Two Donegal woman will be honoured with TG4 Gradam Ceoil awards for 2017.

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Rita Gallagher have been selected for two highly-regarded Irish Traditional Music awards, and will be celebrating at a major ceremony in Cork this February.

The Musician of the Year Award for 2017 goes to Gaoth Dobhair native Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. Mairead is a founding member of Altan and has recently released an album with her family called Na Mooneys.

She has guested on 25 albums with well-known performers including Enya, The Chieftains, Dolly Parton, Mary Black and many more. She is also a presenter/broadcaster on both radio and TV.

Mairead set up a group with her late husband, Belfast flute player Frankie Kennedy, which went under the title Ragairne and took a prize at the Letterkenny Folk festival. Soon after, in 1983 Mairéad, Frankie and Ciarán Curran issued Ceol Aduaidh on the Gael-Linn label.

Mairead and Frankie set up Altan in 1987. It was a decision that changed their lives and marked a new direction in every sense as international travel became their normal life – from Gaoth Dobhair to Boston, New York to Milan and Tokyo and back again.

Frankie’s death left a huge gap in Irish music but Mairéad has undertaken to preserve his legacy and the group continued with its unique verve and energy.

Speaking on her award, Mairead showed that her passion for music is still strong. “I would be playing music even if there was no one there to listen. It’s great to get recognition for your art and it’s very important for me as a woman to receive this award because not many women have received it and now I’m in a list with great musicians. Talented men and women, people who’s heart is in the music.”

Singer of the Year award goes to Rita Gallagher from Ballymacahill near Frosses.

A three-time winner at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, Rita is a popular figure at festivals, singing weekends and workshops where her easy, gentle style draws people into the songs.

In 2010, Rita released a CD called The May Morning Dew, and this contains 20 songs in English plus a further 17 songs that she had released some years previously in 1997 on cassette called Easter Snow.

Rita has been a great influence on many singers, both through her recordings, and her popular singing workshops at festivals around the country.

As a singer in the English language, Rita was especially delighted to be named as Singer of the Year. “I was absolutely thrilled to get it. I think it’s fantastic that they give recognitions to people who sing in English as well as those who sing in Irish,” Rita said.

This year’s awards will be presented at the Gradam Ceoil TG4 Concert in the Cork Opera House on Sunday 19th February, hosted by well-known musician/broadcasters Tristan Rosenstock and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh.

The 2017 Gradam recipients will be joined on stage by their own special musical guests in a unique, star-studded line-up of musicians and award-presenters to include Altan, Lunny, Brady & Irvine, The Castle Céilí Band, The Atlantic Arc Orchestra, Na Mooneys, The Macalla Orchestra and many more.