Tipperary musician Ned Kelly awarded Traditional Irish Music’s Outstanding Contribution Award

Ned Kelly -- TG4 announces recipients of the 23rd Gradam Ceoil Awards

Nenagh’s Ned Kelly, winner of Outstanding Contribution Award at 23rd Gradam Ceoil Awards


TG4 announces recipients of the 23rd Gradam Ceoil Awards

The Outstanding Contribution Award goes 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.

Kelly’s parents had a love for traditional music and although they were not musicians themselves, his mother was instrumental in re-establishing the local Comhaltas, C.C.E Ballycommon. He started to play the accordion at eleven years of age and took lessons with Michael Harty and Willie Fogarty, with Paddy O’Brien as his main teacher throughout his education on the instrument.

In 1988 Ned won his first solo All Ireland title at the Fleadh ceoil in the under 15 Bosca Cheoil. The following year, he won the under 18 title, and won it again in 1991 and took the senior title in 1992. He also won the Oireachtas in 1989 and after that, toured extensively with Comhaltas and the O’Rourke School of Irish Dancing in Limerick respectively, across Ireland, the UK, Europe, the US and Canada for over a decade.


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.  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, 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.

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 and Composer of the Year to Josephine Marsh.
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 GeneralAlan 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 FundÁine 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”.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane said: “Gradam Ceoil is a fantastic celebration of traditional music and is revered by music fans right across Ireland and beyond. We’re delighted to once again play host to the awards ceremony which promises to be an amazing spectacle of live performances, showcasing world class talent right here in Belfast. I want to wish all those nominated the best of luck and look forward to welcoming everyone to our city for the this great event.”


Tickets for TG4 Gradam Ceoil Awards 2020 are available now from https://www.waterfront.co.uk/what-s-on/gradam-ceoil-tg4-2020
or  +442890334455

For more information see www.gradam.ie or Facebook and Twitter @GradamCeoil  #Gradam

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