New York-based Irish American Writers & Artists bestowed the prestigious Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award to traditional Irish musician Joanie Madden at a formal ceremony at the Manhattan Club, upstairs at Rosie O’Grady’s, New York, on Monday, November 12.
The nonprofit group celebrated Madden’s continued contributions to traditional Irish music in America and around the world. Born in the Bronx to Irish parents, Madden was brought up with Irish music. She excelled in the concert flute and tin whistle early on and is now the top-selling whistle player of all time. She has performed on Grammy-winning albums and documentaries as the front woman of Cherish the Ladies, the acclaimed all-female Celtic music band. She has previously been awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, been named a Fellow of United States Artists, and had a street named after her on the Grand Concourse in her native Bronx.
“The list of Joanie Madden’s honors could wallpaper your bedroom,” said former talk show host and last year’s O’Neill award receipient, Phil Donahue, while introducing Madden. He said that Madden’s DNA contained “music of the heart.”
Paul Keating, the set dance and ceili dance caller, and instructor on Joanie Madden’s Folk’N Irish Cruise, called Madden “a force of nature, a giant personality, and perhaps the ninth wonder of the world.” The incoming president of the Irish American Writers & Artists Mary Pat Kelly said, “As her passionate – and numerous – fans around the world can attest, Joanie Madden stands out for her tireless commitment to preserving and passing along true Irish music from one generation to the next.” ♦ Maggie Holland