The greatly anticipated final of An Bhonn Oir Sheain Ui Riada was held last night Friday, February 6th in The Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork. Fifteen fiddle players from all over the world were in the running for one of the most coveted and respected prizes the world of traditional Irish music has to offer. Winning means going home with the highly prized Bhonn Oir Sheain Ui Riada – the Seán Ó Riada Gold Medal and the no mean consideration of the €2,000 of prize money.
The just turned 18 years-of-age Brosna fiddler, Darragh Curtin emerged the winner from what will surely be the toughest opposition he’s ever likely to face in competition again.
The dedicated Brosna musician now has the musical world at his feet in earnest as this is the second major honour he has earned in the space of a few months.
“He displays a maturity in his playing that belies his young age” – Matt Cranitch on Darragh Curtin.
Only last October he entered the winner’s enclosure in Sligo after he became the first Kerry winner of the highly prestigious Fiddler of Dooney competition. And he is also the holder of an Oireachtas Senior Fiddle title. The latter an honour he earned a century after Patrick O’Keeffe won that title in Killarney in 1914.
A special live performance featuring previous winners of the ‘Seán Ó Riada medal will take place in Cork tonight. Performers will include: Aoife Ní Bhriain, fiddle; Tim McHugh, flute; Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn, pipes; Oisín Morrison, harp; Cormac Begley, concertina and his fellow Kerry man and latest winner, Darragh Curtin.
The judges for last night’s competition were well known musicians: Connie O’Connell, Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and Seán Keane.
A former winner of the Fiddler of Dooney award and well known to audiences here and where ever music is appreciated throughout the world, Matt Cranitch said today that Darragh Curtin is a wonderful fiddler.
“He displays a maturity in his playing that belies his young age. He’s part of a generation of wonderful young musicians from the Sliabh Luachra area and he has a great future ahead of him. I mean look at what he has won over the past few months alone. He’s a very bright prospect already and it’s up to himself what he wants to do with it now,” said Matt.
Darragh is a son of Gerard and Mairéad Curtin and a brother of Suzanne (twin) and Gearóid.
After a few early lessons on the instrument at the age of ten, the now 18-year-old Darragh bowed his own fiddle a few years later and was keen, even at that young age, to develop his own style.
He admires and keenly listens to all the Sliabh Luachra greats including his grand-uncles, the colourful and musically gifted, Con Curtin and his equally talented – if less noted brother, Patie Curtin.
Paddy Cronin stands out in Darragh’s estimation for, not alone, his mastery of his own Sliabh Luachra music but also for how he adapted to the Sligo style of fiddling.
In that regard, the gifted, young Kerryman greatly admires the Sligo Leitrim style and its exponents like: the Lennons, Ben Charlie and Maurice with Tommy Peoples and Kevin Burke for their versatility.
Darragh, along with his twin sister, Suzanne, brother, Gearóid and Abbeyfeale based Banjo player, Gearóid Keating played a few sessions here in Castleisland over the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival.
No strangers to awards, members of the Curtin family have played with the honour laden U-18 Templeglantine Céilí Band and Darragh also won the Maurice O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival Cup for the fiddle in 2009 – just a handful of years after taking up the instrument.
The Fiddler of Dooney competition was inaugurated in 1965 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious instrumental competitions in traditional music circles. Its title is inspired by the W B Yeats poem of the same name.
Darragh Curtin is to appear in the April programme in the Handed Down series in Scartaglin and we’ll keep you well posted on that.