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Laoise Kelly named Musician of the Year

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WINNER Laoise Kelly is announced as the Musician of the Year at the 2020 TG4 Gradam Ceoil awards ceremony last week in Westport Town Hall Theatre. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

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.
Pride of place went to harper Laoise Kelly from Westport who was announced as TG4’s ‘Musician of the Year’, and is one of the youngest recipients of the main award to date. The announcement was made at a special gathering at Westport Town Hall Theatre last week. Laoise will be presented with the title at TG4’s Gradam Ceoil gala concert which will take place in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall next February. She is one of Ireland’s most significant harpers of her generation and uses a style of playing combining the techniques of fingerpads in the bass and fingernails in the melody on a thirty-four gut strung Paddy Cafferky harp. Laoise was a founding member of the traditional group Bumblebees, who recorded two albums, Bumblebees (1997) and Buzzin (1999) and who toured extensively across Ireland, the UK, Europe, the US and Canada. She was also a founding member of Fiddletree, a folk group from the US, Ireland, Cape Breton and Scotland, who all play instruments made from the same tree and who have released two albums, The Fiddletree (2011) and The Unfathomable Menagerie (2013).
Fiddle and Cello player, Sharon Howley, from Kilfenora, 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.
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. 
The other award recipients are Lifetime Achievement Award to Séamus Connolly, Outstanding Contribution Award to Nenagh’s Ned Kelly and Composer of the Year to 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, February 23 and televised live on TG4 at 9.30pm, hosted by Doireann Ní Ghlacáin and Dónal O’Connor.