Of County Armagh and Louth parentage, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin was raised in an Irish speaking family of eight. She is a multifaceted traditional artist: a professional singer since 1999 and a researcher, song writer, author and composer. She has two sons, Eoghan and Macdara, and lives between Mullaghban in south Armagh and the Donegal Gaeltacht.
She is the recipient of one of the major traditional awards in Ireland – the 2018 TG4 GRADAM television award for her ‘outstanding contribution’ to traditional music. Also a recipient of major An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council of Ireland awards and bursaries, Gradam Shean-Nós Cois Life in 2003 for her contribution to the Irish song tradition, she was the first traditional musician to receive a Major Arts Award from the Northern Ireland Arts Council.
She has been a Traditional Musician in Residence for eight years in the Seamus Heaney Centre of Poetry in Queens University Belfast, with one year residencies in DkIT County Louth and The Glens Arts Centre in Manorhamilton, County Leitrim. She is also the first recipient of an Irish language fellowship from the Royal Literary Fund based at St Mary’s University College Belfast and Queen’s University Belfast.
A former broadcaster and newsreader with RTE, she has researched and presented TV and radio programmes She was awarded a PhD in 2008 from the University of Ulster.
As a singer, she has performed internationally and appeared in many documentaries on radio and TV.
She is the author of A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel (Four Courts Press, 2003), and the author/editor of Oriel Arts Project, launched in 2017.
Song & Recordings
Singing has been the main focus of her professional career – recording and restoring song in the corpus of the Irish Gaelic Oriel song tradition and also new song composition. To date she has restored and recorded over 30 Oriel songs that had been lost to the tradition, and has recorded nine other studio albums of song.
For young people her recordings include a double CD A Stór is A Stóirín (36 songs Gael Linn,1993), Let the Fairies In (Ceoltaí Éireann 2014) and also An Irish Lullaby (Shanachie, US 2000).
Original compositions in Irish are CD Áilleacht (Gael Linn 2005), and a collaborative work with poets, Ciaran Carson and Seamus Heaney on Songs of the Scribe (Ceoltaí Éireann, 2011) which is a collection of Irish medieval monastic bilingual verses set to music, with harp accompaniment from Helen Davies.
Her two CDs of original composition are Áilleacht CD (2014) and Songs of the Scribe CD (2012).
Original song compositions in English and song airs by her have been recorded by other musicians including, Altan, Dolores Keane, The Black Family, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh & Danú, The Boys of the Lough, Skylark, Steve Vai, Helen Davies & Palle Mikkelberg, Gunnar Andreas Berg & Henning Sommerro, and others.
Pádraigín has set to music, early Irish poetry, medieval Irish poetry, Bardic poetry, traditional lyrics in Irish and works by leading Irish contemporary poets, 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.
Her interest in devotional and spiritual song has seen the composition of sacred music in the traditional style, and various devotional songs recorded on Fonn Ceoil CD.
She has studied chant, dhrupad and vocal work with Dr. Ritwick Sanyal from Benares in India, with Silvia Nakkach in Auroville in India, and with Jill Purce in London and her new work in progress is composition for sacred song and chant from ancient Gaelic sources.
Research on Breifne song, harp songs and songs of Oriel poets is ongoing.