Tuesday, November 18, 2008
In his teens, Liam and his pipes began to attend music 'seisiuns' in the Kildare village of Prosperous. Here, for the first time, he met many of the people with whom he would later make his name and tour the concert-halls of the world. These were musicians like Christy Moore, Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine with whom, in the early seventies, Liam formed the legendary Planxty. One of Ireland's most important and influential groups, Planxty brought a style, innovation and 'cool' to Irish music which was to lead directly to the many Irish musical success stories during the decades that followed.
But behind the innovation and experimentation Liam O'Flynn has always managed to remain true to the great piping tradition. He has taken his instrument into previously unexplored territory - be it as a member of Planxty, as a soloist with an orchestra or working with artists as diverse as John Cage, The Everly Brothers, Van Morrison and Kate Bush. But whatever the situation, he has remained resolutely true to the music itself. And it's precisely this mix of credibility and durability which makes Liam O'Flynn one of our greatest musicians and someone long regarded among his peers as Ireland's Master Uilleann Piper.
"I always imagine," Liam says, "that it must have been extraordinary when the pipes were first developed in the eighteenth century - a whole new instrument and here's a fellow coming around to the local fair with this amazing instrument with extraordinary sounds and inbuilt accompaniment. It became an 'in' instrument that very quickly occupied prime position in the tradition and people of all stations took to it. The big houses took to the instrument and they had their own resident pipers. Then you had the traveling pipers who played at all sorts of outdoor happenings and they evolved a different style that was very immediate and quite open and spectacular. I suppose the whole idea of power was attached to people who played such an extraordinary instrument."
Liam is always searching for new arenas in which to take the pipes. With Mark Knopfler he performed the score to the movie Cal. Other movie scores include The Field, A River Runs Through It (with Elmer Bernstein), Kidnapped, and Roses from Dublin (with Vladimir Cosma). No stranger to playing with orchestras, Liam had already achieved an international audience when he recorded The Brendan Voyage with Shaun Davey, a groundbreaking orchestral piece which was followed in later years by three other Shaun Davey works, Granuaile, The Relief of Derry Symphony and more recently The Pilgrim. He had successfully brought the pipes into the greatest concert halls in the world and introduced its unique sounds to audiences and musicians everywhere.