It’s honeybee season. And if all is well, bee colonies are at or near peak population this month.
Also buzzing down the mountainside: a poverty of pipers, to help me dissect uilleann pipe logistics, lure, and lore. For “The Piper” I talk to the Rowsome family, Tim Britton, Tom Rota, Patrick Hutchinson, and Isaac Alderson.
Now, the Irish uilleann pipes CAN drip with sweet, rich melody. And they are also as temperamental as hornets, as Tom Rota describes:
“You know, I don’t want to play anything else, but sometimes I just want to throw them on a fire and just be done with it. They’re hard to tune and maintain. Some days they sound great, and then two hours later they sound terrible… so pipers have this kind of built in sarcastic irony going on, this kind of love hate thing with the instrument, which I think is part of the tradition, really. And it’s really kind of fun.” –T. Rota
Pipers can lead a double life — as Irish musicians who play tunes together and enjoy deep social connections. And also as players of this demanding, temperamental, complicated contraption that only fellow pipers can truly understand. Pipers seem to connect to pipers of the past, perhaps even more than other instruments do with their predecessors. Patrick Hutchinson explained this beautifully:
“The tradition is a conversation between those who’ve gone before us and those who are here now. And they’re not gone, because the way they play is preserved in people’s fingers. And when you play and you quote other players, as pipers do, those other players are brought into the conversation.” — P. Hutchinson
These days people play the uilleann pipes all over the world. Some do come from five generations of pipers, but many come to it from non-musical families. As Isaac Alderson notes,
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from: who you are, where you came from. But what matters is the spirit and heart you bring to it… If you approach it with respect and a genuine desire to become proficient, I think it’s wide open.” –I. Alderson
I hope you’ll tune in on this conversation about uilleann pipes. Whether you already know about Seamus Ennis—or you don’t know anything about Irish culture—these conversations speak about challenge, gratitude, and reverence.
Full music and poetry credits below.
Here is an amazing performance by 13 pipers from May 2017. The Rowsome sisters are in the front row: From the orientation of the audience, Naoise is second from the left. And Tierna is second from the right
And here’s Isaac Alderson playing “Port na bPúcaí / Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie / The Lady on the Island” at the Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center:
Next month’s episode will air Tuesday September 12. It’ll be a feature on dancers.
If this is your first IMS episode, I hope you’ll also check out:
– Episode 01-Trip to Sligo
– Episode 00-Introducing Irish Music Stories
– Episode 02-Cuppa Tea with Karan Casey
– Episode 03-Every Tuesday at Nine
– Episode 04 – Cuppa Tea with McKinneys and McCarthy
– Episode 05 – Handed Down
– Episode 06 – The Backer
Music Heard on IMS Episode 07
all music traditional, unless otherwise indicated
Tune: “Silver Spear,” from Kitty Lie Over
Artists: Mick O’Brien & Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh
Tune: “Heartstrings Theme” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton
Tune: “Tom Billy’s Butcher’s March,” from Swimming Against the Falls
Artist: Joey Abarta
Tune: “Triumph Theme” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton
Tune: “Padraig O’Keefe’s 1 & 2/The Humours Of Ballydaly” from Notes from the Heart
Artists: Louise and Michelle Mulcahy
Tune: “The Praties are Dug and the Frost is All Over” from 40 Years of Piping
Artist: Seamus Ennis
Tune: “Pipe Solo – Slow Air” from Standing Barefoot at the Altar
Artist: Tim Britton with Chulrua
Tune: “McFarley’s/Mill Na Maídí” from Harvest Storm
Tune: “Jackson’s Frieze Coat” from Irish Wind Music
Artist: Bill Ochs
Tune: “Kesh Jig” from In Concert
Artist: Bothy Band
Tune: “The Old Coolun” from Take Me Tender
Artist: Jimmy O’Brien Moran
Tune: “Garret Barry’s/The Bucks of Oranmore” from In Concert
Artist: Paddy Keenan with the Bothy Band
Thank you for reading and listening! I hope you’ll come back for next month’s episode, available Tuesday September 12, 2017.