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Fiddler of London final this weekend

Fiddler of London 2022 Una McGlinchey. Pictures: Anne Mullen

The Fiddler of London returns for its third live final this Saturday 15 April at The Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith.

This will be the second in person final as the 2021 event took place online due to the pandemic.

Una McGlinchey from Tyrone was crowned Fiddler of London at the ICC last year.

After all ten finalists had played, Una was judged by star adjudicators Michael McGoldrick and Dezi Donnelly to be the winner of the competition’s second year.

This year’s winner will be chosen by renowned musician Zoe Conway.

Una told The Irish World after her win: “I was in complete shock. I wasn’t expecting it at all. It kind of came out of nowhere.

“It’s just such an honour to be over here and I was grateful as it was just to be here and be playing with all these amazing musicians. I really wasn’t expecting it at all, so it’s brilliant.”

Una took the crown from Meabh Smyth who was the inaugural Fiddler of London and performed on the Trafalgar Square stage for the Mayor of London’s St. Patrick’s celebrations last year.

Meabh has since been named Ceoltóir Óg/Young Musician at the TG4 Gradam Ceoil 2023 known as ‘the Oscars of Irish Traditional Music’.

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Una was the last of the ten finalists to take to the stage.

The show started with Kerry Batan from Waterford, Orla Corrigan from Monaghan, Kimberley Delaney from Offaly (who was taught by the tragic Ashling Murphy), Neil Kennedy from Donegal and Sinead Finnegan from Monaghan.

After an interval the competition continued with Annie Smyth, sister of Meabh, Sinead Duggan from Sligo, Aodh MacMurchaidh from Armagh and Megan McGinley from Donegal before Una took to the stage herself.

Una added: “I knew a lot of these musicians from home as well and their reputations preceded them.

“They’re all absolutely fantastic. They’re so talented, and I knew coming that it was gonna be a really tough competition and a very high standard.

“And then, everyone exceeded all my expectations again when they got up on stage to play.

“So yeah, I wasn’t expecting it at all and I’m really grateful.”

Una’s prize included a recording session with trad greats and the competition judges Michael McGoldrick and Dezi Donnelly.

“I think it’s gonna be an exciting year and I have a lot to look forward to.”

Up and coming Fiddler of London was Laoise NÍ Chinnéide.

Una was not the only winner as there were also performances from Laoise Ni Chinneide who was the Up and Coming Fiddler of London.

Laoise said: “It’s fantastic. I’m delighted and it was a joy to play here tonight.”

It was a family affair for young Laoise.

“Mam accompanied me on piano and she was fantastic. And my granny and granddad and my auntie Naomi also came over, so it was a great night for us.”

Asked if she would like to return to try for the big prize, Laoise was in no doubt: “Yeah, I’d love it.”

The Fiddler of London is open to entries from all over the world and there was also a special video performance from Grace Broadhead from New Mexico, USA who was the Fiddler of London 2022 Diaspora Award winner.

Eilish Byrne- Whelehan, Director of Fiddler of London, told The Irish World: “I’m delighted that the night went so well. It was wonderful to have so many people here to have a live final, and to have Una McGlinchey crowned as the fiddler of London 2022. I’m delighted it went so well. It’s great.”

Proceedings were MC’d by Paddy Callaghan who referred to the competition’s high standard and the tough job the judges had.

Eilish continued: “All of the ten players were absolutely incredible. I think it just went down to personal choice by the adjudicators.

“It was a hard job but they had to come up with somebody and obviously, Una was their favourite.

“Congratulations to Una. Magnificent.

“I’ve heard Una playing many times, and she was a finalist last year as well.

“I was sitting in the hall and I was looking at my daughter saying, ‘Wow, that’s fantastic’. She’s a well-deserved winner.

“But they were all incredible players.

“And it’s about the craic and the fun.

“The Fiddler of London is not just a music competition. It’s about the whole ethos of music and everyone having a good time and enjoying themselves and making friendships.”

The competition first took place in 2021 with the final being held virtually due to the pandemic.

On the competition’s continued growth, Eilish said: “The global reach has been phenomenal.

“We had entries from all over the world hence why we’ve had the diaspora award.

“I’m looking forward to next year now and growing the competition even more and reaching out to more people.”

The Fiddler of London is also a tribute to Eilish’s late husband Justin Whelehan.

“There were many times tonight where I’ve been watching what’s going on and I just think, ‘Oh, wow, I miss him so much’.

“And if he was here, he would be in the middle of it all.

“And I know he’d be so proud of the whole project.

“It was something that we talked about doing. And then sadly, it didn’t happen. But now it is his legacy and that makes myself and the children feel so connected with him.

“It’s great and I’m delighted to be able to do it.”

The Fiddler of London Live Final takes place at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith this Saturday 15 April.

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