TULLA based concertina player, Mary MacNamara is to be celebrated in a memorable concert featuring the best in the county and country as she has been announced as this year’s MÓRglór Award winner.
Glór has this week announced that the MÓRglór Award 2019 will go to the legendary concertina player who has been an inspiration to many musicians, both in Clare, nationally and internationally, and an outstanding ambassador for the traditional arts in Clare.
Mary was in Australia when she got the news that she had been named as this years recipient.
“I was in Australia when I got the call. I was in a lift at 11.30pm and obviously the coverage was bad in the lift, and I could hear a little bit and I had to ask them to email. I got that at 12 midnight and it was a lovely surprise before I went to bed,” she said.
Mary had been in Australia and New Zealand playing music with Eileen O’Brien and Angela Usher and said it came as a big surprise.
“I have been following the awards up to date and I’d been attending them and it’s a great honour to get, and I was shocked and delighted” she said.
In a statement Glór outlined that Mary was always a likely candidate for this award.
Mary returned to live in her home place of Tulla in 1995 and set herself the task of restoring traditional music to its rightful place as an integral part of the fabric of life in East Clare. In that, she has been successful – as attested by the swathe of talented young musicians – who are now enjoying the heritage of music in East Clare.
It was almost inevitable that Mary Mac Namara would become a musician, having been reared in a house full of music. Her mother Ita, came from a long line of musicians and had an innate knowledge of music. Mary’s father Andy brought the children to sessions in Lena’s of Feakle where they listened to the wonderful rhythmic music of icons of tradition such as Bill Malley, Joe Bane, P Joe Hayes, John Naughton and Martin Rochford.
In 1979 Mary teamed up with Martin Hayes and they won All Ireland honours, and in that same year Mary was the All Ireland senior concertina champion. Working in Dublin at the time, Mary had the honour of playing with John Kelly of Kilbaha and Joe Ryan of Inagh in The Four Seasons bar and this opened the door to a whole new world of musicians. She soon became a member of Ireland’s first all-female band Macalla led by Seosaimhín Ní Bheaglaoich. She later played music regularly with Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich and became a member of the band Seana Choirce.
While in Dublin Mary taught concertina in The Pipers Club, (Na Piobairí Uilleann), but her full-time job and passion was teaching music to the boys of St Joseph’s School for the visually impaired in Drumcondra.
In 1994 Mary released her first album Traditional Music from East Clare with guests P Joe Hayes and Martin Hayes. It has received wide acclaim over the 25 years since its release and was voted by The Irish Times as traditional music album of that year.
Since 1982 she has toured extensively, notably to Germany, France, England, Scotland, USA, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and has released numerous recordings including The Lady’s Cup of Tea; Note for Note; Mary MacNamara – Traditional Music from East Clare and The Blackberry Blossom.
On Saturday November 16, the people of Clare will come together to acknowledge a depth of gratitude to Mary for her enormous contribution to Traditional Irish Music with a concert in glór featuring Mary’s friends and family, and some of the most renowned traditional musicians and singers in the country and the county.
For more see this week’s East Clare page in The Clare Champion.