International Uilleann Piping Day 2014
First of all, I want to say a big thanks to Na Piobairi Uilleann for hosting another International Uilleann Piping Day and putting the technical infrastructure and people in place to make it succeed. I especially wish to thank Ken Lynam, Niall Kelleher, and Daniela Ferretti for their timely communications and helpful suggestions; it would have been a far more difficult event to stage from abroad without their valuable assistance.
Our day began with us waking to the Armagh Pipers Club event already in progress, and hearing some especially fine piping from their young pipers. The APC continues to do exemplary work in the training of young musicians and are to be much admired for it.
We arrived at our venue, the Irish American Heritage Center about two and half hours before our webcast time. We had a job to do in terms of getting the room ready for the event, particularly with regard to technical setup. Fortunately, we had expert audio and video tech support from John Curran, who set up our camera, microphones, and sound mixing. With John’s energy and knowledge we were able to run a sound check and leave time for other preparations.
Sean Curran of Lake Forest, Illinois by way of Clontarf, Dublin, was first up on our webcast, playing some beautiful hornpipes he learned over the summer while in Ireland. Sean is progressing very well 3 years into his piping journey, and is getting to the point where it is no longer much work at all for him to learn new tunes or acquire new techniques. A great deal of fun musical explorations and discovery await him, and it’s a privilege to be able to guide him on this part of his musical journey. I later joined him for a set of reels, and then my wife Karen and I played a pipe and fiddle duet for a little while.
Karen and I have been playing together for about twelve years now and we do many small gigs around the Chicago-Milwaukee area. Our set featured some tunes acquired from the local session scene as well as a Carolan tune, Thomas Burke. We try to play tightly together and in a cooperative manner; it usually works and is great fun, too.
I want to take a few lines to thank Karen for her tireless effort to make IUPD Chicago 2014 a happening. Karen was immensely valuable in getting the event off the ground with her energy, enthusiasm, and positive thinking. She played a significant role in relaying communications, coming up with ideas, and helping with logistics. It would have been three times as difficult without her.
We were pleased to have the company of some of the students from Chicago’s Academy of Irish Music, particularly Catriona Byrne and Nick Peresin, two excellent whistlers and students of the Academy’s director, Noel Rice. Noel grew up in a musical family in Geashill, County Offaly, and was in contact with many of the fine Midlands musicians of the 40s and 50s, including Sean Ryan, Paddy (Tipperary) O’Brien, Dan Cleary, and Mickey Dowling. Noel, who played whistle and flute, was also befriended by Andy Conroy, famed inventor of the staccato “dodecatuplet,” who set him up with a Leo Rowsome bag, bellows and chanter and gave him piping lessons. Later, they shared an apartment in New York for a time after Noel emigrated. Because of this contact with Andy, Noel has a fondness for certain old piping tunes and makes sure his students learn some of them as part of his tutelage. Nick and Catriona played The Salamanca and the Langstern Pony during part of our webcast.
To finish our official webcast, we had a grand finale featuring the Academy’s arrangement of O’Farrell’s Welcome to Limerick with Sean Curran and myself playing. We were also joined by flute, cello, fiddles, viola, whistle, bouzouki, and bodhran for a big, lush, full sound. Not a bad morning’s work at all!
We enjoyed the rest of the day playing tunes informally, gobbling baked goods and drinking tea, apart from a little 10-minute link up with Dublin towards the end of their webcast. We played a few tunes and I chatted with Ken Lynam briefly, and wished everyone well before concluding the linkup.
We would like to do this again next year, thanks again to all who participated in making it happen. Plans are already afoot for next year, including a more ambitious musical program. See you then!