Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 42, Page 6

Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 42, Page 6
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periodical Publisher
Na Píobairí Uilleann
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Chairman, NPU
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Píobaire, An
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11Solo performances of Irish music are sponta-neous interpretations of tunes at a given time.The beauty of Séamus Ennis’s music lies inits musicality, its spontaneity, its unpre-dictability, its versatility and its quality andtone. Of course Séamus would always recog-nise the importance of his father James inachieving all of this. Besides imparting mostof his piping skills to the young Ennis, hisfather also bequeathed him with his wonder-ful set of Coyne C# pipes. Everything Ennisdoes is musically useful and he has a musicaltechnique that is learnable for anyone braveenough to take up the uilleann pipes! In Ennis’s playing there is a lot going on inthe background behind the beat of the tunethat gives a freshness and excitement to theperformance, which someone from the ‘out-side’ might not quite understand. The mostimportant aspect here is in listening to therecordings prior to trying to work from thewritten notation. In doing so, this will revealmany of the hidden layers and piping secretswhich can be incorporated into any piper’sperformance, make it more musical and raiseits quality and technique.This publication isessentially a con-densed look atEnnis’s ornamentation andis very much an introductionrather than a complete examinationof his playing. Therefore it is inten-tionally not overly detailed, whichcould otherwise make such a booktedious to the most ardent students ofpiping and Irish music in general.Inside each cover are copies of Ennis’sown elegant transcriptions of two of hismost favoured tunes, “Miss Monaghan” and“The Bucks of Oranmore”. These illustratehis talent for transcription, honed, accordingto his friend Tom Mulligan, when he tran-scibed all of O’Neill’s 1001 tunes by handwhen working for Colm O Lochlainn at TheSign of the Three Candles ‘so as to gain expe-rience for work’!Mitchell’s approach is very interesting andinnovative in this case. He heads each tune –with the exception of the simpler tunes tran-scribed from recordings on the whistle – witha ‘stripped-down’ version of the tune, fol-lowed by a complete transcription of Ennis’splaying, including regulator accompaniment.Biographical details have understandablybeen kept as brief as necessary. The publica-tion further explores the pipes, their history,ornamentation, Irish traditional music andEnnis’s unique style, technique and sound. Afull explanation of Mitchell’s transcriptionapproach is outlined also. This book clearlyembodies years of practical research and end-less hours of listening. Mitchell describesEnnis’s technique of piping in quite sufficientdetail and outlines the character of his music.He further explains how Ennis accentuatednotes on the chanter and how he achievedsubtle nuances of tone. Above: the design embossed on the bag of SéamusEnnis’s Coyne pipes, which is featured on the frontcover of the book, courtesy of Liam O’Flynn.10warning from its author! The second is a longterm problem to do with identifying or canon-ising ‘collections’ of recordings of Ennis’music. For example what exactly is the HarryBradley Collection or the Mark WalstromCollection? Now that they have been reifiedby Mitchell we’re surely entitled to knowsome basics such as provenance, condition,source, accessibility. Given the availability ofgood professional archival expertise withinIrish traditional music I think this is just badpractice and unhelpful for the future. Not agood legacy. On this point, I think that thebook would have benefitted from a properindex, a comprehensive discography, and aproper guide to sources used. These, alongwith a clearer methodology, would havehelped Mitchell get closer to his ‘end resultbeing an in-depth analysis of Ennis’ dancemusic repertoire rather than a standard musicbook.’ What I see in the book is very detailedbut, for all I know, partial description withoutanalysis. I think description is absolutely fineand, to be frank it’s probably all most of usinvolved in this music will ever need; but Idon’t see how description can be confusedwith in-depth analysis and analysis is mostdefinitely not a feature of this book. This book is sure to receive a mixed recep-tion, not only within the pipering world butalso within the wider music community anddespite its faults it deserves close attention,not only for its strengths and weaknesses, butalso for helping us all find better ways forundertaking this kind of enterprise in thefuture. Dermot McLaughlinNéillidh MulliganThe first impresssion one gets of PatMitchell’s The Dance Music OfSéamus Ennis is the sheer size andweight of the book. But let that not overaweyou as its size makes it more musically read-able, while the real delight lies in its contents.This book is primarily a transcription and acomprehensive analysis of 179 dance tunes asplayed by the Ard Rí himself, uilleann piper,Séamus Ennis.Academic research, analysis and transcriptionof an individual piper’s repertoire and stylehas effectively been pioneered and cultivatedby Pat Mitchell over recent decades. The pre-viously published books on The Dance Musicof Willie Clancy (1976) and The Piping ofPatsy Tuohey (1986) by the same author, haveproved to be invaluable to the piping fraterni-ty, and beyond. This publication will provelikewise, if not even more valuable, overtime. He concerns himself entirely withEnnis’s dance music and wisely leaves thepiper’s airs for a future compilation. The book itself contains transcriptions fromboth commercial and private recordings ofEnnis and finally finishes with a recording of“The Fox Chase” made in Clare in 1959.Initial work on the book commenced over 8years ago and the formal work began 5 yearsago. Allowing for health problems, the authorrecounts that it was through his engagementon the FÁS Heritage and Research Project inNa Píobairi Uilleann over the past number ofyears that he was able to make major inroadsinto compiling this beautiful publication. Infact, a lot of the material in the book was onlyreceived by him in the year prior to publica-tion, so we can appreciate the amount of workand effort that must have been undertaken inthat 12 months or so. A truly remarkableachievement indeed!
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Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 42

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