ONE of the country's most outstanding traditional musicians is to receive a prestigious award -- and there are no strings attached.
Noel Hill is the first concertina player to be honoured in the annual TG4 Gradam Ceoil. He will receive a specially commissioned sculpture by artist John Coll and a cheque for €4,000.
Joining him at a gala concert and presentation of awards in the Wexford Opera House on April 2 will be the other award winners, who were announced yesterday: Padraic Keane (Young Musician), Ben Lennon (Hall of Fame), Liz Carroll (Composer), Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (Singer) and Micheal O Suilleabhain (Musicians' Award).
All were selected by an independent panel of adjudicators and the award-winners' concert will be broadcast on TG4.
Mr Hill said he was honoured to have been selected as the TG4 Gradam Ceoil winner for 2011.
"It's very nice to get a traditional music Oscar or, if you like, an All Star.
"I'm now in the company of old friends who have received this award before me, like Matt Molloy, Liam O'Flynn and John Carty. It's very nice to join that room of greats," he said.
He recalled learning the concertina at a very young age in the west Clare village of Caherea. The instrument had almost become extinct due to the rise in popularity of other forms of traditional music and was played almost exclusively by women sitting by the fireside.
"When I turned up for music class for the first time, the teacher just looked at me as I was the first concertina player among a whole group of fiddlers," he said.
Now based in Connemara, he conducts courses in the Irish concertina both here and in the US to meet the demand from budding players.
TG4 director general Pol O Gallchoir said the station was privileged to honour major figures in Irish traditional music through the annual Gradam Ceoil awards. Such artists instilled pride in our culture and adorned our lives with their music, he said.