Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 44, Page 27

Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 44, Page 27
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periodical Publisher
Na Píobairí Uilleann
periodical Editor
Chairman, NPU
periodical Title
Píobaire, An
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27ity to create ‘the effect of three staccato Dnotes in rapid succession’, as Ennis put it(The Master’s Touch, p. 27). This is achievedby a combination of grace notes, most oftenG-F#-A, over an open bottom D. The piperwho has gotten his start by putting in the workof assiduous practice to achieve distinct andsnappy grace notes with the bottom hand’sindex finger is at a definite advantage whenattempting to master this technique. Staccato TripletsThen, of course, when embarking upon thetask of learning the various staccato tripletscommonly employed in uilleann piping, anaspiring piper can build upon this solid foun-dation of practice and experience. The tripletsGF#E, F#GA, and EF#G in both octaves arerelatively routine, and their effective execu-tion depends largely upon dexterity in thelower index finger. Slightly less common, butno less dependent upon excellent control ofthe same finger might be F#’G’F#’, G’F#’G’,or even F#’G’G’. BackstitchingNo discussion of staccato triplets these dayscan be complete without some mention ofbackstitching, usually associated with PatsyTouhey’s virtuosic displays of ornamentalinventiveness and fingered firepower. Morecommonly, however, backstitching is a ratherunderstated ornamental device, with a tophand note decorated by a solid, staccato one-fingered G’, then a solid, staccato one-fin-gered F#’. (In the same vein, but technicallynot backstitching, it is quite common to hearan F# quaver in the second octave cut up intotwo staccato semiquavers, G’ and then F#’: asort of staccato gracenote.) The impact ofstitches of all kinds, as well as of staccatotriplets, is dependent upon the notes ringingout, as Leo Rowsome wrote, ‘like pistolshots’.Trills and ShakesIt is sometimes said that if you want some-thing done, give the task to a busy person. Sothe last task we will require of that digit that agunfighter in the Wild West might have calledthe ‘itchy trigger finger’ is a trill upon thenotes E and F# in both octaves. This device isespecially associated with Séamus Ennis’ pip-ing, but has been adopted by many piperswho have been influenced by the late master.It is achieved by a rapid movement of theindex finger up and down off the chanter, butfacilitated by creating a tension or spasm inthe forearm. This allows a much more rapidtrill than would be possible for a finger mov-ing on its own. Ennis’ rendering of “TheBucks of Oranmore” contains what is perhapsthe apotheosis of this technique.In practice, the greatest way to learn howornamentation should sound – and how,when, and where it should be played – is bylistening, listening, and more listening, togood pipers. There are absolutely no short-cuts. Of course, listening must be supple-mented by steady practice, tuition, and refer-ence to printed sources on piping technique.All of these avenues will develop one’s skillsas a piper, one’s grasp of the music in all itsglories. But there is great pleasure too, in itssubtleties: the index finger of the bottom handon the chanter, with its involvement in almostevery imaginable piping device, presents inmicrocosm the characteristics of uilleann pip-ing on the grand scale. Exploring its manyrôles, it is hoped, might be helpful not only tounderstanding the physical side of makingmusic on the uilleann pipes, but also to adeeper comprehension of how vital and inte-gral ornamentation is to piping. It is, in fact,the essence of piping.Kieran O’Hare
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Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 44

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