Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin
Although widely known as a singer, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin is a multifaceted traditional artist: singer, composer, researcher, song writer, author and a professional singer since 1999. A recipient of numerous awards, including Gradam Shean-Nós Cois Life in 2003 for her contribution to the Irish song tradition, and recently as the first traditional artist to be awarded a Major Arts Award from the Northern Ireland Arts Council, she has been an Artist in Residence in three establishments over ten years. She was awarded a doctorate from the University of Ulster in 2007.
Her recent artistic residency has been as Foras na Gaeilge Traditional Singer in the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, where she has been recreating the ancient tradition of sung poetry by composing extensively airs in the traditional style for early Irish poetry, medieval Irish poetry, Bardic poetry, traditional songs and new songs in Irish and poetry in Irish and English including works by leading Irish contemporary poets such as Ciarán Carson, Seamus Heaney, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Biddy Jenkinson, Michael Hartnett, and also earlier works by W. B Yeats, Olav Hauge, Fearghal Óg Mac an Bháird, Fear Flátha Ó Gnímh, Eoghan Rua Mac an Bháird among others.
Many of these new works have been broadcast on RTÉ and BBC radio and performed at concerts in Rome and Geneva (to celebrate the Flight of the Earls), in St. Gallen (to celebrate the connection between Bangor and St Gall), in Paris, Scoil Gheimhridh Merriman, the National Concert Hall and various other venues. Some of the new compositions are recorded on CDs An Dara Craiceann (Gael Linn, 1995), Áilleacht / Beauty (Gael Linn, 2005) and Songs of the Scribe (Ceoltaí Éireann 2011). Other musicians, including Palle Mikkelborg, Helen Davies, Gunnar Andreas Berg, Dolores Keane, Skylark, Boys of the Lough, have recorded compositions by Ní Uallacháin, and her original works for film and TV include soundtracks for S4C feature film Branwen and RTÉ1 documentary Spiorad Saor. She is currently in studio recording her third album of new composition for ancient Gaelic song, Beatha Beo with translations by leading contemporary poets.
Previous residencies have been in the School of Music in DKIT, Dundalk with Dr. Eibhlis Farrell, which has led to research, renewal and performance of songs associated with the leading poets of the Oriel region: Songs of the Poets (work in progress) and in the Glens Arts Centre, Manorhamilton Co Leitrim – which has led to research on a further compilation of songs: Songs of Breifne (work in progress).
A native of one of the richest regions in cultural and musical heritage in Ireland, Oriel in southeast Ulster, her home language was Gaelic. She has made a major contribution to the song tradition in Ireland by her renewal of the southeast Ulster song tradition in her acclaimed publication A Hidden Ulster – people, songs, and traditions of Oriel (2003). Of the nine albums of song recorded by her, two are for young people: A Stór is a Stóirín (CD, Gael Linn, 1994) and LET THE FAIRIES IN (Ceoltaí Éireann 2012) which include original song compositions. A former broadcaster and newsreader, she has researched and presented radio programmes, such as the earliest archival programme of traditional music, ‘Reels of Memory’ (RTÉ, 1979-1981).
She has collaborated and recorded with many other artists including Liam O’Flynn, Helen Davies, Michael Holohan, Iarla Ó Lionáírd, Laoise Kelly, Máirtín O’Connor, Seamus Heaney, Theo Dorgan, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Ciaran Carson; with producers Garry Ó Briain, Steve Cooney, Máire Breatnach, Palle Mikkelborg, and currently with producer and multi-instrumentalist Dónal O’Connor.
She has recently studied chant, dhrupad and vocal work with Dr. Ritwick Sanyal from Benares in India, with Silvia Nakkach in Auroville in India, and recently with Jill Purce in London. Her new work is composition in the traditional style for sacred songs and texts from ancient Gaelic sources, and is due for release in 2013.
She gives workshops and concerts, and research is ongoing on various aspects of the song tradition. Her renewal of aspects of the Gaelic Ulster song tradition continues – compiling a collection of songs from the Bréifne tradition; the recording of the full Oriel corpus of songs which she restored and published in A Hidden Ulster (2003), and the restoration of songs associated with leading Oriel poets.