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.
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.
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.
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.
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