Monday, April 9, 2012

Paddy O'Brien Honored As Traditional Composer of the Year

I'm over the moon and so proud of my husband, Paddy O'Brien, who was honored as Ireland's 2012 Composer of the Year at the recent Gradam Ceoil Irish Traditional Music Awards in Limerick. The awards are sponsored by TG4, the Irish language television network (now part of RTE, the national broadcasting service).

Paddy joins a long list of Irish traditional music luminaries with this honor, including previous winners Paddy Fahy, Vincent Broderick, Charlie Lennon, Peadar Ó Riada, and Liz Carroll.

The broadcast kicked off with a bang: several of Paddy's compositions, SARAH'S DELIGHT, THE WOODEN CITY POLKAS, and THE SMALL HILLS OF OFFALY, as performed by the ensemble from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance! After a short interview, Paddy also performs a couple of his compositions, TINY THE TROOPER and THE TURF CUTTER, with accompaniment from guitarist Tommy O'Sullivan.

Here's some background on the awards from Paddy's website:

This year’s Gradam Ceoil recipients range over a wide spectrum of talents. Those honored in the various categories include a legendary Donegal fiddler who also spent most of his life in London, a US-based world-renowned composer and scholar originally from Offaly, an Armagh couple whose life has been spend teaching traditional music in that city and county and two young Gaeltacht musicians from Ring and Muskerry who, while still in their early twenties, have already achieved much in their chosen musical disciplines. The full list of TG4 Gradam Ceoil 2012 recipients is:
  • Gradam Ceoil (Musician) – Brian Rooney, fiddle
  • Ceoltóir Óg (Young Musician) – Caoimhín Ó Fearghail, uilleann pipes
  • Gradam Saoil (Hall of Fame) – Danny Meehan, fiddle
  • Cumadóir (Composer) – Paddy O’Brien, button accordion
  • Amhránaí (Singer) – Nell Ní Chróinín
  • Gradam Aitheantais (Contributions) – Eithne agus Brian Vallely, fiddle and pipes
Gradam Ceoil TG4 2012
This year’s awards were presented at the Gradam Ceoil 2012 Concert at University Concert Hall, Limerick on Saturday 24th March. Recipients were joined by a host of special guests in a concert hosted by Aoife Ní Thuairisg and Páidí Ó Lionáird that was also broadcast on TG4 on Easter Sunday, 8th April 2012. The program included performances from:
  • Brian Rooney, John Carty, James Carty & Brian McGrath
  • Nell ní Chróinín & Eoiní Ó Súilleabháin
  • Danny Meehan, Tommy Peoples, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh & Dermot McLaughlin
  • Brian, Eithne & the Vallely Family
  • Paddy O’Brien & Tommy Sullivan
  • Caoimhín Ó Fearghail, Seán Ó Fearghail, Dónal Clancy & Tomás Ó Gealbhain
  • Ceoltóirí Dhámh Chruinne Éireann, Rince & Ceol, Luimneach

Past Winners of the TG4 Traditional Composer of the Year Award
Gradam Ceoil TG4 recognizes the importance of constantly adding to Ireland’s vibrant dance music repertoire by presenting Gradam an Chumadóra each year. Much of the work of these composers has already become a part of the tradition, regularly played at sessions and recorded by other artists.

Previous Winners
2001 – Paddy Fahy, Co. Galway
2002 – Brendan Tonra, Co. Mayo
2003 – Vincent Broderick, Co. Galway
2004 – Richie Dwyer, Co. Cork
2005 – Josephine Keegan, Co. Armagh
2006 – Charlie Lennon, Co. Leitrim
2007 – Jim McGrath, Co. Fermanagh
2008 – Peadar Ó Riada, Dublin
2009 – Con Fada Ó Drisceoil, Co. Cork
2010 – John & Finbarr Dwyer, Co. Cork
2010 – Liz Carroll, Chicago, IL  USA

For more information about the Gradam Ceoil TG4 2012, visit:  Gradam Ceoil TG4


Paddy O’Brien was born in Daingean, Co. Offaly in 1945. He took up the accordion as a youngster and travelled widely, seeking out older players, honing his craft and carefully building up his repertoire. His formative influences included Joe Delaney and Dan Cleary of Offaly, Galway fiddlers Paddy Fahy and Eddie Kelly, Donegal fiddler John Doherty, Frank Mc Collum of Antrim, Seán Ryan from Tipperary and Dublin’s Tommy Potts. Paddy moved to Dublin in 1969, where he often played with Clare fiddlers Joe Ryan and John Kelly. This experience provided a great learning ground where he continuously amassed a wealth of knowledge on tune settings and much anecdotal background information on repertoire and musicians. Given his penchant for collecting tunes, and his predilection towards unusual settings, it was natural, perhaps, that he would turn his hand to composition.

Paddy has been living in Minnesota since 1983, performing and teaching all over North America and Ireland, and was invited to perform in Moscow in 2008. Several of Paddy’s most popular compositions are ‘The Small Hills of Offaly,’ ‘The Antrim Rose,’ and ‘Sarah’s Delight’ which appeared on two classic 1970s LPs entitled ‘Is It Yourself?’ and ‘Spring in the Air,’ with Dublin-born fiddle maestro James Kelly (son of John Kelly, and TG4 Musician of the Year 2006), and Derry-born guitarist (and member of Altan) Dáithí Sproule. Both classic recordings were combined into a single CD entitled ‘Traditional Music of Ireland’ (Shanachie 34014), which continues to influence Irish musicians worldwide.

In September 1994, Paddy received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that enabled him to record the 500 tunes that comprise The Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection – Volume One: A Personal Treasury of Irish Traditional Music, an impressive and a massive undertaking that has been acclaimed worldwide. Volume Two of this collection followed in 2011, with 150 double jigs, 120 hornpipes, 100 polkas,  100 reels,  and 30 slip jigs. This is a unique corpus, the output of a lifetime’s collection of unusual settings and versions, and some original compositions, with detailed notes.

Over the course of his long career, Paddy has composed approximately fifty tunes, spanning many dance forms within the tradition, including 24 reels, 4 marches, 4 polkas, 1 slide, 9 jigs, 4 airs, and 3 hornpipes. Some of these original pieces have appeared on his numerous recordings, and many were included as part of the Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection. Many of Paddy’s compositions have also been received into the tradition, and played in sessions and recorded by well-respected Irish traditional musical groups, including SolasTéadaDanúTríanNic GaviskeyThe Boys of the Lough, and Altan, among others.

As a musician, Paddy has played and recorded with a number of different céilí bands and groups since the 1960s: The Ballinamere Céilí BandThe Seán Ryan TrioThe Castle Céilí BandCeoltóirí LaigheanBowhandHill 16, and currently O’Rourke’s FeastChulrua, and The Doon Céilí Band. His just-released second solo CD, ‘Mixing the Punch,’ features Teresa Baker on piano and guest artist (and fellow Offalyman) Felim Egan on button accordion.

Paddy has a well-earned reputation as a walking encyclopedia of Irish music, and as a highly regarded scholar, composer, and source for tunes. It is estimated that he carries in his head more than 3,000 Irish melodies. His previous honors include a 2006 Artist Fellowship from the Bush Foundation of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and a Lifetime Achievement Honor from the Irish Music & Dance Association in 2010, for his contributions to Irish music and culture in Minnesota.


For more information, or to schedule an interview with Paddy,
please call + 1 651-698-2258 or e-mail


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