Women lead the way in this year’s Gradam Ceoil TG4 accolades, as ‘Musician of the Year’, ‘Young Musician of the Year’ and ‘Composer of the Year’ are awarded to highly-talented female musicians.
Harper Laoise Kelly from Westport, Co. Mayo is announced as TG4’s ‘Musician of the Year’, and is one of the youngest recipients of the main award to date. Laoise will be awarded the title at TG4’s Gradam Ceoil gala concert which will take place in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall next February.
Fiddle and Cello player, Sharon Howley, from Kilfenora, Co. Clare has been selected as this year’s Young Musician of the Year.
Sharon was immersed in traditional music from a young age with a rich musical lineage; her father sings and plays and both her grandfathers, Micky McCormack and Michael Slattery sang and played music. Her wider relations include the Mulqueeney’s and McCormack’s who played with the older formations of the Kilfenora Ceilí Band.
Séamus Connolly receives the Lifetime Achievement Award. Séamus is a fiddle player, teacher, author, composer, recording musician and event organiser from Killaloe, Co. Clare and has spent most of his life in the US, living in Massachusetts and working at Boston College. The most significant project of his career however, is The Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music, an online, digitised collection of over three hundred tunes, compiled by Connolly, and performed by a selection of other traditional musicians as well as himself.
Born in Killaloe in 1994, Connolly grew up in a musical family. In 1976, Connolly emigrated to Massachusetts in the US, where he still lives. He began working with Boston College in 1990, where he established Irish music, song and dance programs at the university’s Irish Studies Program.
Composer of the Year goes to Josephine Marsh. Multi-instrumentalist and composer Josephine Marsh primarily works as a full-time musician and teacher, playing the accordion as her main instrument and also the fiddle, concertina, whistle, mandolin, guitar and banjo. She has recorded several albums to date and has had her compositions recorded by various artists including Mick McGoldrick and John McSherry, Padraig Rynne, Liadain and The London Lassies.
Born in London to Irish parents, Marsh now lives in West Clare. Her father Paddy played concertina and accordion and was her earliest musical influence. When she first became interested in the accordion at age seven, she was encouraged in primary school by her principal Niall O’ Donnell and started taking lessons at age ten. She started playing with a local music group and entered the Fleadh Ceoil and the Oireachtas, as well as Gael Linn youth festival Slogadh.
Lillis Ó Laoire, two-time winner of the premier sean-nós singing competition Corn Uí Riada in 1991 and again in 1994 is to be awarded the title of Singer of the Year.
Outstanding Contribution Award to Nenagh’s Ned Kelly. Ned is a four-time All-Ireland Fleadh Ceoil-winning accordion player from Ballycommon, Co. Tipperary who teaches music and manages a traditional youth orchestra in addition to running his dairy and beef farm.
Gradam Ceoil TG4 is 23 years in existence, an awards ceremony that recognises and celebrates the cream of Irish traditional music.
The full list of TG4 Gradam Ceoil 2020 recipients reads as follows:
Ceoltóir na Bliana/Musician of the Year: Laoise Kelly
Ceoltóir Óg/Young Musician of the Year: Sharon Howley
Gradam Saoil/Lifetime Achievement: Séamus Connolly
Amhránaí na Bliana/Singer of the Year: Lillis Ó Laoire
Gradam Comaoine/Outstanding Contribution: Ned Kelly
Cumadóir na Bliana/Composer of the Year: Josephine Marsh
Gradam Ceoil TG4 is the premier annual traditional music awards scheme and academy. An independent panel of adjudicators select 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 Waterfront Hall, Belfast on Sunday 23rd February and televised live on TG4 at 9:30pm, hosted by Doireann Ní Ghlacáin & Dónal O’Connor, the 2020 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.
TG4 Director General, Alan Esslemont, says: ‘Gradam Ceoil TG4 is 23 years in existence, and recognises the best of traditional Irish music, an initiative that TG4 is immensely proud of. I would like to congratulate all of this year’s winners. They are the embodiment of traditional Irish music and song, and we are delighted to award them the highest honour in Irish music. Gradam Ceoil TG4 will take place in The Waterfront Hall in Belfast for the third year running, a successful collaboration with Belfast City Council, ILBF, Red Shoe Productions and TG4’.
Northern Ireland Screen’s Head of the Irish Language Broadcast Fund, Áine Walsh says: “We are delighted that Gradam Ceoil will broadcast live from Belfast for the third year running, in 2020. As well as giving recognition to the Gradam winners this is also a fantastic platform for the talent and broad musical heritage of the North. It is also wonderful that this celebration will be seen by a worldwide audience”.