EditorialVolume 9, issue 5, December 2013
I am continually surprised and delighted to meet new and promising young pipers – which I did recently at Tionól Tommy Kearney in Kilkenny. It is always interesting to ask them how they became interested in the pipes and one of the young pipers I met in Kilkenny told me he first heard them being played on a TV broadcast as part of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland in 2011!
The young players are the future of piping and older and experienced pipers should give every encouragement to them. On a practical level you could make copies of recordings of pipers that are not commercially available. You could also maybe loan them an unused flat pitched chanter to introduce them to that experience and allow them the opportunity to appreciate the difference between concert pitch and flat pipes. The standard of pipes they are playing has also improved since I was learning. With the improvement and consistency in chanters and reedmaking, gone is the fear and struggle of tackling a tune that dwells for too long on the top hand in the second octave. There are many people who have tried the pipes but did not have access to a decent instrument and abandoned their pursuit of the instrument.
With further regard to pipemaking, it is encouraging to note that several of the trainees on the pipemaking course in the Pipecraft Centre have begun to establish and equip their own private workshops as they take steps on the road to establishing themselves as full-time pipemakers. One has to appreciate the commitment this involves, if only from a financial point of view, and we wish them well on their journey and congratulate the instructors on the course for their continued work in imparting the necessary skills to them.
I attended the unveiling of a new life-size bronze statue of Willie Clancy in Miltown Malbay in November. It is fitting to see such a manifestation of the impact Willie had – and continues to have – on the world of uilleann piping. It is over forty years since his untimely death and now there is an impressive public reminder of him in the main street of his native town for all to see. Two pipers, Liam O’Flynn – who performed the unveiling – and Pat Mitchell both spoke afterwards about Willie as a piper and also, importantly, about him as a person whose friendship they treasured and how time spent in his company was as much about having fun as playing music. His smiling countenance on the statue conveys that aspect of his personality. Inscribed on the plinth is the much quoted saying from Willie “The Irish language is the greatest music of all”. No doubt visitors to Miltown Malbay – especially the thousands who come for Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy – will be impressed by the work of Clare sculptor Shane Gilmore. It adds to the list of other impressive life-size works of public sculpture of uilleann pipers around the country, such as Edmund Keating Hyland in Cahir, Séamus Ennis in The Naul, Canon Goodman in Skibbereen and the un-named piper in Loughrea.
As we approach the end of the year I would like to thank The Arts Council for their support, and all members, directors and staff who have contributed to the continued development of NPU over the past 12 months. Also, I would like to thank all of the teachers and volunteers who give so freely of their time and to the NPU Support Group for their assistance with events such as our Sponsored Cycle, the Ace & Deuce of Piping concert and International Uilleann Piping Day. We will once again be cycling to Miltown Malbay in 2014 as we continue to raise funds for the International Uilleann Piping Centre on the adjacent site of 16 Henrietta Street, so why not consider getting involved.
Finally I would like to wish all of you and your families a very happy and peaceful Christmas and every best wish for 2014.
Tommy Keane, Chairman