2001 Florida Folk Heritage Award
One of the finest traditional Irish fiddlers today, James Kelly grew up in a household in Dublin steeped in traditional music. His father, John Kelly, was renowned fiddler and concertina player from County Clare. Kelly was taught to play the fiddle at the age of three, and progressed rapidly under his father’s tutelage and the example of other fine traditional musicians. He initially played by ear, but learned to read music at 26. Kelly’s background and style reflect a synthesis of styles from counties Clare and Sligo. The Clare style is highly ornamented, but even-flowing, in contrast to the bouncier Sligo style. While his playing follows traditional forms and techniques, Kelly has also developed an unmistakable personal style.
Kelly received the Florida Folk Heritage Award as well as the Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Folk Arts in recognition of his outstanding musicianship. He has 19 albums to his credit, recently released his third solo CD, is compiling his compositions for publication, and is recording an instructional DVD for fiddle students. Kelly continues to tour the U.S., Canada and Europe with some of Irish music's leading accompanists. He has passed on his musical talent to his daughter, Sarah, who is studying concertina in the style of her grandfather.