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Concertina player Chris Droney.

Chris scores a Gradam award

CLARE concertina-player, Chris Droney is to be honoured with the TG4 Lifetime Achievement Award at TG4 Gradam Ceoil 2014, which takes place a the University Concert Hall on Saturday, April 12.

This year’s Gradam recipients range over a wide spectrum of talents. As well as the venerable North Clare concertina-player Chris Droney, they include the Limerick-born doyen of Irish musicology in North America, Mick Moloney; one of Connemara’s most versatile sean-nós singers; a member of the latest generation in a Sliabh Luachra musical dynasty; and a trio of musicians whose musical collaboration has brought to life again a unique musical manuscript trove from Munster that had lain dormant for 130 years.

Chris Droney has been selected for this year’s TG4 Lifetime Achievement Award. Born in 1924, Chris is a noted concertina stylist from Belharbour, who has followed in the footsteps of his father, James, and grandfather, Michael (1829-1927), who also played concertina. Chris learned to play by ear and parental example from the age of eight. The first two tunes he learnt were The Wearing of the Green and Clare’s Dragoons.

Born and reared on the family farm, Chris was the eldest of five sons, and as was the tradition at the time, he was the one who remained at home to take over the holding. His first public appearance was at the age of 14 in in Johnson’s dance hall in Kinvara. He was paid a fee of half a crown. He went on to play in several bands and from 1956 he won 10 All–Ireland medals – nine solo and one for a duet with fiddler Gus Tierney.

He was a founder of the Bell Harbour Céilí Band in the 1940s and also played with Kitty Linnane’s group for 12 years, with stalwarts like Tommy Peoples, Paddy Mullins, Tom Hegarty and Tom Ward, and with other céilí bands, including the Four Courts, the Kilfenora, Old Aughrim Slopes and on occasions with The Ballinakill and The Kincora in Dublin.

A nimble and talented dancer, one of his hallmarks was to leave the band and take to the floor for a set or a solo step at some stage during the night. His son, Francis, and daughter, Ann, have also won All-Ireland titles on concertina, while many of his grandchildren continue the family tradition. Some, most notably Daithí, are playing fiddle.

In 2004, his contribution to music was honoured by a Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Bardic Award. He has also recently been the recipient of a Teastas award and in 2012 he was the Clare Person of the Year. Now in his ninetieth year, he still lives in Belharbour with his wife, Margaret.

An independent panel of adjudicators selects recipients of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil each year. Each is presented with a specially-commissioned piece by sculptor John Coll, as well as a stipend.

Belfast flute maestro Harry Bradley leads the roll of honour for the 2014 Traditional Music Awards on Saturday, April 12.
Bradley is regarded as one of the finest and most passionate exponents of his chosen instrument and a noted piper too. Currently based in Cork and attending university there, he has toured and recorded extensively and also devised and delivered online research and tuition modules for his chosen instruments.

This year’s awards ceremony and Gradam Ceoil Concert will take place in the University Concert Hall, Limerick, and will be hosted by Páidí Ó Lionáird and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh. The live event takes place at 7.45pm and booking details are available from the UCH Box Office at 061 331549 or online www.uch.ie.

Meanwhile, the recorded ceremony will be broadcast on TG4 on Easter Sunday, April 20 at 9.30pm.

About Gerry McInerney

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