Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
'Voice in the Reeds' marries the earthy and ancient tones of the reeds in the Uilleann pipes with the spoken word in the form of poetry and the soothing voice of the Irish wooden flute.
Peters, originally from County Derry in Ulster, and Rory O'Connell, an Irish American who has lived in Forres for most of his adult life, have been playing Irish music together for many years.
They play locally at ceilidhs and sessions. and have been influential on the local music scene in their respective towns, bringing Irish traditional music to a wider audience.
They each play whistles and wooden flutes, as well as the Uilleann pipes.
The Uilleann pipes are an instrument traditional to Ireland and not commonly seen in Scotland.
As well as their love of the sound of the pipes, the pair have a passion for Irish poetry, particularly that of Seamus Heaney, which they will share with the audience.
Heaney is a well-known and well-loved poet from County Derry who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.
For more information, visit www.morayvoices.org.uk
Andy, Davey and the band playing the first track from their album 'East Wind', entitled Chetvorno Horo
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
ST. ANNS — Not surprisingly, the focus was on youth during a panel discussion about the preservation of community musical traditions, Thursday.
Held at the Gaelic College as part of the Celtic Colours International Festival, the discussion was facilitated by festival artistic director Joella Foulds and featured representatives of organizations from both Ireland and Cape Breton who have worked in various capacities to keep their cultural traditions alive.
Rab Cherry, a fiddle maker from Ireland, is one of the founding members of Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí, an organization which has been working since 1983 to foster the development and preservation of Donegal fiddle music.
Cherry said the Donegal fiddling tradition had gone very quiet years ago but through weekend festivals, the collection and recording of the music, summer schools, and other initiatives, a significant number of younger people have since picked up the fiddle.
As an example, he said where they once struggled to find just a few teachers to instruct the summer school, that’s no longer an issue.
“If we needed 50 teachers we could get them. It wouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
Gay McKeon, a uilleann piper from Ireland, talked about the reemergence of that art form over the last few decades. While the pipes were almost extinct in Ireland in the 1960s, a group formed focusing on supporting pipers and teaching new players. Their piping organization has since grown to 7,000 members from both inside and outside Ireland.
Representing Cape Breton on the panel were musicians Derrick and Melody Cameron from Feis Mhabu, which aims to provide learning and social opportunities for those interested in Gaelic culture, as well as Betty Matheson and Bob MacEachern from the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association.
Motivated by a 1972 documentary entitled The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler, the fiddlers’ association formed soon after and held their first festival in Glendale in 1973.
In addition to regular monthly practices and ceilidhs, the association is always looking for new ways to promote the culture through instruction and by providing opportunities for young players to perform, according to MacEachern.
He said the neat thing about the all-ages fiddlers’ association is that a fiddler with 60 years experience is often playing alongside someone who may have just taken up the fiddle a couple of years ago.
“There’s a great synergy between the two generations and they feed off each other,” said MacEachern, explaining that the older fiddlers teach by example, while the younger fiddlers inspire and re-energize the whole group.
Derrick Cameron said Feis Mhabu formed about 15 years ago and is focused on providing learning opportunities for budding Gaelic speakers through after-school programs, milling frolics, and programs based in homes in the community.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
More of Leo's 78 RPM recordings may be heard on the CD "Classics of Irish Piping" on the Topic label. Leo's 50s LP Ri Na Bpiobairi (The King Of The Pipers) has also been reissued on CD. Walton's has published an excellent book of Leo's transcriptions, the Leo Rowsome Collection of Irish Music.
Each year, the disciplines on offer grows, and this year the organisers have proudly said that they are catering for all instruments, at all ages, for all levels.
"We're trying to develop it each year, and this year we have the uilleann pipes, which we haven't had in the past few years," said Chris Keenan.
"We also have a workshop for songwriters," said Kathy Casey.
The workshops take place on the Saturday and Sunday of the festival and cater for the following instruments: 5-string banjo, clawhammer banjo, finger style tenor banjo, Irish tenor banjo, flute, mouth organ/harmonica, uilleann pipes/low whistle, guitar, dobro guitar and fiddle.
There are also workshops in bluegrass vocals, vocal harmonies - bluegrass and gospel and singer/songwriter.
Check out the full list of workshops on www.johnnykeenan.com
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The current form of the Irish Uilleann Pipes may have been inspired by the Scottish "Pastoral Pipes". The pastoral pipes are bellows blown and played in a seated position. The conical bored chanter is played open along with 3 drones and (as with most examples of the instrument) 1 regulator. I personally believe that the Uilleann Pipes and the Pastoral Pipes may have developed simultaneously, with ideas on the instrument being traded back-and-forth between Ireland and Scotland. The major difference between the 2 being that the Uilleann Pipe chanter is played in a closed, partially staccato style. Whereas the Scottish Pastoral Pipes are played in an open, legato style. This occurred, roughly, around the 18th and early 19th century.
This early form of the Uilleann Pipes was played relatively unchanged until the late 19th century. Early Uilleann Pipes (or "Union Pipes as they were called) were flat pitched. They were usually pitched around B up to perhaps C sharp. Around the turn of the century, pipemakers began to make what are now called "Concert Pitched" Uilleann Pipes. The Concert pitched set were (and still are) pitched in the key of D and are somewhat brighter and louder in tone. The development of the concert pitched Uilleann Pipes is generally attributed to the Taylor brothers of Philadelphia, PA. Again, it is more likely that several versions were developed, simultaneously in Ireland and America, with ideas making their way from one pipemaker to another. Either voluntarily or, more likely, by quiet observation.
A few great makers in the mid 20th century were instrumental in keeping the instrument from dying out due to the modernization of music and the instruments popular music is played on. The 1960's and the 1970's, on to the present, saw a resurgence in popularity of the Uilleann Pipes, thanks to several traditionally based Irish musical groups that had the foresight to record and tour. Also, with great gratitude from all who love the pipes, to the pioneering organizations in Ireland who kept the music and the pipes from becoming an anachronism.
The Uilleann Pipes belong to a family of bagpipes generically referred to as "parlor pipes". Parlor pipes are most often bellows blown and are no louder than, say, a fiddle. Some are even quieter than that.
The heart of the Uilleann Pipes is the chanter. The Uilleann Pipes have a "conical bored" chanter. That is to say the bore tapers from a narrow "throat" on the reed side to a wider end. Eight finger holes of various sizes and spacing are drilled in a straight line along the length of the chanter to produce different musical tones. They are covered by the thumb and three fingers of the left hand and four fingers of the right hand. The Uilleann Pipes are unique among bagpipes in that they can play two octaves (as opposed to the Scottish Highland Pipes that play one octave). They will also play staccato notes. Both characteristics of second octave and staccato notes are possible, primarily due to the chanter being played with the large end closed against a leather pad situated on the player's right thigh. The second octave is also possible because of the nature of the bore and reed.
The Uilleann Pipes chanter has a longer and narrower bore than most other bagpipes. That, and the fact that it is bellows blown, (also called "dry reed" , "cold wind" or "dry wind") allows for a reed that is longer and trimmed somewhat thinner than most bagpipes chanter reeds. This is why the Chanter reed on the Uilleann Pipes can cause the player so many problems. They are much more sensitive to weather extremes than many other woodwind musical instrument reeds. Many pipers prefer to make their own reeds because of this. Making reeds is a worthwhile goal of any piper that I, personally, strongly encourage. Reed making is often unique to a particular chanter and no two chanters are often alike in the reeding characteristics. Even two chanters from the same maker.
The second major portion of the Uilleann Pipes is the drones. They provide a harmonic "bed" to compliment the chanter. They are fundamentally cylindrical in bore, although most sets vary in bore width in one way or another. The drones are driven by "single reeds". This is usually a small piece of cylindrical reed cane that is cut partially across and split back to form a tongue. Many wonderful things are being done in modern pipes in regard to composite and synthetic drone reeds. Most often, composite and synthetic drone reeds are more dependable than their cane counterparts and require less air to play.
The modern Uilleann Pipes usually have three drones that are arranged in a common stock, parallel to each other. The shortest drone (tenor) plays a D above middle C (the root tone of the D pitched chanter). The middle drone (baritone) plays a D one octave below that. And, the bass drone plays a D an octave below the baritone drone. The drones have a key in the stock attached to a valve which can start or stop the airflow to the drones. This can be used to nice effect in the music. It also allows the drones to start at playing pressure. There is no ramp-up to the drone note as in pipes with no drone valve key. The low, mellow sound of the Uilleann Pipe's drones is what attracts many people to the instrument.
The third important part of the full set of Uilleann Pipes is those daunting regulators. (I don't know where the term "Regulators" comes from). The regulators are (on a modern full set) three conical bored pipes, set side by side in the same stock as the drones. The regulators are keyed and have a stop on the end. Because the keys are spring loaded shut and because of the end stop, the regulators only sound when a key is depressed. The regulators are fitted with a double reed, very much like the chanter's double reed. Since the regulators don't play a second octave, they generally give less trouble than the chanter. They are also easier to tune, overall, because of "tuning rushes" that extend the length of the bore. If necessary, pieces of material can be attached to the rush wire to tune selected notes on the regulator. I like "tack putty" for that purpose. The keys on the regulators are arranged in rows of three that match in length when the regulators are set into the main stock. With the player in a seated position, the regulators extend across the player's right thigh. In this position the regulators pass under the right hand as it is playing the chanter. The regulator keys are depressed with the heel of the right hand, thus allowing for a simple chordal accompaniment to the chanter and drones. In certain chanter passages, the player may also reach around and play the regulators with the fingertips of the right hand.
The bag on the Uilleann Pipes is fairly straightforward. It is simply a reservoir of air made, most typically, of leather. Most bags of leather are made of chrome tanned leather. These sometimes need treatment with oils or other concoctions to be airtight. "Elk tanned" cowhide needs no treatment. Some bags are made of synthetic materials, as well. Synthetic bags can be surprisingly good and easy to construct. They can be a good bag for beginning or hobbyist pipe makers. The outlet tube of the bellows leads into a stock on the bag where there is a valve to check the airflow in one direction into the bag. For my pipes, I use bags made by Michael MacHarg. "The best bags in the world". Michael MacHarg owns and operates "The Wee Piper" at: RFD 2, Rt. 14, Box 286 So.Royalton, VT 05068 Phone : 802-763-8812. (top)
The bellows consist of two wooden paddles (often called "cheeks") that are fitted with a piece of leather around the edge called the "gusset". A valve on the outside cheek brings air in, on the outstroke, and directs it one way out of the bellows, on the instroke. A belt is fitted to the inside cheek to go around the payer's lower rib cage. A smaller belt is attached to the outside cheek to clasp around the player's arm, just above the elbow.
By turns soul-searching and exuberant, the sound of the Irish uilleann pipes is familiar enough today from the mist-laden TV dramas and a cameo role in Titanic, but only 50 years ago it was on the verge of extinction.Julian May explores the instrument under the guidance of Liam O'Flynn, whose playing has helped to ensure the tradition is thriving again.
(Reproduced by Kind permission of Songlines: Photos Toner)
|The uilleann pipes, lock, stock and several barrels. From left to right; the chanter, the drones, and regulators with the bag and popping strap, and the bellows|
The film Braveheart opens with roaming shots of a rugged, damp, mysterious landscape; a beautiful Scotland riven by atrocity. To aurally augment the atmosphere, what do we hear? Of course, a distant lamentation of pipes. But not Highland pipes; for his film, Mel Gibson imported their distant Irish cousins, the uilleannvariety. William Wallace had been dead for half a millennium before they were invented, but Hey - this is Hollywood. Cut to Titanic, Leonardo di Caprio wants to show Kate Winslet a really good time. They escape the stuffed shirts in first class, dive below decks and behold, the Irish émigrés are dancing with wild abandon to the great tunes that a musician in the corner ...is squeezing from his uilleann pipes. There you have it, the two stereotypical extremes of the Celtic world, encapsulated by this single instrument.
Paddy Mo loney chief of The Chieftains, must possess the best travelled set - he's played them everywhere, with everyone. Davy Spillane uses his like a jazz saxophonist and they are a crucial ingredient to the mix of the most successful fusion band of the moment, Afro-Celt Sound System. The uilleann (pronounced 'illun') pipes, like the rest of Irish culture, have gone global.
Even so, the moment of musical history the great piper Liam O'Flynn will cherish for the rest of his days is the recital he gave in London on August 12th 1999. He played a few tunes from Galicia and a smattering of new work, but predominately the programme was of Irish traditional music. Nothing unusual in that; it's what he does. But the venue was the Royal Albert Hall and the evening was broadcast by BBC Radio 3 as part of the most prestigious of serious music festivals, the BBC Proms. 'It's wonderful,' O'Flynn enthuses. 'This is the first time this music has appeared on such a platform. It's tremendously important.' So it is, because while there have been African, Jazz and Indian Proms, this was the first featuring the traditional music of Ireland. 'Not mediated through versions by classical composers,' O'Flynn asserts, 'but the thing itself.' It's a measure of the respect for that music, for the musician and the instrument itself.
Saved from extinction
It is strange to think, then, that within living memory the health of uilleann piping was even more parlous than that of the Irish language. 'The instrument came very close to extinction,' O'Flynn reflects. 'It nearly did die, and the ordinary people would not have been aware of the existence of the uilleann pipes. The lowest point came about 60 years ago when there were very few piper's left, maybe 50 at most, and no more than a handful could make a set of pipes.' But those few tenacious pipers - notably Leo Rowsome, Seamus Ennis and Willie Clancy - clung on when the Irish began to rediscover their own music in the 1950s the tradition, at its last gasp, was not beyond resuscitation. For O'Flynn these players, all of whom he new and learned from, are heroic figures: wonderful musicians, vital bearers and advocates of their tradition, generous teachers and great men. O'Flynn has played a crucial role himself. He joined the group Planxty in 1972 and they were phenomenally successful, touring widely and beyond the usual remit of folk music. Many people, drawn to their exciting music, heard the uilleann pipes for the first time and were struck by their power, their expressiveness.
'I must have been hearing the uilleann pipes from more or less day one,' says O'Flynn. 'I was born into a family of traditional musicians - though none of them pipers.' His mother, from County Clare, sang and played the piano; his father was a fiddler whose good friend Sergeant Tom Armstrong, of the Kildare Garda, used to visit frequently, bringing his pipes. 'My earliest musical memory is of extraordinary impact - some deep chord within me that the sound of the uilleann pipes struck. And I was in no doubt that that was the instrument that I wanted to play. I dreamt about the time when I'd be old enough and strong enough to get a set of pipes.'
O'Flynn extolls the mellowness of their sound, the uilleann pipes' characteristic sweetness of tone, but he acknowledges too their raw wildness - a quality hinting that the piper is perhaps not totally in control. As well as chirruping happily along, these pipes can wail chillingly, as in 'The Foxhunt', the most remarkable descriptive piece in their repertoire, when they evoke first the yelps of the hounds, then the death throes of their unfortunate prey. The poet Seamus Heaney, who works in an occasional duo with O'Flynn, credits the strength the drones bring, creating the 'floor of the sound, the foundation to build on with their deep steady quality'. He relishes too 'the merriment playing along with it' in the jigs and reels, yet, like O'Flynn, is struck by the emotional impact of the uilleann pipes, likening 'their capacity to lament and enlarge sorrow' to great poetry. A fine example of this is 'The Death of Staker Wallace'. 'Staker Wallace led an outfit called the White Boys,' O'Flynn explains. 'They dressed up in sheets at night and rooted up the hedges the landlords enclosed the commonage with - the peasants were already in a desperate plight. He was hunted down, tortured and hanged in 1798. Then his head was put on a spike. There was a song about him. Only a few lines survive but we have the tune, which is a kind of monument to the man.' It is unutterably sad, and when O'Flynn plays it he lengthens and blends certain notes, and the melody itself seems weighted down by anguish and loss. 'Many of the tunes', says Heaney, 'are slow airs with a certain dolourness.' But the aspect of the uilleann pipes and their music that impresses him most is that they are 'not about dolour, but overcoming it; a spirit not caving in but keeping going.' One begins to realize why for many Irish people the pipes rather than the harp are the national instrument. Indeed, one of the new pieces O'Flynn included in his Proms concert was The Bridge, written - at her request that the uilleann pipes be played - for the inauguration of Mary McAleese as President of Ireland.
A mechanical marvel
It is the extraordinary sophistication of these pipes that makes such a range of expression possible. O'Flynn complains that ordinary musicians can just pick up their instruments, while he has to strap himself into his. The piper has to sit , with the bellows under one arm, pumping air with his elbow - resisting the temptation to do this in time with the music - through a tube across the stomach to the bag under the other arm. Ideally, the bag is made of pigskin, which used to be treated with lard to keep it airtight ('with dire consequences for the piper', O'Flynn recalls, 'should he sit too close to the fire'). Cheaper modern pipes have rubber bags which don't leak, but leather is still preferred because it filters the air, catching the dust that can play havoc with the reeds. The bag powers the chanter, the pipe which plays the melody. It has seven finger-holes and a single thumb-hole on the back. Unlike the Northumbrian small pipes this chanter is open-ended and has a conical bore. For much of the time the chanter rests on the 'popping strap', a piece of leather tied around the pipers thigh, but it must be lifted off the strap to obtain certain notes and to blend them. The best chanters are made of ebony, or African blackwood, but these, prized for their density even more than for their beauty, have long been difficult to acquire. O'Flynn recalls his teacher Leo Rowsome, who was a great pipe-maker as well as player. 'He was always on the lookout for old policeman's truncheons - just right for making chanters if they weren't split with use. He used to be on the lookout for old billiard balls too. They were sometimes made of ivory and he'd use them for mountings.' Nowadays, chanters are sometimes made made of boxwood, which is also very close-grained and hard, or even cherry. As many as seven keys may be fitted, giving a range of sharps and flats, but traditional music requires only one, which gives C natural in the second octave; the scale of the instrument is D major.
Yes, indeed: the second octave. Nearly 300 years ago an unknown genius pared a reed that gave access to the upper octave by means of overblowing - using extra pressure on the bag. Whereas the beauty of the Highland pipes lies in the exploitation and ornamentation of their restricted range, that of the uilleann pipes is the freedom to roam over two octaves. But there are also 'flat pipes', pitched a tone or more lower. O'Flynn has a set of these inherited from the great piper and collector Seamus Ennis. These are quieter, mellow and even more of a chamber instrument.
Across the piper's lap lie the drones - three of them. These provide a constant accompaniment to the chanter. One of the secrets of listening to pipe music is to attune the ear to hear not just the drone and a chanter but the cords they create together (such as, with Highland pipes, an apparent fifth, a note that is there even though nothing is producing it). The tenor drone echoes the bottom note of the chanter, the barritone is an octave below that and the bass another octave below the baritone. (Uilleann pipes, ever versatile, have a key which can silence the drones.)
|Top: the chanter with its single key, resting on the popping strap. Bottom: the chanter is raised off the strap for certain pitch changes.|
Bagpipers the world over content themselves with bags, chanters and drones in various combinations. But Ireland is a land given to excess - so the uilleann piper has to contend with regulators too. These are three pipes, stopped at the end and fitted with keys, arranged over the drones. With the heel of the fist, or the fingers of one hand if it is not too busy on the chanter, the dextrous piper depresses the keys to provide simple chordal accompaniment. 'Why "regulators" no one has ever been able to tell me, nor any book either,' muses O'Flynn. 'But "regulators" they are.' The use of these is controversial. Leo Rowsome was inordinately fond of them, leading Seamus Ennis to mock his 'parp-parping' style. Johnny Doran, a traveller piper (who died as a result of a wall collapsing on his caravan in Dublin) used them almost percussively. His playing was fast, even flashy, because he played at fairs and markets: his audience was on the move and he had to arrest them with his virtuosity. He influenced Willie Clancy, and more recently Davy Spillane who admired the wildness of Doran's style more than the parlour 'pipering' of Rowsome. Ennis, whom O'Flynn reveres for his mastery of the instrument in its entirety, used the regulators sparingly, to great effect. O'Flynn exploits the regulators with his customary restraint.
So the piper is pumping the bellows, varying the pressure of the bag, bouncing the chanter off his thigh as he plays the tune, switching the drones in and out and wresting chords out of the regulators. 'There is quite a lot to think about,' says O'Flynn, a man of almost English understatement. 'It calls for a certain degree of co-ordination. I don't play any other pipes but if there are any more difficult ones I don't want to know about them.' He tells a story of coming through customs with a friend at Heathrow airport with his pipes in their neat case. A stressed security man rushed up. 'Is that a gun in there?', he snapped. 'No,' piped O'Flynn's companion, 'Worse!'
A woolly tale
In the Merchant of Venice Shylock remarked that, 'There are those who when the woollen bagpipe sings i'th nose cannot contain their urine.' It's not the alleged diuretic property of the pipes that has exercised scholars, but the word 'woollen'. There are no known knitted bagpipes, though it may refer to the decorative covering of the bag. But 'woollen' is not that distant in sound from 'uilleann', especially if you're pirating a copy of a play scribbling it down as it's being performed, and you have little grasp of Irish. Was Shakespeare familiar with the uilleann pipes? It's a nice notion, but unlikely.
Shakespeare died in 1616, a century or so before they began to develop and at least two before they reached their present state. The name is derived from 'uille' the Irish for 'elbow', because they are bellows or elbow-driven rather than mouth-blown. But this name was itself only introduced at the turn of the century. Prior to that they were known as 'union' pipes because their sound is formed by the unity of chanter, drones and regulators.
The uilleann pipes were popular across the range of society. Indeed, there is some evidence that the bellows developed so that aristocrats would not ruin their faces and dignity by indecorously puffing into their pipes. These gentleman pipers included Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Lord Rossmore, and the great houses of the early nineteenth century employed pipers. At the other end of the social spectrum there was the itinerant pipers, epitomized in this century by Johnny Doran and, in between, farmers like Leo Rowsome's grandfather Samuel and the blind piper Garret Barry of Inagh, in whose footsteps Willie Clancy followed. After the Great Famine in the 1840s many musicians were among those who left for America. Eventually there was an important traditional scene in Chicago, sustained by Francis O'Neill, the captain of police who employed musicians on the force - and was known to release musical felons in return for a tune.
Playing the chanter and the regulators can be a serious business.
An eighteenth-century gentleman piper Photo Irish Traditional Music Archive
Back in Ireland the uilleann pipes were almost ousted by melodeons and concertinas. These were cheap, loud and less demanding. The maintenance of a set of uilleann pipes is almost as demanding as the playing of them. Orchestral wind-players moan about the double reeds but they gaze in awe when they work with Liam O'Flynn, who has often worked with symphony orchestras, performing Shaun Davey's suite for orchestra and pipes, The Brendan Voyage. The wind-players have just the one recalcitrant reed; a set of uilleann pipes has four doubles and three singles. 'There's quite a lot that can go wrong,' O'Flynn sighs. 'It's quite a job sometimes to keep them all happy.' Even O'Flynn's venerable pipes sport the odd rubber band and a bit of sticky tape to keep them steaming along.
Liam O'Flynn was 11 before his dream came true and he was given a set of uilleann pipes. This was a practice set - the bellows, bag and chanter without the distraction of drones and regulators. 'I was playing the practice set for at least five years,' O'Flynn remembers. 'My first teacher, Leo Rowsome, insisted on that and I'm very glad, because with the drones and regulators it's too easy to cover mistakes and problems.' O'Flynn describes a relationship with his teacher, who also taught the young Paddy Moloney, that is archetypal and, in the West now rare indeed. 'It was like being an apprentice to a master. Almost all the uilleann pipers I know refer to an older piper. I would say it was impossible to learn on your own. All my music I learned by ear - dots never came into it - and now once the piece is living inside me I can begin to express myself through it.'
From pub to platform
O'Flynn has been known to make airport staff distinctly nervous - the pipes' case looks alarmingly suspect.
O'Flynn is a traditional musician, but a contemporary man of considerable musical curiosity and ambition. He has worked with a great variety of musicians - Mark Knopfler, John Williams, Kate Bush. He even played in Roaratorio, a piece the modernist composer John Cage wrote for the dancer Merce Cunningham, based on James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. Of deeper significance, though was playing Shaun Davey's The Brendan Voyage as a soloist in front of a full symphony orchestra. In the past, classical composers have had a somewhat imperial attitude towards vernacular music. 'They took the tunes and brought them into the concert hall,' says Shaun Davey. 'But where was the traditional musician? They left him back in the pub.' Since then O'Flynn has been up on the platform, and the uilleann pipes pop up everywhere. Even the quintessential English band of Hope - Roy Bailey, Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick and John Kirkpatrick - included Steafan Hannigan playing pipes. Some pipers, especially those working in bands, rarely venture on to the regulators - 'Because they are surrounded by accompaniment,' O'Flynn notes, 'they don't need to use the instrument's own.' He is generous and respectful. Of Davy Spillane, for instance, he quotes the man himself: 'Davy once said he was not anuilleann piper, but a musician who happens to play the pipes.' And a tinge, but no more, of regret, colours his voice.
O'Flynn revels in the knowledge that in his lifetime the number of uilleann pipers has grown from a handful to thousands; that the sound that so moved him as a boy is heard on every continent. But he is clear in his own mind: the uilleann pipes are a traditional instrument, at their best playing music in that idiom. And there's plenty of it. 'I'm playing now for more than 40 years,' he says, ''and still finding new tunes. Well new old tunes. It's wonderful music and you'd never reach the end of it.'
Now that O'Flynn has played on BBC Radio 3 and broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall at the Proms, the traditional musician has come out of the pub and onto the concert platform, bringing his instrument and the music with him.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Don't leave your pipes in a direct heat source, such as in sunlight in the back of a car, near a radiator or stove, under stage lights etc. - this will affect your reeds badly either temporarily or permanently.
If you live in or are playing in a hot and dry climate and your reeds begin to choke up, leave your pipes in a bathroom overnight (but not in the bath!!) with water in the bath. Keep a large piece of peeled cucumber or potato in your case. Soak the inside of your bellows just before playing or remove the clack valve holder and put a piece of wet rag or sponge in the bellows and replace the clack valve.
If your reed slips don't make that characteristic "clink"sound when you drop them onto a hard surface then the cane is probably underseasoned; microwave the slip for about 4 to 5 seconds and leave to cool, it works.
Split your slips out of the cane tube as soon as you can and leave to settle down for as long as possible. Make reed blanks and leave them for days, weeks or even months before you cut the head down and voice them. Never try to get the best out of a reed on the day that you make it, give the cane time to adjust to its new form. Time and patience pay off.
if your pipes begin to "act up"at a smoky, sweaty session or wherever resist the urge to "fiddle"with your reeds; rather leave your set to sit and rest for a few minutes or so, or even put them away and leave them overnight if you can- its amazing how often they come back to themselves without drastic adjustment.
After a while a chanter reed may become leaky with age, then coat the binding with nail varnish or glue.
Use oboe reed wire (available from woodwind suppliers) to cure any air leaks just below the bridle, the classical woodwind players do it to get a bit longer out of a reed so why not us pipers.
Keep all keys 100% airtight (very important). There is no need to re-pad with leather, sealing wax and heat any more, just use an old computer mouse pad to cut the pads from and glue them on. If a regulator key begins to leak use an elastic band to seat it properly until you can fix it. Leaks are the other great enemy (apart from bodhran players of course ;-)
The Crowley name is synonymous with the art of uilleann piping and pipe making. It is a name which is highly respected within the world of uilleann piping and is known near and far. Their love for all things Irish and especially the uilleann pipes was the driving force behind all their work. They readily passed on their vast knowledge of piping and pipe making to any up and coming aspiring pipers and pipe makers. This generosity of nature played no small part in keeping the art of uilleann piping and pipe making very much alive in their native city of Cork.
The Crowley brothers came from Saint James Square, Blackpool. Tadhg was born in 1899 and his brother Denis in 1908. Tadhg began to learn the bag pipes at the age of sixteen. He was associated with two pipe bands, The Lee Pipe Band and The Brian Boru Pipe Band. At this time most bands were playing marches and Scottish pipe music. It was Tadhg’s love of his own native music that led him to transcribe all of the 1001 tunes from the famous Chief O’Neill’s book, into bag pipe settings. Original manuscripts of this huge task thankfully still survive at the time of writing this. By the early 1920’s Tadhg had developed an interest in repairing bag pipes and drums for local bands. It was around this time that he began to learn the uilleann pipes, his for love, at the Cork Pipers Club. In 1926, he repaired a set of uilleann pipes for Henry Ford’s father. These pipes are now in the Ford Museum in Dearbourn, Michigan. Henry Ford wrote back to Tadhg, which led to Tadhg working in Ford’s factory for six months.
…the Crowley name is highly respected within the world of uilleann piping and is known near and far…
That same year Tadhg was toying with the idea of going to the States. He had all of his papers ready and his uncle in the States had a job organised for him. One evening he went for a walk up to Sunday’s Well and looked out over the city. His love for his city and music won out, he decided not to go. Instead he decided to go into the uilleann pipe, bag pipe and drum making business full time.
Self taught, he first made a set of uilleann pipes for himself. Denis, his brother, was also interested in piping and pipe making and assisted his brother in the business. They ran their business firstly from their home, and in 1933 they moved it to 10, Merchants Quay, Cork. Due to rapidly growing demand for Crowley uilleann pipes, bag pipes and drums the Crowley brothers opened a workshop in Maylor Street, in the late 1930’s. Their 10 Merchant Quay premises remained as a music shop.
Tommy Clapham, a wood turner, and Denis Clapham, a drum maker (Tadhg’s brothers-in-law), both came to work in the workshop. The workshop had three wood lathes, a metal lathe, a band saw, a circular saw and big stocks of African black wood, Spanish cane and brass for fittings and keys. It was Tadhg Crowley who first used cupped keys on his chanters and regulators. The cupped design gives better sealing as it stops the leather pads from spreading out. This method has since been used by other pipe makers. He got this from clarinet makers.
Tadhg made a set of silver plated pipes for Micheal O Riabhaigh and Moss Kennedy. One of these sets was displayed at a trade fair in the City Hall. These pipes had an interesting feature as one of the drones which could be tuned to the note G, which would then harmonise with tunes being played in the E minor mode on the D chanter.
Tadhg taught both Micheal O Riabhaigh and Moss Kennedy their piping. He also taught Moss the art of uilleann pipe making. Micheal O Riabhaigh went on to revive the Cork Pipers Club in 1963.
Mary (May) McCarthy, piper and dancer, taught Tadhg’s daughters dancing in the Crowley home in the later 1940’s. Sean Wayland (chief founder of the Cork Pipers Club) was a good friend of Tadhg’s, and kept in regular contact with him by letter. A photograph of Sean always hung in the Crowley home.
Throughout his life Tadhg readily promoted all things Irish, especially our music and dance. He regularly played at dances at “An Grianan” and the A.O.H. Hall. Tadhg died all too young at the age of fifty two (1899 - 1952), leaving a young family behind. Denis, his brother, ably assisted him throughout his musical instrument making career. Denis continued to make uilleann pipes up until his death in 1966. The Crowley name is still strongly associated with music in Cork. Michael Crowley, Tadhg’s son, runs their family business from their premises in McCurtain Street, Cork.
The Cork Pipers Club is indebted to, and would like to thank the Crowley family, who so selflessly promoted the art of uilleann piping and uilleann pipe making in Cork during those lean years of the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s when our Club was not functional.
Cork Pipers Club
Thursday, February 19, 2009
If you wish to learn how To play the Irish uilleann pipes
there are three avenues of tuition you can take. This is
assuming that you have already acquired a practice set of
Uilleann Pipes to play.
The first method of tuition is to get lessons from a teacher
in your area. This may sound logical but finding an
Uilleann Pipes teacher will depend on what part of the world
you live in. As Irish Traditional Music become popular
spreading all over the world there are now people interested
in and playing Irish music on the Uilleann Pipes in Japan,
Australia, Germany and the U.S.A to mention just a few.
If you live in Ireland where the pipes originate it is easy
enough to get lessons in Dublin, Cork or Galway. Yet even in
Ireland you may have trouble finding a teachers in Donegal,
Kerry, or Lietrum. The main Piping association in Ireland is
Na Piobairi Uilleann or N.P.U for short. They have a data
base of all their members who teach. They also run the
piping classes at the “Willie Clancy Summer School” which
has one full week week of teaching Uilleann pipes every
year. Classes in Dublin through the school term and organize
piping weekends around Ireland with the help of their
members. If you live outside Ireland and wish to get lessons
from an Uilleann Pipes teacher things get a lot harder. Your
best bet is to find out where the nearest pipes club is to
where you live. If you are in the Boston area of the U.S.A.
for instance there is a Boston pipers club you can go to for
lessons . But if you live in Idaho U.S.A. you may have to
travel hundreds of miles to find a teacher.
The second way to learn Uilleann Pipes is by purchasing a
tutor Book or CD/DVD tutor. For the piper who lives in an
area with no teachers this is their main method of teaching
themselves. There are now many self teach tutor books for
the Uilleann Pipes on the market, This shows how popular the
Uilleann Pipes have become in recent years. Some-tutors have
been around for many years and give basic to advanced
methods of playing the instrument with tunes for you to
play. The more modern tutor book have an audio c.d. included
in the package. This has the advantage of the pupil being
able to follow the music aurally as well as with the
notation. It also helps with tuning the pipes and keeping
the correct tempo. Some tutor books also have alternative
notation for pupils who can not read music. The tutor with
the c.d. included is therefore the one that most teachers
would recommend to pupils who have no way of face to face
DVD and Video tutors are now on the market and these have
the advantage of being able to see on the screen how the
tune is being played by the performing DVD teacher. As the
DVD and Video is recorded in real time you do not get as
many tunes to learn as you would from a printed book. You
must also be honest with yourself when deciding what level
of skill you have before you make your purchase. If you are
a beginner on the pipes and buy an intermediate DVD/Video
you will get a great shock as you may not be able to play
anything on it. It can take many years to get to an
intermediate level on the Uilleann Pipes so know you skill
level before you purchase. Most DVD/Vidio tutors for the
pipes come with notation and finger charts. Therefor you
have the advantage being able to see the tutor and read the
music. Piping DVD’s and Video’s are now as popular as the
tutor with audio books.
The third method that can help you is on the internet. This
can come in many forms such as - tutor and information web
sites, uilleann pipe blogs, piping audio and video links.
some sites are free while others want a fee. Video of
pipers is put up on myspace or Utube and there are many
piping club web sites from all around the world who chat and
swap tunes with each other over the internet. Some tutors
even teach by video conferencing.
With all this help available a budding piper should be able
to find a suitable method of tutorial to help them “Learn To
Play The Uilleann Pipes.
I am a tutor of the Uilleann Pipes who travels Europe, USA
and Canada teaching and playing Irish music.
Did you find those tips on Uilleann Piping useful? You can
learn a lot more about how my free web site tutor can help
you http://www.uilleannpipestutor.com here.
The following extract is taken from the book "Irish Minstrels and Musicians" written by Captain Francis O'Neill. The book was first published in 1913.
Murder will out, and so will music, and, though the days of fostering patronage and encouraging recognition are past, the divine art, whether begotten of nature's whim, or vitalised as a manifestation of the laws of heredity, may be relied on to find some outlet for expression, but it will be noticed that environment and opportunity have much to do with determining the favoured instrument.
To maintain the traditions of his family, what else could this promising scion be but an Irish piper, his father, and grandfather, before him having been worthy representatives of the class ? Had they been fiddlers, no doubt he would have followed in their footsteps. Still we must rejoice in his choice, for, while we are likely to have with us always raspers, fiddlers, and even violinists, we cannot but regret that performers on the Union or Irish pipes-the real national instrument of the people-are declining in numbers year by year and may eventually become extinct, like the harpers, their predecessors.
This young musical aspirant, on whom will depend to a considerable degree the preservation of his art, is the eldest son of William Rowsome, piper and pipemaker of Harolds Cross, Dublin, and grandson of Samuel Rowsome of Ballintore, Wexford, elsewhere mentioned.
Born September 25, 1895, he commenced his musical practice under his father's tuition when but twelve years of age. Such was his on both chanter and regulators that he won many prizes, and had been highly commended for taste and style by. the best judges of pipe music, though but a boy of only, sixteen birthdays.If appearance counts for anything, we are justified in assuming that the future has no small distinction in store for him. The instrument on which he is represented as playing in the picture was manufactured by his father, and is of full tone and concert pitch, blending harmoniously with violin and piano.
Pipemaker Adrian Jefferies makes Mada Rua Irish Uilleann Pipes and Scottish Small Pipes. Originally from Carrickfergus County Antrim and with over 20 years experience Adrian has returned to County Antrim after being based in Australia for many years.
Mada Rua Uilleann Pipes are based on D & C pitched sets of traditional design made in Ebony. The internal dimensions of the concert pitch D sets follow those of contemporary wide bore concert pitch D, while the narrow bore D and C sets are built in the pattern of the narrow bore pipes of the 18th/19th century. The mounts and fittings are made from brass (with optional nickel plating) and Boxwood mounts. Bags are robust and made from quality chrome tanned leather fastened with rivets. The bag covers (unless otherwise requested) are made from velvet with an ornate trim. Likewise the bellows are made from high quality, heavy gauge leather and suitable hardwood boards with brass or nickel pins. All instruments are constructed to high standard, fitted with reeds, played and adjusted/tuned.
Mada Rua Small Pipes are based on contemporary designs of Scottish Small Pipes and pitched in A or D. These pipes are made in Ebony or Cocobolo with brass (optional nickel plating) and Boxwood mounts. The bellows use a similar but slightly smaller pattern to the Uilleann Pipe bellows described above.
- Welcome to the website of pipemaker Martin Preshaw
- Claddagh Musical Instruments - Makers Of Traditional Irish Uilleann Pipes and Bodhrans
- Uilleann Pipes Reed Making Guide
- A celebration of uilleann piping/ pipemaking in the Rowsome family since 1820
- Ray Sloan - Uilleann PipesHand Hand crafted Irish Uilleann Pipes made from African Blackwood with Imitation Ivory or Boxwood mountings.
- Dooleypipes - Technical advice on Uilleann Pipes and Reeds - Your best guarantee is my reputation, craftsman made!
- Martin Preshaw is a pipemaker with his heart in the history of the instrument and his head in the future
- Over the years Alan Logan of "Logan Pipes", has built up a world-wide reputation for quality and tone.
- Marc van Daal Uilleann Pipes - Our concert pitch sets of uilleann pipes are handcrafted from the finest woods.
- Pipemaker Adrian Jefferies makes Mada Rua Irish Uilleann Pipes and Scottish Small Pipes. Originally from Carrickfergus County Antrim and with over 20 years experience Adrian has returned to County Antrim after being based in Australia for many years.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Aims of Na Píobairí Uilleann
By the 1960s very few people in Ireland were playing the pipes and far fewer, perhaps only five, were engaged in the making of the instrument. It was a matter of grave concern that the art would decline further and so The Society of Uilleann Pipers known as Na Píobairí Uilleann (The Uilleann Pipers) was founded in 1968 at grassroots level by pipers themselves.
The aims of the society are to perpetuate the spirit of the music, in particular the playing of the pipes and the production and maintenance of the instrument itself.
To achieve these aims the single most important facet of the Society’s activities is the teaching of the uilleann pipes, especially to young people, as it is through this that the playing of the instrument will increase, prosper and develop.
The degree to which the work of the Society has borne fruit is reflected in the number of pipemakers, many professional, now producing pipes - about forty throughout the world.
The Founding Constitution of Na Píobairí Uilleann