentalist Jolyon Jackson on Hidden Ground (1980) and the avant-garde American composer John Cage’s Roaratorio. Among the many performers he has collaborated with are Paddy Keenan, the late Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Robbie Hannan, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Mick Hanly and the late Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin.

He was a member of Seachtar – which, upon the early departure of Tony MacMahon, became The Bothy Band. When the prospect of full-time touring and recording did not appeal to Glackin, he parted ways with the Bothies and was replaced by the late Donegal fiddler, Tommy Peoples, who was in turn replaced by Kevin Burke. Glackin preferred the security and regularity of a carrer in broadcasting so that he could preserve his musical life for his own enjoyment. More recently, he was a member of the occasional performing ensemble, LAPD – made up of Liam (O’Flynn), Andy (Irvine), Paddy and Dónal (Lunny).

Paddy Glackin’s award as Musician of the Year means that all three fiddlers who played with the Bothy Band have won Gradams – Tommy Peoples in 1998 and Kevin Burke in 2016. Of the other members of the band, flute player, Matt Molloy, was named as Musician of the Year in 1999 and piper Paddy Keenan in 2002. Dónal Lunny won a Gradam for Lifetime Achievement in 2017 while Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill won the Composers Award in 2019 – six years after her former band-mate, Tommy Peoples in 2013. The sixth member of the band – the late Mícheál Ó Domhnaill – now shares a Gradam posthumously this year as a member of Skara Brae – along with sisters, Tríona and Maighread (also Singer of the Year in 2005) and Daithí Sproule – in the new category of Music Group of the Year.

So, every member of The Bothy Band has now been recognised with a Gradam. And just for good measure, the seventh member of the band’s precursor, Seachtar – the late Tony MacMahon – also won a Gradam for Lifetime Avchievement in 2005.

Skara Brae: (from left) Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and Daithí Sproule

Lifetime Achievement

This year’s Gradam for Lifetime Achievement goes to Dolores Keane. With one of the most distinctive, soulful, and sweet voices of her generation. Dolores was influenced as a child by the singing of her aunts Sarah and Rita. She began her professional singing career with Dé Dannan in 1975 where her emotive vocals were to stunning effect. Her subsequent work with John Faulkner brought new arrangements to the tradition that was to continue through the 1980s and early 1990s.

Dolores Keane

Her recordings with The Reel Union Band, Solid Ground and Lion in a Cage, were ground-breaking. As well as featuring in the A Woman’s Heart project, Dolores has collaborated with a number of other leading performers including The Chieftains, Paul Brady, John Prine, Rita Eriksen and Emmylou Harris.

Sarah Ghriallais

Conamara sean-nós singer Sarah Ghriallais is the Singer of the Year. Sarah grew up in Muicineach in the Conamara Gaeltacht steeped in the tradition of sean-nós. She won Corn Uí Riada at Oireachtas na Gaeilge in 1984, an award won eight times since by various members of the Griallais family; her sisters Nan and Nora and more recently, her son, Michael Frank Ó Confhaola and her niece Celia Ní Fhátharta. Sarah was appointed singer in residence at NUI-Galway in 2017. Her songs have been recorded by Cló Iar–Chonnacht and most recently Idir Dhá Sháile 2 by Gael Linn. The most noted songs of her repertoire are Táilliúr a’Mhagadh, Eileanóir na Rún, Póg Bhideog and Amhrán Chamuis.

Another fiddle player. Connie O’Connell from Cill na Martra, in the Múscraí Gaeltacht of West Cork is the Composer of the Year. Connie’s music has been influenced by the renowned fiddle players of Sliabh Luachra such as Pádraig O’Keeffe, Denis Murphy and his sister, Julia Clifford. In 2014 a collection of 69 of his compositions was released as a double album (recorded by Connie and his daughter, Áine), along with a book of the tunes. UCC – where Connie has taught fiddle since the 1980s – has made this Bóithrín na Smaointe project available as a free, online learning resource.

Edwina Guckian from Drumsna in Co. Leitrim takes the Gradam for Outstanding Contribution. Steeped in the music of Leitrim and Roscommon as a young child, Edwina is a dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, artistic director, and cultural activist. Through The Airc Damhsa Culture Club, The Leitrim Dance Project, The Modern-Day Mummers and her most recent projects, Sowing the Seed and Jenny Put the Kettle On, she has engaged thousands of children and adults in dance, all in a fun, non-competitive environment. She has also promoted the cultural treasures of her native Leitrim through her work with most cultural and artistic organisations in Ireland today. Having performed with the biggest musical acts in Ireland, she is one of Ireland’s leading solo dancers.

Edwina Guckian

Box player, Diarmuid Ó Meachair from Cúil Aodha in Cork, is the Young Musician. Having started on the tin whistle and growing up singing with the Cór Cúil Aodha, Diarmuid was always immersed in the Irish traditional music world. Drawing from musicians such as Finbarr Dwyer, Jackie Daly, Johnny Connolly and mixing that with techniques from John Kimmell and many Quebec musicians, Diarmuid is one of the most exciting accordion/melodeon players of his generation.

Sponsored by TG4, the Gradam Ceoil awards scheme involves the annual selection of a number of recipients by an independent panel of adjudicators. It is not a competition. The Gradam Ceoil recipients are presented with a specially commissioned piece by sculptor, John Coll, as well as a small monetary award. This year’s awards will be presented at the Gradam Ceoil TG4 Concert, which will take place in Dublin for the first time in Gradam history – at the National Concert Hall on Easter Sunday, April 17. At this live televised concert, hosted by Doireann Ní Ghlacáin & Páidí Ó Lionáird, the 2022 Gradam recipients will be joined in performance on stage by their own special musical guests in a unique, star-studded line-up of musicians and award-presenters. Tickets, each costing €25/€20 (conc.) plus booking fee, are available at https://www.nch.ie/Online/mapSelect.asp?doWork::WSmap::loadMap=Load&createBO::WSmap=1&BOparam::WSmap::loadMap::performance_ids=BD4BB694-1618-45E9-A633-D27432F39157.

The full list of TG4 Gradam Ceoil 2022 recipients:

  • Ceoltóir/Musician – Paddy Glackin
  • Amhránaí/Singer – Sarah Ghriallais
  • Ceoltóir Óg/Young Musician – Diarmuid Ó Meachair
  • Gradam Saoil/Lifetime Achievement – Dolores Keane
  • Cumadóir/Composer – Connie O’Connell
  • Grúpa Ceoil/Music Group- Skara Brae
  • Gradam Comaoine/Outstanding Contribution – Edwina Guckian
Christy Ukraine

Musicians Unite for Ukraine

Among the many acts of solidarity and support for the victims of the
Russian invasion of Ukraine are three significant fund-raising concerts in
Dublin, Westport and Cork.

On April 11 Christy Moore will play a special concert in support of the Irish Red Cross Ukraine Appeal in Vicar Street.

Before that on March 30, Matt Molloy headlines a Ukraine Solidarity Evening in Matt Molloy’s Yard Bar in Westport. The bill includes two bands, Coda and Crooked Trad, as weell as Tony Reidy and Peter Molloy. All proceeds from the evening will go to the Candle of Grace charity – with a suggested donation of €10 each.

Matt Molloy
Karan Casey
Jimmy Crowley
John Spillane
Nell Ní Chróinín

The following night on March 31, a stellar line-up of musicians and artists from Ireland and Ukraine will take part in a special concert in City Hall, Cork, to raise funds and awareness for AURI, the Association of Ukranians in the Republic of Ireland, and for international relief organisations.

The bill includes John Spillane, Karan Casey, Jimmy Crowley, Nell Ní Chróinín, Mná na bPíob (an uilleann-pipe ensemble comprising Máire Ní Ghráda, Rosaleen O’Leary, Mary Mitchell-Ingoldsby, Heather Clarke and Molly Ní Ghráda), Olena Lesya Iglody, Oksana Dobronos, Nadiya Yalova, and students from Ghaelscoil Uí Riada and Gaelscoil Ghort Álainn. The Céilí All-stars will be the house band for the night and poet, Theo Dorgan, will also perform. As well as being available to the live audience, the concert will also be livestreamed on the Cork City Council website with an option to donate.

Gerry and Gilles to record at last

Gilles le Bigot and Gerry O'Connor

Oriel fiddle master, Gerry O’Connor, and Breton guitar vituoso, Gilles le Bigot, will finally undertake a series of Covid-delayed concerts which will include the recording of a new live album (originally scheduled for April 2020). The album, to be titled Live in Oriel, will be a follow-uo to the duo’s 2006 album, In Concert, recorded in Douarnanez in Brittany. It has been the subject of a Kickstarter fundraising campaign.

From Ravensdale near Dundalk, Gerry O’Connor was a founder member of the acclaimed Irish bands Skylark and Lá Lugh and now plays with the North American-Irish band, The Irish Rovers. His long-time musical colleague and friend, Gilles le Bigot is a highly respected guitarist and composer from Douarnanez in Brittany, well known as co-founder of top Breton groups, Skolvan and Barzaz. The duo have played together professionally since the early 1990s as part of Lá Lugh, recording three albums together and also collaborating on the 2012 album, Oirialla, with Nuala Kennedy and Martin Quinn.

Since 2000, they have played as a duo, touring throughout Europe, Australia and USA – releasing their live album, In Concert, in 2006 to critical acclaim. The duo have continued to add to their concert repertoire and, following repeated requests, have finally decided to record once again.

Tour Dates

Saturday, March 26: CCE Culturlann, Monkstown, Co. Dublin: Concert 

Tuesday, March 29: Mary Immaculate College, Limerick: Concert 

Saturday April 2: Armagh Pipers Club 39-41 Scotch St, Armagh City:  Masterclasses and Concert 

Thursday April 7: The Patrick Kavanagh Centre, Inniskeen, County Monaghan:  Concert and Live Recording, as part of Féile Patrick Byrne. in Carrickmacros

Róisín Reimagined – Muireann Acclaimed

The remarkable voice of Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh is perfectly cradled by the Irish Chamber Orchestra in this wonderful presentation of twelve classic songs as Gaeilge.

Both in its unique timbre and its extraordinary range, Nic Amhlaoibh’s natural instrument is perfect for this very sensitive collaboration between singer and ensemble as they revitalise songs from the sean nós canon.

This imaginative and epic project was undoubtedly one of the musical triumphs of a lockdown-affected 2021 when the programme was performed in front of a restricted audience at the Kilkenny Arts Festival last August (and streamed online) and again in November in the University Concert Hall in Limerick, the ICO’s home auditorium. It was subsequently televised on TG4 last Christmas.

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh with the Irish Chamber Orchestra in Kilkenny Cathedfral
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh with the Irish Chamber Orchestra in Kilkenny Cathedfral

While Nic Amhlaoibh’s voice is undoubtedly pivotal in the whole enterprise, it is sympathetically supported by the orchestra performing new arrangements of the material by six leading Irish composers – Linda Buckley, Paul Campbell, Michael Keeney, Cormac McCarthy, Sam Perkin and Niamh Varian-Barry.

Together they have provided the imagination reflected in the project’s title. The rich tones and subtle colours which characterise the new settings add further depth to Nic Amhlaoibh’s impeccable vocals.

Fusing the artistic and the technical together in synchronicity is the project’s producer, Dónal O’Connor – who seems to be at the centre of many of the most exciting musical projects that have happened recently on disc, on stream or on screen.
 
Even though the level of exposure for this ambitious venture has been somewhat  constrained by the pandemic, whenever it has been able to fund an audience, it has received an overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic response. The imminent release of the album in the run-up to the St. Patrick’s Festival should consolidate that response.
While many album reviewers often highlight a stand-out track for the attention of their readers, the quality throughout the album is so high that it is difficult to elevate one above all the others. The limited airplay that has followed the project to date has tended to focus on the opening track, Róisín Dúbh, referenced in the title, which is, of course, also the key motif of Ó Ríada’s Mise Éire, which was in its time hugely influential in persuading many that Irish music deserved to be treated with the same artistic respect as European classical music. So it is appropriate given these associations that the same beautiful air should lead off a project that once again over sixty years later seeks to consider the interplay between classical and traditional music.
 
Nevertheless, having set the bar at the highest level with the opening track, the album maintains that standard throughout with a succession of wonderful performances – executed with exquisite technique and wonderful feeling by a remarkable singer at the height of her powers, exemplified by her stunning rendition of An Chuilfhionn.
 
As the pandemic restrictions begin to ease, perhaps we may now look forward to more live performances of the programme, when the logistics of assembling singer, orchestra and, of course, audience should not be so problematic. It deserves to be heard as widely as possible in person. This year’s edition of the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August – which should the return of full live audiences  – is expected to provide the first such opportunity. In the meantime, this fine recording will suffice. The album us available for pre-order at: https://www.muireann.ie/store/roisn-reimagined.
 
Track Listing:
  1. Róisín Dúbh
  2. An Rabhais ar an gCarraig
  3. Mollaí San Seoirse
  4. Bruach na Carraige Báine
  5. Cailín na nÚrla Donn
  6. ‘S ar Maidin Moch is mé ar mo Leapain Bhoig
  7. Tá mo Mhadra Medley
  8. Táím Sínte ar do Thuama
  9. Sliabh Geal gCua
  10. An tSeanbhean Bhocht
  11. Slán le Máigh
  12. An Chúilfhionn

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh is new Artist in Residence in Gaeltacht facility

Renowned fiddler and singer with Altan, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, has been inaugurated as Artist in Residence in gteic@Gaoth Dobhair. This is the first time there has been an Artist in Residence in the innovation and digital hub or indeed anywhere in Údaras na Gaeltachta’s gteic network. This will be a unique opportunity to hear inspiring Irish traditional music in the gteic@Gaoth Dobhair enterprise environment on the Gaoth Dobhair Business Park and although the arts have been promoted for many years, this will be a novel approach, linking both culture and enterprise on a new footing.

The Gaoth Dobhair facility is part of the gteic digital hub network – an innovative and creative concept that is being developed in over 30 different locations throughout the Gaeltacht. The role of Artist in Residence in gteic@Gaoth Dobhair will be central to supporting and creating links to the economy, the culture and the community. Mairéad’s approach to the appointment will inspire gteic visitors in terms of Gaeltacht culture, language and heritage.

The recipient of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil as Musician of the Year in 2017, Máiréad Ní Mhaonaigh’s life is anchored in music and the culture of Donegal. She was born and raised in Gaoth Dobhair and learned songs and music from her family and neighbours. Mairéad will run a range of activities in gteic@Gaoth Dobhair for the gteic community, the Business Park community, the gteic network community and the wider community. Mairéad already works with local youngsters in the Crannóg and the county’s young fiddlers through the annual Cairdeas na bhFidléirí workshop. As well as singing sessions, Mairéad will deliver lectures based on the music and tradition of the area – the first on the musical culture of the Gaoth Dobhair area on March 11. She will also hold conversational events with the companies based in gteic@Gaoth Dobhair.

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh said: “I am honoured to be inaugurated as Artist in Residence here in the gteic in my place of birth in the Donegal Gaeltacht.  It will be a great opportunity to showcase Irish traditional music culture to all communities that come through the doors here and to share it with the next generation. This is a positive appointment to the arts community in the Gaeltacht areas and I am delighted to be the first gteic Artist in Residence.”

Chief Executive of Údarás na Gaeltachta Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh welcomed the appointment: “We are honoured that a musician such as Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh is the first Artist in Residence in gteic@Gaoth Dobhair.  She will give the Irish music tradition a new platform through gteic members, the entire network and the public and will ensure that the economy, the community and culture, language and the arts are linked which is central to the work of Údarás na Gaeltachta.”

Sillertides: songs across the ocean

Among all the suffering and heartache caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has been one unexpected cultural consequence: namely, the widespread proliferation of online song sessions as many singing clubs have tried to continue some kind of interaction. albeit in rather restricted circumstances.

As well as providing a focal point for local club members, the new online sessions have also attracted additional contributors from around the world.

Visitors from Britain, North America, Europe and Australasia – sometimes as special guests – but more usually as participants from “the floor,” have become a common and welcome feature at most of the online singing sessions in Ireland.

The SIllertides: Linn Phipps and Doug Huggins

This international virtual environment has given rise to a special transatlantic collaboration between two singers – Linn Phipps, a Scot who divides her time beteen the Isle of Lewis and Yorkshire, and Doug Huggins based in Colorado. They have been regular performers on many online singing sessions hosted in Ireland over the last two years.

At one such session, hosted by An Góilín Traditional Singers, Linn and Doug experimented with sharing a song in real time – though separated by over 5,000 miles. Violet Reid’s Norland Wind was an ideal choice since it takes the form of a conversation between two people. So Linn and Doug were able to sing couplets consecutively (thereby avoiding the problem of the small time delays that makes singing in unison online virtually impossible).

This creative approach was so well received that Linn and Doug decided to pursue it further – gradually extending their repertoire and performing regularly at Zoom sessions, virtual folk festivals, céilidhe and workshops in Britain, Ireland and the USA under the name they adopted for their partnership: The Sillertides, suggested in the first verse of Norland Wind.

As well as song videos on their Youtube channel, https://bit.ly/3hzmYNC, Linn and Doug have released a debut album, Silk and Leather (Conversation Songs from the Folk Tradition), which is available on Bandcamp at http://sillertides.bandcamp.com.

Famine Art Exhibition at Clare Museum

Their latest project is a multi-media initiative with Clare-based artist Lionel Coates, whom Linn describes as “an old friend.” Lionel’s major exhibition of paintings entitled Famine, Fields and Fishing on the theme of The Great Famine of 1845-1850, opened in the Clare Museum in Ennis on March 14.  The Sillertides have been working on a number of songs to match individual paintings. As each song is recorded, it is being posted on the Sillertides YouTube channel.
 
So far eleven songs have been posted:
  1. A chuisle grá mo chroí, is at https://youtu.be/i0zH1LrayLI.
  2. The Fields of Athenry, is at https://youtu.be/OErR959RBQc
  3. The Shores of Lough Bran, is at https://youtu.be/rx7AnabLtIY
  4. Verdant Braes of Screen is at https://youtu.be/y2FvOqz9YyQ
  5. The Month of January is at https://youtu.be/q1M8JAVO4bM .
  6. Galway Shawl is at https://youtu.be/pYDkhl3-Wf4
  7. The May Morning Dew is at https://youtu.be/UjypEShPDQc
  8. Spancil Hill is at https://youtu.be/2Ux38YDZvS8
  9. The Quiet Land of Erin is at https://youtu.be/6rChOz6bQQ4
  10. Báidín Fheilimí at https://youtu.be/f2Wut9vilco
  11. Three Fishers at https://youtu.be/XXGOr9Va-ug
Linn and Doug aim to produce up to 20 songs altogether in this series. So even if you cannot get to Ennis to see the exhibition, you can experience it remotely through the Sillertides’ silken singing.

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The Fields of Athenry by Lionel Coates