In 2015 Matt Cunningham celebrated 50 years in the music business and 30 years teaching music with a weekend of music, song and dance in his home town of Headford, Co Galway. Two Irish TV stations were there to capture the unique event and these celebrations will be the backdrop to two separate documentaries, on the musical life of the much respected performer, being broadcast during Christmas week 2015.
Both TG4 & Irish TV have spent many weeks since the celebrations compiling two one-hour long documentaries which also see Matt behind the scenes in his family home in Headford, Co. Galway. Viewers will get to know the husband and father in intimate detail from his childhood and musical memories to the popular troubadour he is today. Talking candidly as he farms the land and then gets ready to head off to a performance, the audience will see the multifaceted man that he is. Matt’s family members speak about growing up in such a musical house and his wife Kathleen, tells of the many sleepless nights waiting for him to come home and in later years waiting for the whole family to come home. Along with the performance aspect of Matt’s career, the Producers delve into Matt’s teaching career which spans 30 years.
While both documentaries will include a number of performances, Irish TV have concentrated on one to one interviews with the man himself at his home while TG4 have spent time also speaking to many others who have interacted with Matt over his illustrious career.
Many students have benefited from his guidance and continue to bear the fruits of his talent. TG4 speak to a former music student of Matt’s, Therese Tracey, who talks of Matt’s legacy as a teacher and how 20 years on her own children are now being taught by Matt. His influence will undoubtedly be noticed for generations to come.
TG4 will also air contributions from RTE broadcaster Kieran Hanrahan, set and céilï dancing tutors and enthusiasts alike and contributions by other performers such as well know singer Philomena Begley.
Matt has become a household name in the Irish music world and he is one of the most popular performers within the set & céilí dancing scene and a pioneer where his recordings for dancers are concerned. Matt’s recordings are responsible in their own way for the preservation and popularisation of set & céilí dancing across the globe and the Producers hear from dance teachers and dancers alike about his influence.
One of Ireland’s best known dance instructors Padráig Mc Eneany, stated how “Matt’s recordings have been a lifeline to dancers and teachers throughout the world. His music has driven the revival and development of our national dances.”
Pat Murphy, author and international dance instructor said of the much respected performer: “This legacy of Matt’s will never be equalled. When the history of music and dance in our time is properly told, I am sure that Matt will be seen as the brightest star.”
Earlier in the year President Michael D Higgins also outlined the indelible mark Matt has had on Ireland’s cultural traditions: “There can be no doubt that Matt’s dedication to his art, his skill, and his great spirit as a performer, have contributed significantly to upholding the rich tradition of live music performance which is part of the very fabric of Irish society. Matt has ensured that our musical heritage will continue to be enjoyed and appreciated by generations to come.”
Indeed given the documentaries are being broadcast on Christmas Night (Irish TV) and St. Stephen’s Night (TG4) – both primetime slots – demonstrates the interest the respective Producers and TV station chiefs have placed in Matt’s musical life and that they have identified a comprehensive audience they know will engage with the captivating documentaries.
‘Around the House – a tribute to Matt Cunningham’ airs Christmas Day, December 25th @ 9.00pm on Irish TV
Matt Cunningham, ‘Rí an Seit’ airs St. Stephen’s Day, Saturday December 26th 2015 @ 8.05pm on TG4.