Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 48, Page 3

Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 48, Page 3
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periodical Publisher
Na Píobairí Uilleann
periodical Editor
Chairman, NPU
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Píobaire, An
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The playing of airs on the pipes is atopic which is often brought up and itsometimes can result in some heateddebate. I am a firm supporter of the view thatit is important to know as much about thesong associated with the air as possible. Areassuch as the composer of the song (if known),its background, and familiarity with thewords are all, in my view, critical in order tobeing able to play the air with authority andempathy. To play it in a vacuum inisolation from the words of thesong associated with it seemsalmost pointless, although noteveryone would agree. Séamus Ennis is on record as say-ing that for a player to be able toperform an air with feeling and tohave an understanding of theappropriate phrasing, it is neces-sary to know the words of at leastone verse of the song. Ennis had a very highregard of the great Co. Waterford singerLabhrás Ó Cadhla and he based his version ofthe air “Bean Dubh an Ghleanna” on the lat-ter’s rendition of it. A comparsion of Ennis’performance of this air with a recording of thesong as sung by Ó Cadhla shows how muchEnnis’ rendition of the air owes to the versionhe heard from Ó Cadhla. Indeed, it appears tome that much of the power and subtlety of hisinterpretation of it emanates from his deepunderstanding of the actual song as it pro-gresses through the verses. Variations therecertainly are and they can be traced back tohis source rather than any random melodicvariation based only on an acquaintance ofthe air without reference to the words. I must confess that when I learn an air I gen-erally select material which has been record-ed by some of the great pipers but I am hop-ing to branch out and learn airs directly fromsingers. Other players whom I admire havelearnt airs from recordings of singers withgreat effect. For example JimmyO’Brien Moran plays wonderfulversions of “An Casaideach Bán”and “Liam Ó Raghallaigh” which,to the best of my knowledge, hedid not learn from pipers, and Ihave also heard Seán McKiernanplay the air of the popularConamara song “Nóirín moMhian”, which I suspect he learntfrom a singer. Looking forward to next year, I look hope tomeet as amany of you as possible at the LeoRowsome event to be held in our headquar-ters in Henrietta St on Saturday 28 February.This will be the first time this event will havebeen staged and naturally we are hoping toattract a big attendance to remember one ofthe most significant figures ever in the worldof uilleann piping and pipe-making. LeoRowsome’s pivotal role as a performer,teacher and pipe-maker, in an era when pipingwas at a low ebb, was absolutely crictical forthe survival of the instrument. Speaking offorthcoming events, albeit a little while away,3
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Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 48

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