Nicky and Anne McAuliffe to Receive TG4 Lifetime Achievement Award

Anne and Nicky McAuliffe pictured on stage at the River Island Hotel in 2011 where they had just been presented with the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival award for ‘Dedication to the Music of Sliabh Luachra’ by festival chairman, Cormac O’Mahony (left) and RTE Radio One presenter producer, Peter Browne. ©Photograph: John Reidy 28-10-2011
Bryan O’Leary with the TG4 Gradam Ceoil trophy outside Browne’s on Sunday evening with his hugely respected music teachers: Anne and Nicky McAuliffe. ©Photograph: John Reidy 13-4-2014
The touch of the Master’s Hand: Music teacher, Nicky McAuliffe running over the finer points of fiddle playing with pupil, Conor Daly from Rockchapel at the first Kerry Master Class under the Sliabh Luachra Music Trail at the Scartaglin Heritage Centre in 2014. ©Photograph: John Reidy 6-9-2014

Nicky and Anne McAuliffe, natives of Knocknagoshel and Lixnaw (respectively) and Castleisland residents, were announced yesterday as winners of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Lifetime Achievement Award.

The couple has been on the receiving end of many awards down through the years and mainly for all they have given to the music and to generations of musicians everywhere.

Brosna Céilí Band

Founder members of the 1972 All-Ireland winning Brosna Céilí Band and serious music historians, Nicky has more references on sleeve notes than any other of his contemporaries.

Nicky and Anne were also the recipients of the Dedication to the Music of Sliabh Luachra Award at the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Festival here in Castleisland in 2011.

As additional strings to Nicky’s artistic bow, he’s also a keen photographer and writer on history and a poet.

Parishioners will get a sample of his talents in the 2018 Castleisland Parish Magazine which is currently under construction.

Here’s how TG4 made the announcement yesterday

Nicky and Anne McAuliffe are two highly respected Kerry people who are held in great regard by musicians across the country.

They are two very humble people who never seek the limelight or publicicty, despite that, they are recognised as two hugely influential people in the traditional music world.  Nicky McAuliffe was born in Castleisland and Anne Sheehy-McAuliffe in Lixnaw and they both have their musical heritage seeping through them. They have travelled the world with their music – America, England, Europe and Australia and they were central figures in both the Brosna and Desmond Céilí Bands, as well as being very involved with Siamsa Tíre.

Teaching in 1970

Nicky first started teaching music in 1970, under the auspices of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and Co. Kerry VEC. He started those classes in Gneevgullia, which has a strong musical heritage and he still teaches music around the county.  Indeed, many fine musicians had their first experience of traditional music at the hands of Nicky and Anne. He and Anne give classes at the Willy Clancy Summer School in Milltown Malbay every year and they also taught at the ‘Gaelic Roots’ festival in Boston College.

Also a Composer

Nicky is a composer as well, with quite an extensive range of compositions, even though he doesn’t say much about this other talent of his either.

He is always in big demand to write articles about music and the history of traditional music and it is many the musician who has called on him for help in naming a tune that they were recording. Nicky has an encyclopedic knowledge of music accompanied by an uncanny knack of being able to retain the information and recall it as required.

Nicky and Anne Biography

Nicholas born in 1945 plays flute, whistle and fiddle and Anne (née Sheehy) was born in 1946 plays flute, whistle, accordion and concertina. From Lyre, Castleisland,  and Glenoe in the parish of Lixnaw in Co Kerry respectively they have been prominent members of CCÉ and of the Brosna and Desmond Ceilí Bands and Siamsa Tíre of which Anne was a founding member.

Comhaltas and the VEC

They have taught large numbers of musicians throughout Kerry and Co. Cork mostly in schemes organised by Comhaltas and the VEC. They have been regular teachers at Scoil Samhradh Willie Clancy and Scoil Éigse for many years.

Anne won the All-Ireland under-18 accordion in 1964 and the senior whistle in 1967. Nicholas won the senior whistle in 1971.

They were both part of the Brosna Céilí Band which won the All-Ireland Céilí Band award in 1972. They were part of the CCÉ touring group to North America in 1975 and feature on the related recording and on a 1978 fundraiser for Dúchas House in Tralee.

Siamsa Tíre Tours

They toured extensively with Siamsa Tíre and also toured America and Australia as members of ‘Na Ridirí’ – a group of musicians, singers and dancers organised by Diarmuid Ó Catháin. Nicholas has provided information for many recordings and has taught at ITT in conjunction with Siamsa Tíre since 1995.

Nicholas learned his first music from his parents, Kathleen and Florence who both played melodeon. Therefore his first instrument was melodeon and later tin-whistle.

John Ben Lane

He later took up the fiddle which he had seen played by his neighbour and friend, John Ben Lane. He listened avidly to a series of radio programmes namely “A job of Journeywork” which introduced him to the great Sligo fiddle players – Coleman, Killoran and Morrison and also the Kerry great Paddy Cronin.

In 1964 when he started to travel around to Fleadhanna Cheoil, he kept company with fiddler Denis McMahon (recently deceased)  from Castleisland, and Jack Regan, Knocknagoshel.

Learned from her Father

Anne learned her first music from her father, Jack Sheehy, who played the fiddle.

She attended the inaugural meeting of Comhaltas in Lixnaw in 1960 and in the same year competed in the first Kerry Co. Fleadh Cheoil in Ballyheigue, winning the under 14 Accordion competition. Growing up her most admired musicians were Willie Clancy, Paddy Canny, Joe Burke and Paddy Carty.

Both Anne and Nicholas travelled all over Kerry and beyond playing for céilithe  with the Desmond Ceili Band which was led by Michael O’Callaghan. When they joined the Brosna Céilí Band in 1967 it was led by Donal O’Connor, Brosna.

Guests at Áras an Uachtaráin

They were married in 1975. On marriage Anne resigned from her job as a shorthand typist with Kerry County Council and started teaching music full time.

The McAuliffes were part of a group invited to Áras an Uachtaráin by President Mary McAleese in 2003 “to a reception to celebrate local traditional musicians throughout Ireland”.   They were also part of the Rockchapel-based group, Ceoltóirí Shliabh Luachra who were received in Áras an Uachtaráin by President Michael D.Higgins and his wife Sabina. The group’s acclaimed show “A musical trail through the history of Ireland” was researched and written by Nicholas.

Synonymous with Teaching

Nicky and Anne are synonymous with teaching music, their lives dedicated to the passing on of the tradition. As a duo they are deeply respected within the tradition for the wealth of their knowledge and indeed Nicky is often called upon for his encyclopedic knowledge of tunes, titles and performing styles. In fact as a music historian, Nichloas McAuliffe’s opinions and sleeve notes are highly sought after as an imprimatur on many publications and musical recordings over the years. His knowledge of traditional music its tunes and players is legendary and he has always been the man to go to for confirmation of facts about the genre.

List of Famous Pupils

They continue to teach music in Kerry and their list of past students includes the O’Keeffes, Michelle O’Sullivan, Paudie O’Connor, Bryan O’Leary, Niamh Ní Charra, Pádraig Buckley (founder of the Killarney School of Music) to name but a few. Nicky had the notable experience of teaching two great ladies of music from Primary School right through Secondary and 3rd level, namely Emma O’Leary and Eilish Murphy!

Almost a Century of Teaching

In September 2018, Nicky began his 49th year teaching and Anne her 44th. Nicky was awarded ‘Ceann Ródaí’ by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann at Scoil Éigse in Tullamore in 2009.

They were both presented with an award at the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival weekend in Castleisland in 2011.They were also honoured by the Killarney Branch of Comhaltas on the occasion of the Kerry Co. Fleadh in Killarney in 2008.

The Gradam Ceoil presentations will be made in Belfast in February 2019.

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