Pic: Diarmuid Ó Meachair, Edwina Guckian & Connie O'Connell- photographer Dermot Byrne
TG4 Gradam Ceoil 2022 Awards ceremony will take place in Dublin for the first time in the awards history. This is the 25th year of the awards ceremony and it will air live on TG4 on Easter Sunday 17th April at 9.30pm from the National Concert Hall. The annual Gradam Ceoil Awards, also known as ‘the Oscars of traditional music’, pay homage to musicians who have advanced, strengthened, and preserved traditional music in Ireland.
Musician 2022 will be awarded to Paddy Glackin. For almost half a century, Paddy has made, and continues to make, a significant contribution to traditional music in Ireland. Amongst leading influences were his father and subsequently, John Doherty, Tommie Potts and Padraig O’Keeffe. Paddy has always been eager to engage with new approaches - his seminal 1980 recording with Jolyon Jackson set a benchmark in opening cross-fertilisation within traditional music and his work with the avant-garde American composer John Cage has been universally acknowledged. The founding fiddle player with The Bothy Band, included amongst many others he has toured and recorded with are Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Liam O’Flynn, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin & Robbie Hannan. Fiddle player, consummate performer, seasoned broadcaster, teacher, recording artist, archivist, collaborator - a true keeper of the flame.
From Cúil Aodha in Cork Diarmuid Ó Meachair is this year’s recipient of the Young Musician 2022 award. 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. His music not only comes from the area but very much from the blood. 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.
This year’s Lifetime Achievement 2022 goes to Dolores Keane. She has one of the most distinctive, soulful, and sweet voices of our generation. As a young girl, she was influenced by the singing of her aunts Sarah and Rita. She began her professional singing career with Dé Dannan in 1975 where her unique, soulful, and emotive voice was heard across the globe. Her work with John Faulkner brought new arrangements to the tradition that was to continue through the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Her recordings with The Reel Union Band, ‘Solid Ground and ‘Lion in a Cage’ were ground-breaking. She has collaborated with Emmylou Harris, The Chieftains, Paul Brady in song from the Irish tradition and other traditions.
Connie O’Connell will be awarded Composer 2022. Connie is a fiddle player and composer from Cill na Martra, in the Múscraí Gaeltacht of West Cork. Connie’s music has been influenced by the renowned fiddle players of the nearby Sliabh Luachra area such as Denis Murphy, Pádraig O’Keeffe, and Julia Clifford. In 2014 a collection of 69 of his compositions was released as two CDs (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.
Conamara sean-nós singer Sarah Ghriallais is this year’s Singer 2022. Sarah grew up in Muiceanach Idir Dhá Sháile 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 NUIG 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’.
Edwina Guckian from Drumsna in Co. Leitrim receives the Outstanding Contribution Award 2022 Edwina was steeped in the music of Leitrim and Roscommon as a young child. She is a dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, artistic director, and cultural activist who since the age of 16 has innovated and moulded various projects and gatherings all of which explore the relationship between music and movement.
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 works tirelessly to promote the cultural treasures of her native Leitrim through her work with most cultural and artistic organisations in Ireland today. She has performed with the biggest musical acts in Ireland today and is without doubt, one of Ireland’s leading solo dancers.
A new award introduced this year, the Music Group 2022 goes to Skara Brae. Skara Brae’s emergence in the early 1970’s rejuvenated an interest in Irish traditional singing at a time when it was in danger of dying out. They produced a unique, ground-breaking sound which challenged the traditional view of sean-nós singing but remains fresh and innovative to this day. Skara Brae are sisters and brother Tríona, Maighread and Mícheal Ó Domhnaill (1951-2006) and Daithí Sproule. Skara Brae’s distinctive sound is rooted in the tradition whilst also taking inspiration from emerging pop and folk acts of the 1960’s such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez. A new, young emerging audience were grabbed by Skara Brae’s raw, edgy, fresh sound and their 1971 album continues to inspire generations of traditional Irish singers and musicians to this day.
The full list of TG4 Gradam Ceoil 2022 recipients reads as follows:
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
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 Nation Concert Hall, Dublin on Easter Sunday 17th April. 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 available at www.NCH.ie
TG4 Commissioning Editor, Proinsias Ní Ghráinne, says, “I am delighted that TG4 can keep celebrating the very best of traditional music and song each year. We are honoured to witness such an array of spectacular performances on the Gradam stage and on the many stages and locations of our traditional music programming throughout the year.
Gradam comes to Dublin for the first time to celebrate a milestone of 25 ears. Comhghairdeas le na faighteoirí uilig. Is sibh croí agus anam na tíre seo.”
Gradam Ceoil TG4 2022 – Paddy Glackin
Fiddle player and founding member of the Bothy Band, Paddy Glackin, was born in Dublin and began learning the fiddle from a young age. His father Tom Glackin was a notable fiddle player and taught him the instrument, instilling in him an interest in the fiddle music of Donegal. Glackin’s style of playing was influenced by his father, and subsequently fiddle players John Doherty, Tommie Potts and Pádraig O’Keeffe. In 1973 he was the fiddle champion at the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, and in 1975, he became a founding member of the Bothy Band (original known as Seachtar) with Dónal Lunny, Paddy Keenan, Matt Molloy, Tony MacMahon, Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill.
Glackin also worked as an archivist and as Traditional Music Officer for the Arts Council. He later moved into broadcasting, taking a position with RTÉ radio as a sports producer, presenter, and eventually editor. He released many solo and collaborative albums including Glackin (1977), Doublin (1978) with piper Paddy Keenan, and In Full Spate (1991) with Dónal Lunny.
Although his interests are rooted in Irish traditional music, Glackin has also been involved in a number of experimental recordings including Roaratorio (1979) by American avant-garde composer John Cage, and Hidden Ground, a recording from 1980 made with the late multi-instrumentalist Jolyon Jackson which is notable for its use of synthesizers alongside Glackin's traditional fiddle playing. In March 2021, he performed at the National Concert Hall as part of a concert celebrating the music of Liam O’Flynn. As a fiddle player, recording and performing artist, broadcaster, archivist and collaborator, Glackin has contributed significantly to Irish music throughout his long and fruitful career.
Grúpa Ceoil TG4 2022 - Skara Brae
Irish traditional music group Skara Brae formed in 1970 by Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, and Dáithí Sproule. The Ó Domhnaill siblings grew up in Kells, Co. Meath, and their father Aodh Ó Domhnail was a musician, singer, and music collector from Rann na Feirste, Co. Donegal. As children, they were immersed in the language and culture of the area, and later met Sproule there while attending the Irish language summer school, during which they began singing and playing together.
Their only record Skara Brae, released in 1971 on Gael Linn Records, is considered a hugely significant album in the Irish music tradition. At the time of recording, Maighread was 15 years old, Tríona was 16 and Micheál and Dáithí were 19 and 20. Their style is rooted in Irish traditional music, but also included influences from rock and pop musicians such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez. The group blended these influences into seán-nós songs of Donegal – such as ‘An Cailín Rua’ and ‘An Saighdiúir Tréigthe’ – with unique harmonies and counter melodies on guitar and clavinet. The group disbanded in 1972 and each of the musicians went on to perform with groups such as The Bothy Band, Altan, Relativity, and Nightnoise among others. In December 2021, RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta marked fifty years since the album’s release with a special programme including members of the group in the studio.
Gradam Comaoine 2022 – Edwina Guckian
Edwina Guckian is a dancer, choreographer and cultural producer from Drumsna, Co. Leitrim. Growing up in a household surrounded by traditional music and dance, her style is greatly influenced by the local music of Leitrim and Roscommon. She has performed with artists and groups including Altan, De Danann, Dervish, Mairtín O’Connor, Frankie Gavin, Kíla, Martin Hayes, Séamus Begley, and Laoise Kelly. She began teaching dance at age 16 and in 2004, she founded Áirc Damhsa Culture Club – a traditional dance club for children and young people.
Guckian is also the Artistic Director of Leitrim Dance Project and has produced events focused on traditional arts and dance. In 2020 and 2021, she managed the Modern Day Mummers project, where she – along with singer Fionnuala Maxwell and accordionist Brian Mostyn – visited the homes of elderly people across Leitrim, dancing, playing music and performing. The project aimed to revive the mumming tradition and break the social isolation experienced by many elderly people during the pandemic. Other recent projects include Devil in the Feet, a documentary on the history of Irish traditional dance (2021); Sowing the Seed, a project aimed at reviving the customs and folk traditions of Ireland associated with straw (2021); and in November 2020, she featured in an episode of the Irish Traditional Music Archive’s Drawing from the Well online series.
Ceoltóir Óg TG4 2022 – Diarmuid Ó Meachair
Diarmuid Ó Meachair is a button accordion player from Cúil Aodha, in the Gaeltacht region of Múscraí, Co. Cork. In addition to playing the BC, C#D, and DC# accordion, he plays the 10-key melodeon player and is a sean-nós singer. His playing is influenced by musicians Finbarr Dwyer, Jackie Daly, Johnny Connolly, and American accordionist John Kimmel, and also takes inspiration from the Quebec folk music tradition. In 2016, he won the Senior All-Ireland melodeon title at the Fleadh in Ennis at age 19. At the All-Ireland Fleadh the following year, he was invited to perform a tribute concert in memory of Finbarr Dwyer. As a singer, he has won several sean nós competitions at the Oireachtas na Samhna.
Ó Meachair is also a primary school teacher, having graduated from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick in 2018. He now teaches at Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin in Ballincollig, Co. Cork, where he directed a group of 80 children to perform four sean-nós songs as part of children’s performing arts event, Cór fhéile Chorcaí. In 2018, he performed, and hosted a workshop on the button accordion, at Éigse Dhiarmuidín; in 2020 he performed solo as part of the TG4 series Tradfest; and in 2020 and 2021, he taught at the Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy.
Gradam Saoil 2022 - Dolores Keane
Dolores Keane is a traditional singer and an early member of the folk group De Dannan. She grew up in Sylane, a small village in Co. Galway, and was raised by her aunts Rita and Sarah Keane, who were well-known sean-nós singers. Keane was singing from a young age due to the influence of her aunts and began her professional singing career in 1975 when she joined De Danann. She toured internationally with the band in the late 1970s and featured on their self-titled debut album in 1975 before leaving the band to pursue a solo career. In 1978, she recorded her first solo album There Was a Maid, followed by Broken Hearted I'll Wander (1979) and Farewell to Eirinn (1980). She later re-joined De Dannan and recorded albums Anthem (1985) and Ballroom (1987).
In 19991, she contributed to the RTÉ/BBC television programme Bringing It All Back Home where she performed in Nashville, Tennessee, with Emmylou Harris and Richard Thompson. Keane was one of several female Irish singers to collaborate on the album A Woman’s Heart (1992), which also featured Eleanor McEvoy, Mary Black, Frances Black, Sharon Shannon and Maura O'Connell. The album featured Keane singing works such as ‘Caledonia’ and ‘The Island’, and became the best-selling record in Irish history at the time. The group released a second album, A Woman's Heart Vol. 2 in 1994. She released her final solo album Night Owl in 1998, and has toured globally since, both solo and with De Dannan.
Amhránaí TG4 2022 - Sarah Ghriallais (Sorcha Bn. Uí Chonghaile)
Sarah Ghriallais is a sean-nós singer from Muiceanach Idir Dhá Sháile in the Connemara Gaeltacht. She is an acclaimed singer, winning the Corn Uí Riada award at the Oireachtas for the first time in 1984. The same prize has also been awarded to her son Michael, her sisters Nóra and Nan, and her niece Celia Ní Fhátharta. Some of the most notable works in Ghriallais’ repertoire include Táilliúr a’ Mhagadh’, ‘Eileanóir na Rún’, ‘Póg Bhideog’ and ‘Amhrán Chamuis’. Ghriallais has recorded on the Cló Iar-Chonnacht label, and also featured on the Roger Doyle record Under the Green Time.
In 2017, she was appointed sean-nós singer-in-residence at NUI Galway’s Centre for Irish Studies where she hosted a series of sean-nós singing workshops. She recently released the album Idir Dhá Sháile 2: Amhráin ar an Sean Nós, which was recorded in 1987 and stored in the Gael Linn archives. It includes works such as ‘Sagart na Cúile Báine’, ‘Eilieanóir na Run’, ‘Póg Bhideog’ and ‘An Draighneán Donn’, as well as a number of tracks featuring accordion-player Johnny Óg Connolly with accompaniment on piano by John Blake.
Cumradóir TG4 2022 – Connie O’Connell
Connie O’Connell is a fiddle player and composer from Cill na Martra, in the Muscraí Gaeltacht of West Cork. His father’s side of the family had a history of fiddle playing, and his mother played the melodeon at local house dances, however O’Connell’s playing was self-taught. His style has been influenced by renowned fiddle players of the nearby Sliabh Luachra area including Denis Murphy, Pádraig O’Keeffe and Julia Clifford.
As a recording artist, O’Connell featured on Ceol go Maidin (1992), a Comhaltas recording with flute player Seamus MacMathuna and accordion player Jimmy Doyle. In 2000, he released his first solo album, Ceol Cill na Martra, on the Shanachie label. The album featured a collection of tunes composed by O’Connell, including ‘The Torn Jacket’ which has become a well-known piece within Irish traditional music. In 2014 he released Bóithrín na Smaointe – a double CD of his compositions recorded with his daughter, Áine, along with a book containing the tunes. University College Cork, where O’Connell has taught fiddle since the 1980’s, has hosted this Bóithrín na Smaointe project as a free online learning resource. O’Connell also featured in a recent book by Jessica Cawley, Becoming an Irish Traditional Musician: Learning and Embodying Musical Culture, in which he spoke about his musical career and how he developed his style.