Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 43, Page 12
Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 43, Page 12
Na Píobairí Uilleann
23The “Return to Fingal” festival, held lastOctober at the Séamus Ennis centre inNaul, co. Dublin, afforded lovers ofpiping the opportunity to enjoy the “Pipes ofFour Nations”. This is a newly formed ensem-ple consisting of our own Mick O’Brien onuilleann pipes, Pauline Cato on Northumbrianpipes, François Lazarevitch on the FrenchBaroque Musette, Barnaby Brown on theScottish Smallpipes and Javier Sainz on theBaroque harp and old Irish wire-strung harp.The performance in Naul was their third –they had already performed in Nantes and inGlasgow – and, by the time you read this,they will also have played at the WilliamKennedy Piping Festival in Armagh.They have devised an attractive way of pre-senting the music. The concert was dividedinto four sections, each one focussing on themusic of one region or country, and each oneled by the player whose speciality it was. Theleader was then joined, one-by-one, by theother musicians, until the section was broughtto a finale with the full ensemble performing.To give a flavour of the event, Pauline Catoled off the proceedings with a solo perform-ance of “Sir Sidney Smith’s March” on theNorthumbrian pipes, after which she wasjoined by François Lazarevitch on Musettefor a couple of pieces. She then duetted withJavier Sainz, and finally the whole group per-formed “The Heights of Alma” and “Followher over the Border”. Subsequent portions ofthe programme focussed on France &England, Scotland and Ireland.This approach worked very well. The soundsand capabilities of the different instrumentscould be perceived and enjoyed in the soloperformances, and the various different com-binations that were created during the concertprovided many wonderful blends of textureand timbre. The selection of material con-tributed strongly to this as well. With materi-al chosen from many areas, contexts and peri-ods, the result was a very varied, entertainingand satisfying evening of music.Apart from the pipes, other musical highlightswere provided by the rarely-heard and ravish-ing sounds of Barnaby Brown’s Triple Pipesand Javier Sainz’s wire-strung harp.This is an inter-cultural project supported bythe Meyer Foundation and the Royal ScottishAcademy of Music & Drama. The musicians,and their sponsors, are to be congratulated forputting together an imaginative andenthralling show.Terry Moylan~ Pipes of 4 Nations ~From left: Barnaby Brown, Mick O’Brien, PaulineCato, François Lazarevitch and Javier Sainz22odd years we knew each other, Tom and Inever had a row, remarkably. It helped great-ly of course in this that we lived on oppositecoasts of Ireland, and that we never discussednational politics, or faith and morals, or sport,or other subjects on which we would I suspectoften have disagreed. Instead we wereengaged on an absorbing never-ending con-versation about the wide world of Irish (andBritish and American) traditional music – thesongs, music and dances; the singers, musi-cians and dancers; and the politics of Irish tra-ditional music (which are far more complexthan national politics). I hope that we did itwith humour and without taking ourselves tooseriously, but also to some effect, and to somebenefit to those involved in Irish traditionalmusic.When he was young, Tom never expected tolive long – his family history on the male sidewas against it.. And he didn’t, because he’sdead now at 63. But in some senses he didlive long. He packed in as much effort andachievement in his time as would have filleda much longer life. But also because he camevery close to death fifteen years ago whenstruck by a brain aneurysm. He’s since hadheart bypasses, suffered from diabetes and avariety of other major ailments, and finallyand fatally from liver cancer. But even whenhe received the diagnosis a few months agothat he would only live for a short time more,he made so little of his problems, and dis-missed them with such courage, that hisfriends began to think that the heavy round ofhospital visits, tests and transfusions wouldgo on for a long time yet. Unfortunately not.Tom will continue to live through his legaciesto us, like the Joe Hill we used sing aboutonce. For his friends, there is the impress ofhis personality, which was such that they willcontinue to speak about him as if he has justleft the room, and will continue to wonderwhat Munnelly would say about this or thatdevelopment in Irish traditional music. Thenthere are projects which are still in thepipeline. The cassette Songs of the IrishTravellers that he produced in the 1980s withHugh Shields, another early mentor, is in theprocess of being reissued as a CD by PaveePoint, the Traveller education centre. Thismonth a segment of a 1973 television pro-gramme featuring him will be issued on anRTÉ DVD of traditional music selections. Heand I had substantially finished editing a dou-ble volume of Irish Folk Music Studies/ÉigseCheol Tíre which had to be put aside becauseof his illness but which will appear next year.A CD of ten years of the Ennistymon Festivalof Traditional Singing that he directed is inpreparation. And so on. But mostly Tom’slegacy will be the enormous collection ofIrish traditional song that he made as a dedi-cated field collector, in collaboration with hismany many source singers throughout Irelandbut especially in Clare, such as John Reillyand Tom Lenihan, and also his collection offolklore made in collaboration with suchinformants as Junior Crehan and FrancieDonnellan. These collections will be aresource for ever.Tom Munnelly’s death is a loss on many lev-els beyond the personal. A fund of knowledgeand experience and lateral thinking on Irishtradition has been lost irrevocably to us all. Athis wake, his old friends Greg O’Hanlon andJerry O’Reilly and I were talking about songsand coming up with questions that the man inthe coffin could have answered without paus-ing, questions that we couldn’t answer at all.But even in the sight of death, Tom Munnellytook a positive stance towards life. Withoutquestion, he would be flattered that so manypeople mourn his passing, and that it has beenmarked nationally and internationally. Butwithout question also he would wish us to cel-ebrate his life and work joyfully for theremainder of today and thereafter. And that’salso the wish of his family. So we’ll do that.
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