The late Ashling Murphy, RIP.

Ashling Murphy Scholarship winners announced

The Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Ashling Murphy Scholarship winners have been announced and will receive their awards this week during the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Mullingar.

Comhaltas established the scholarships to recognise and remember the talent and legacy of the late Ms Murphy, a popular teacher and performer. The awards will be presented at the National Folk Orchestra Concert on Friday August 5 (at 8pm) in St Paul’s Church, Mullingar. Ashling was a valued member of the Folk Orchestra, and the presentations will be by a member of Ashling’s family and Ken Barrett, who sponsored the scholarships.

Ashling was also remembered at the official opening of the Fleadh Cheoil on Sunday, when President Michael D Higgins acknowledged people from the traditional Irish music who had passed in recent years.

He said: “Let us take the opportunity at this gathering to think of those music makers we sadly lost during the pandemic, including Denis Cahill, Paddy Maloney of The Chieftains, and the accordion player Tony McMahon, to name but just three of quite a company of people that we lost, who had generously given their lives and their music to us all.

“And given where we are, let us remember too, the lovely Aisling Murphy, the young Irish primary school teacher and generous traditional Irish musician who was taken from us earlier and so tragically (applause).”

Scoláireachtaí Ashling Murphy

The first Scoláireachtaí Ashling Murphy is awarded to Lisa Ward (31) is from Leitrim, living in Dublin 13. She has been a primary school teacher for nine years after receiving her Bachelor of Education from Mary Immaculate College, UL, 2012. Lisa also holds an MA Irish Traditional Music Performance from the Irish World Academy of Irish Music and Dance, UL in 2013. She plays fiddle, tin-whistle, flute and piano. She won the senior All-Ireland Fiddle competition 2010. She has two solo albums, is an adjudicator at county, provincial and All Ireland level. She also teaches at many summer schools across the world.

Lisa’s project is based on community connections and providing access to the traditional arts for disadvantaged and minority groups in Dublin. Her proposal includes group classes for parents and toddlers introducing them to the arts, through Irish song, music, rhythms, dance and Gaeilge; and trad camps for kids at Easter, Halloween summer.

With the successful establishment of classes, Lisa also hopes to develop a branch of Comhaltas to provide continuity.

The second Ashling Scholarship is awarded to Caoimhe Maddigan. Caoimhe began playing traditional music at the age of four, when she started Feadóg at the Seamus Ennis Centre in the Naul. Caoimhe was music captain and music student of the year at secondary school, as branch youth officer she received the Gradam na nÓg award for exceptional services to Comhaltas. She started teaching music at the age of 15 and now teaches individual and group lessons. She currently in her final year at St Pat’s, Drumcondra studying music and religion.

Caoimhe’s project is to develop a curriculum specifically for young students with intellectual or sensory disabilities who cannot access mainstream lessons. While some students with disabilities manage to participate fully in traditional arts activities, others find the pace of the learning and participation too difficult. She will develop a programme in general traditional musicality which will encourage and facilitate more inclusion in the community for the traditional genre.

The final scholarship is awarded to Jason McGuinness from Dromore West in Sligo. Jason is a renowned fiddle player with a keen interest in the musical heritage of his home county. He has won several All-Ireland titles on fiddle, drums, duet, ceili band and Grupa Ceol and most recently the All-Ireland Senior Fiddle Competition at Fleadh Fest 2021. He is the first Sligo winner since 1970 of the prestigious Fiddler of Dooney competition, in 2016, and also won the Ed Reavy International Senior Fiddle of the year in 2018. He has performed on the Comhaltas Tours of Ireland, England, and Canada in 2011 and 2012. He also won the prestigious Siansa Gael Linn competition in 2011 and was awarded Sligo Feis Ceoil Senior Musician of the Year also in 2011.

Jason’s project is a detailed study into the music of west Sligo and his areas of research are: 1. Turlough O’Carolan Compositions in the region; 2. Eddie Meehan, John McKenna and The Rosaleen Quartet; 3. Additional Tunes composed or named after local musicians or place names.

Jason has done some research into the musical heritage of the area (West Sligo/Tireragh CCÉ), but the topics he has chosen have never been collectively documented in great detail, which signifies how important his research topic is and the significance and potential this scholarship could have in launching a project to reintroduce it.

The Sligo County Fleadh is scheduled to take place in West Sligo in 2023 and this is the perfect setting to launch and develop this proposal. Jason will be working on a music book with the music all compiled together with the history of the tunes, composers and locality.

Jason will also be gathering an ensemble of local musicians from Tireragh CCÉ and surrounding areas of County Sligo to teach them the tunes using the published tune book with the hope of performing these pieces at the fleadh.