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Music That’s Good ValueClare Keville, Galway, writes:In ‘Music That’s Good Value’, (April–May), Toner Quinn writes that the ‘2009 winner of the Gradam Ceoil reflects a key belief in traditional music, that the contribution...

Music That’s Good Value
Clare Keville, Galway, writes:
In ‘Music That’s Good Value’, (April–May), Toner Quinn writes that the ‘2009 winner of the Gradam Ceoil reflects a key belief in traditional music, that the contribution of the musician on the ground over many years is equivalent to the contribution of a musician who plays to hundreds of thousands on stage worldwide annually.’ From my days as a music student, two phrases have always remained with me; the first being that traditional music resides at the hands of the solo musician, and the second that no matter what is happening on the larger stage, musicians will always welcome going back to having a few tunes in the context of the session.

This year’s TG4 traditional musician of the year, Charlie Harris, epitomises both these theories. Eschewing the limelight, he has always devoted himself to traditional music at roots level, appreciating its myriad of styles, its subtleties and depth. His own humility and appreciation of other musicians is prevalent in every note he plays. This is someone who in his youth travelled the length and breath of the county, in a camper van, absorbing all the tradition had to offer. Not for him the necessity of a medal or the stage but simply the desire and need to play with and meet other musicians. To have made such a journey and be deeply respected by the community to which he belongs is a testament to his absolute integrity and talent. In fact, winning this award has made a powerful statement. For an unsung hero to be honoured nationally is a rare and beautiful thing.

Why does Aosdána not recognise such contributions and talent and the journeys made by our traditional musicians? Is not the devotion of talented traditional musicians to their craft as significant as those in other artistic fields? The criteria for judging traditional music is based on a very different set of aesthetics than, say, classical music, but with its individual forms of expression and creativity, it is not any less valuable. It is time to acknowledge our cultural icons and unsung heroes and give them the recognition they richly deserve.

First Issue
Caoimhín Mac Aoidh, Co. Donegal, writes:
A number of years ago I undertook to produce a periodical on traditional music, not only in Ireland, but as it also related to Scotland and eastern Canada. Due to a number of circumstances this was not a successful venture. In receiving the first edition of The Journal of Music I was delighted to see that what I had attempted to do all those years ago has been done and greatly surpassed by your publication. It’s a tremendous achievement and a great benefit to the musical community of Ireland and further afield.

Published on 1 June 2009