With a career in Irish music for 35 years Altan has achieved legendary status in a genre that has been equally shaped by the band’s influence and genius. Adding to their long list of awards and honors, fiddler, singer and founding member Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh was the recipient of the Gradam Ceoil/Traditional Musician of the Year. TG4 Gradam Ceoil was established in 1998 to “recognise, honour and thank all those who have played a prominent part in supporting, nurturing and strengthening Irish traditional music.”
“I’m just so honoured to be put in such prestigious company [past recipients include Kevin Burke, Máirtín O’Connor, Harry Bradley and Mary Bergin]. When you’re a performer, you perform anyway, regardless of whether anyone’s listening to you, but it’s nice to get the recognition.”
Though the band received the same award for Band of the Year in 2001, Mairead was glad to be recognized on her own in a genre that has been slow to recognize female musicians.
“I’m so indebted to my father for encouraging me when I was younger, because I know a lot of men his age wouldn’t be encouraging women musicians. But he wanted us all to have music, because he loved playing music and I don’t think gender came into it at all.”
Ní Mhaonaigh is only the third woman in twenty years to receive the main award.