Joe de Georgeo Wins Seán Ó Riada Gold Medal 2023

Joe de Georgeo (Photo: RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta)

Joe de Georgeo Wins Seán Ó Riada Gold Medal 2023

Fiddle player from Minneapolis wins annual traditional music competition.

Twenty-year-old fiddle player Joe de Georgeo has won the 2023 Seán Ó Riada Gold Medal competition.

The final, which was broadcast live on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on Friday 3 February, featured fourteen fiddle players from around the world who competed for the medal and the €2,500 prize.

De Georgeo is from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and began playing classical violin at the age of four. His first exposure to Irish traditional music was at the age of five when his family moved to Galway for a year and his father started tin whistle lessons with Mary Bergin. After returning to the US, de Georgeo and his sister began taking lessons with Jode Dowling at the Center for Irish Music in St Paul. By the time de Georgeo was in high school he was focusing exclusively on traditional music and competing in various fleadhs. His influences include Dowling, fiddle player James Kelly and flute player Seán Gavin, also a former winner of the Seán Ó Riada competition.

De Georgeo played two reels at the competition, ‘The Primrose Lass’ and ‘The Bloom of Youth’, displaying a relaxed, rhythmic style. Commenting on his win, he said: 

It feels great. Some amazing musicians have won in the past, and I’m really honoured, especially coming to it as an American, to now be part of that group of musicians. Playing in a solo competition like this was a new experience for me, and to win it was incredible.

De Georgeo is currently studying architecture in Northeastern University in Boston, where he also plays in a regular session in the Druid bar with Colm Gannon and Tina Lech.

The full list of finalists was as follows: Alice Bradley (Maryland), Andrew Caden (Maryland), Adam Cole-Mullen (Boston), Caoimhe Flannery (Rockchapel, Co. Cork), Joe de Georgeo (Minnesota), Ty Kelliher (Connecticut), Úna McGlinchey (Omagh, Co. Tyrone), Jason McGuinness (Dromore West, Co. Sligo), Sinéad Nic Cionnaith (Augher, Co. Tyrone), Megan Nic Fhionnghaile (Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Donegal), Macdara Ó Faoláin (An Rinn, Co. Waterford), Pax Ó Faoláin (An Rinn, Co. Waterford), Annie Smyth (Ballymacnab, Co. Armagh) and Méabh Smyth (Ballymacnab, Co. Armagh).

The judges were fiddle players Connie O’Connell, Éamon McGivney and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh. 

Established in 2010 by Peadar Ó Riada, son of composer Seán Ó Riada, the competition focuses on a different instrument, or set of instruments, each year and this year the focus was on fiddle. 

Listen to de Georgeo’s winning performance below, as well as the full programme.

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Published on 8 February 2023

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