Flute player Tim McHugh from Newport in Mayo was announced as winner of the Seán Ó Riada gold medal and prize money of €2500 on Friday night. He was amongst 15 traditional flute and whistle players who took to the stage in the Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork on Friday 13 January, 2012, to compete in the final. The judges on the night were musicians Mary Bergin and Michael Tubridy, and they were joined by Matt Molloy via Skype from 1500 miles away in the Canary Islands.
Speaking of his win, Tim said that he was surprised but delighted to have won, and that he had greatly enjoyed the night and the atmosphere. Some of the other finalists on the night included friend and fellow Mayo man Ferdia Ó Mongáin, and Dubliner Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, so that ensured that there was a bit of friendly rivalry. Tim learned most of his music from friends and family, and plays a lot around Westport, as well as in Dingle, Galway and around Dublin where he currently lives and works as an engineer.
The 15 finalists were chosen from among over 60 musicians from all over the world who entered the competition on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta programme Cuireadh chun Ceoil, and included a Lutheran priest Markus Asunta from Finland, young Irish American musician Sean Gavin from Detroit, and award-winning Scottish guitarist and flute player Tom Oakes.
Peadar Ó Riada inaugurated the competition two years ago, taking the idea from his father, the great Seán Ó Riada, who ran a similar competition on his radio programme in the sixties. Its aim is to bring the worldwide family of listeners to his Cuireadh chun Ceoil programme closer, using modern technology that allows people to easily record and transmit music at little cost. The competition sets itself apart from others in that it rewards musicality and creativity in playing, not just technical proficiency, as can sometimes be the case. For the coming year the competition will be open to pipes and harp.
The judges on the night were all highly respected musicians. Mary Bergin, originally from Dublin but now living in Galway, is considered one of the masters of the tin whistle. She has played in various groups over the years, including Dé Danann, and is currently a member of Dordán. Michael Tubridy is a gifted musician from Clare and was one of the founders of the Chieftains. Matt Molloy needs little introduction. Originally from Roscommon, but now resident in Westport, Matt is a member of The Chieftains, was one of the founders of The Bothy Band in the seventies and also played with Planxty.
You can listen back to the competition at www.rte.ie/rnag.
The Seán Ó Riada medal has been designed by Cashel goldsmith Pádraig Ó Mathúna and features an engraving of Ó Riada on one side, and a representation of the poem Dán Aimhirgín (Song of Amergin) on the other, done in a La Tene style. The medal consists of 2 silver plates back to back, and following the competition on Friday Pádraig will engrave the winners name and the year into the medal, and it will then be coated in gold.