Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 42, Page 10

Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 42, Page 10
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Na Píobairí Uilleann
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Chairman, NPU
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Píobaire, An
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Ennis was said to have learned it fromO’Keeffe, as he did many airs and dancetunes, and he played it at the 1974 NPUTionól in Termonfechin. This session wasrecorded by Noel Pocock and the recording isincluded in the Archive in Henrietta Street. The air seems quite forbiddingon the page, but it is com-posed of musical phrasesthat are quite coherentand memorable oncesome familiarity has beenacquired with them. Afew motifs are repeatedseveral times during thepiece. These act as anchorsfor the player, and tie the airtogether. They are indicated onthe transcription as A, B, C and D.The A motif occurs in a couple ofslightly different variants. There are also runsof notes that need to be treated as units, andthese are indicated with slur signs.As Denis Murphy’s is the ur-version, it is theone transcribed here. On the recording it isplayed to end on C, but is unmistakably in theRe mode, so it is transposed here to end on Ein the key of D. This allows it to be playedwithout having to reach for any awkwardnotes. The other alternative is to drop it onenote, to start and end on D. This would havethe advantage that the hard D can be broughtinto the tune, and the player can exploit thepleasures of the C natural. But it also meansthat the F#s also have to be played natural orat least flattened in the way pipers do. Thiscan be more or less difficult, depending on theset (and the piper). The drones, of course, donot change, and it is a fascinating experienceto observe the different effects produced bythe two approaches.It is impossible with the resources of standardnotation to indicate the basic metre of pieceslike this. It was played by Denis Murphy, theonly primary source for it, in a free, althoughbrisk and rhythmic manner. Avoid the tempta-tion to play it too slowly. Too many airs areblighted by the expectation created by thelabel “slow air”. Musicians unfamiliar withthe songs or other sources assumethat this is a prescription fordragging out the piece untilit loses all coherence. The recorded versions alldiffer in one way oranother from Murphy’s,so I would urge readers totreat his version as theone to follow. It has beenmade available by arrange-ment on the RTÉ website toassist readers in acquiring the air.This can be found atwww.rte.ie/CaoineadhUN.Background can be found in the last issue ofAn Píobaire, available on our website.Terry Moylan19Hugh O’NeillNoel Pocock, at far right, recording the playing ofSéamus Ennis in Termonfechin, 1974Terry Moylan18~ Airs & Graces ~Caoineadh Uí NéillB C ADD D CD DB C AAA AA AThe tune is this issue, “Caoineadh UíNéill” is a companion-piece to“Caoineadh Uí Dhomhnaill” – the onepresented last time. The provenance for bothtunes is the Sliabh Luachra area, and therepertoires of fiddle players Pádraig O’Keeffeand Denis Murphy. The two airs are remark-able in seeming to spring solely not just fromthat tradition, but from the playing of just onemusician, Pádraig O’Keeffe, from whomDenis Murphy’s versions most likely derive.As far as I can establish (and according to thebest authorities) “Caoineadh Uí Néill” hasnever appeared in print. There is no knownrecording of O’Keeffe playing it, so DenisMurphy’s recording (RTÉ CD 183) is now theonly traditional source for the air. Séamus
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Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 42

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