Píobaire, An, Volume 5, Issue 5, Page 3

Píobaire, An, Volume 5, Issue 5, Page 3
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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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3The influence uilleann piping has had onother instrumentalists in Irish tradi-tional music is an area which I havealways been fascinated by. The names thatcome to mind in this regard include mastermusicians such as Noel Hill, Matt Molloy andof course the wonderful Dublin fiddle playerSeán Keane.I was listening recently to that wonderful record-ing Gusty’s Frolics which the virtuoso Dublinfiddle player Seán Keane made for Claddaghrecords in 1975. This was Seán’sfirst solo commercial recordingand, among other things, it cap-tures his interest and compre-hensive knowledge of uilleannpiping. A number of the tracksfeature well-known piping tunesand Seán’s interpretation ofthem is a testimony to his aston-ishing creativity, technical abili-ty and his appreciation of allaspects – technical and aestheti-cal – of the art of piping. Hisplaying of “The Gold Ring” owes much to theversion normally associated with SéamusEnnis, and his treatment of tunes such as“Strop the Razor”, “The Humours ofBallyloughlin” and “Fraher’s Jig” shows acomprehensive appreciation of the piping ofWillie Clancy. My own favourite among thesejigs is Seán’s rendition of “Strop the Razor”which owes much to Clancy’s playing of it.The tune is essentially a development of “TheCook in the Kitchen”, which was also playedby Clancy.In his version of the tune on the albumGusty’s Frolics, Seán captures many aspectsof Willie’s playing. The Clancy influence isvery prevalent in the slide from E through toF in the second octave in the first bar of thesecond part. Also of note in this regard are thequadruplets he employs largely in the secondpart of the tune which were such a predomi-nant and indeed charming feature of themusic of many prominent musicians fromwest Clare including Willie Clancy, BobbyCasey and Joe Ryan. On more generic levelhis cranning of the D in thefirst part is remarkable.Seán Keane’s interpretation ofthese tunes from the repertoire ofWillie Clancy on this recording isof interest on a number of fronts.For example, they demonstratehow the music and technique ofa virtuoso piper made such animpact on one of the most giftedfiddle players of all time that thelatter obviously devoted a hugeamount of time and energy into developing a wayof sympathetically and accurately interprettingmany of the intricate nuances of the pipes on hisown instrument. No mean feat by any standards!As well as that I would suggest that pipers havemuch to learn from Seán Keane’s performance ofthese tunes very much associated with the pipingtradition. It seems to me that these tremendousrecordings offer pipers interesting and challeng-ing opportunities to revisit these tunes and todraw on Seán's unique and insightful approach tothese absolute bedrocks of the piping repertoire.
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Píobaire, An, Volume 5, Issue 5

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