Musician of the Year | Catherine McEvoy | Gradam Ceoil TG4 2019 | TG4 Skip to main content
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2019 Awards

Musician of the Year Award

Catherine McEvoy born in 1956 is a leading performer in Irish Traditional Music on the Concert flute. Ground breaking as a female musician, her standing in the tradition is testified to by her distinguished career in terms of recordings on CD and for radio, TV appearances, teaching and performing.

Catherine McEvoy

Citation

Catherine McEvoy stands out as one of the finest exponents of the North Connacht tradition of flute playing and this reflects her strong family links with the area – her parents were from the Strokestown area of County Roscommon. Catherine’s approach to flute-playing, through her performances in sessions and on the stage, has inspired and influenced other musicians and listeners, most particularly through her visionary work as an educator and a teacher. Her early years in Birmingham, England, introduced her to the wealth of Roscommon music that was in the city at that time and Catherine has followed a musical path that reaches back to the older generations of players, whilst putting her own distinct and authoritative stamp on the flute. At a time when traditional flute-playing has rarely been stronger, Catherine McEvoy is admired as an exceptional and influential musician, teacher and advocate for traditional music.

 

Biog

Catherine McEvoy born in 1956 is a leading performer in Irish Traditional Music on the Concert flute.  Ground breaking as a female musician, her standing in the tradition is testified to by her distinguished career in terms of recordings on CD and for radio, TV appearances, teaching and performing.

Born in Birmingham of Roscommon parents, while still in her teens Catherine toured and played with the Birmingham Ceili Band.  Honing her skill as a traditional musician, McEvoy was influenced by many of the leading musicians of the 60’s and 70’s.  Catherine infuses plenty of soul into the music she plays.  Her fluid, rhythmic, roll ornamented, beautifully phrased and paced playing is rooted in the Sligo Roscommon style having studied such players as Peggy McGrath, Patsy Hanley and Matt Molloy from Roscommon, Josie McDermott the blind flute player who lived on the border of Sligo and Roscommon, and Seamus Tansey and Roger Sherlock,  both from Sligo.

Catherine came to live and work in Ireland in 1977 and as a young musician; she soon became an integral part of the Dublin Music community playing regularly with legends such as John Kelly snr. John and James Kelly and Paddy O’Brien from Offaly, frequenting the popular music house “The Four Seasons” and performing at the legendary Traditional club in Slattery’s both in Capel St.

She was a member of the first All-female Traditional group Macalla – a collection of 23 women living in Dublin who came together for International Women’s Day in 1984.  The group recorded two albums in the 80’s. They also performed on BBC and The Late, Late Show and Mountain Lark on RTE all between 1984 and 1987

Catherine released her first solo album on the Clo Iar Connachta label in 1996 “Music in the Sligo Roscommon Style” with the legendary piano player from New York Felix Dolan.  She later recorded “The Kilmore Fancy” with her brother John McEvoy, a highly respected fiddle player.  Catherine’s last solo cd released in 2008 “The Home Ruler” features many of the top accompanists of today including Geraldine Cotter (piano), Steve Cooney (guitar), Paddy McEvoy (Piano) and Joe Kennedy (bodhrán). In 2010 after a very successful Music Network tour with Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh (fiddle) and Micheal O’Raghallaigh (concertina), a trio album was released called “Comb your Hair and Curl It”.  All these albums have been voted in the top 4 releases in their respective years by Earle Hitchner, Irish Voice, and New York.  McEvoy was also a member of the three times All Ireland Tain Ceili Band founded by the flute player Peggy McGrath mentioned earlier.

Recognition of Catherine’s status within the tradition has led her to being invited to many festivals worldwide both to teach and perform.  She is a senior tutor at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare.  She has also taught at the Catskills Irish Arts Week in New York and other festivals in the USA including Boston, Seattle and Texas.  Catherine has also taught in many countries worldwide including France, Germany and Sweden and Canada. She is a visiting tutor at the University of Limerick where she teaches on the MA and BA courses.

Of no less value in achievement and status to her is her parallel, innovative and pioneering teaching of music for 28 years  in the only mainstream school and centre in the south of Ireland which caters for the education  and welfare  of blind, visually impaired and multiply disabled children and young people.  St. Joseph’s School for Children with a Visual Impairment and ChildVision. The nearby Pobailscoil Rosmini also caters for Visually Impaired students.  Catherine spearheaded a recording project entitled ‘A Musical Vision – The Blind Tradition’ and it was funded by the Arts Council.  She wished to introduce the traditional community to a generation of blind musicians most of whom had learnt their music at various stages of development while passing through the campus. The CD was launched in Clare at the Willie Clancy Summer School and in Dublin in 2012.  Catherine is based in the primary school but her services filter throughout the whole campus which includes ChildVision. ChildVision provides support services and crèche for parents and a ‘Learning for Life” program for young adults from 18 – 22 years.  http://www.childvision.ie

The philosophy driving the work in ChildVision

 “Just because our children can’t see the stars doesn’t mean that they can’t reach for them”

 

Catherine is passionate about her workin St. Joseph’s and ChildVision.  The website mentions one of her students who “didn’t walk until she was eight…didn’t eat on her own until she was five.  But when she plays the Uilleann pipes, none of that matters anymore.”  Catherine teaches a variety of instruments and started the Traditional music program in 1980.  In 1984 the school was the first ‘special school’ to win the All-Ireland Slógadh Traditional group competition.  A series of competitions promoting all aspects of the Arts  which was the brainchild of Gael-Linn.

 

Catherine lives in Ratoath, Co. Meath with her husband Tom who also plays flute.  She very much enjoys being a mum to three grown up children who are all accomplished musicians – Jane (fiddle), Ruairi (fiddle and Greek bouzouki) and Fergus (flute) and loves to cook.

McEvoy is considered one of the best exponents of the Sligo/Roscommon style of flute playing. She has appeared on TV many times – Geantraí, Hup, Bring Down the Lamp, The Mountain Lark and has recorded for the radio show Ceili House numerous times playing also with The Birmingham Ceílí Band and The Tain.

In the words of the legendary fiddler Seamus Connolly, who describes her playing as “having a lift that is exciting, colourful and electrifying, coupled with unexpected variations. It is here that we truly have a master at work.”

 

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