Tunes of the Munster Pipers stirs the blood

Tunes Munster Pipers stirs blood irish heritage
Grace Toland

Irish Heritage Presentation Of Tunes of the Munster Pipers Cecil Sharp House By Michael J McDonagh

There is no musical instrument that emotionally stirs the blood more than the haunting sound of the uilleann pipes, especially if you have Irish blood in your veins.

I am very partial to the sound of the pipes and have worked with several great pipers in the past but I am still reeling (excuse the pun) from the glaring omission of the sound of lamenting uilleann pipes at the Westminster Abbey memorial service for Sir Terry Wogan.

The evocative song ‘That’ll Do’ was performed near the end of the moving ceremony for our much loved Irishman but there was no musical Irish colour.

The original record by Peter Gabriel was a favourite of Terry’s particularly as it had uilleann pipes on the recording played by his friend Paddy Maloney from the Chieftains.

No uilleann piper was invited to play in Westminster Abbey, which at the time I felt was odd.

Charming concert

Thankfully there was no such omission of pipes here at Cecil Sharpe House when Irish Heritage in Association with the Irish Traditional Music Archive and the English Folk Dance and Song Society presented a charming concert as a celebration of the work of the 19th century music collector Canon James Goodman, an archive of Musical manuscripts donated by the Goodman family to Trinity College, Dublin.

The intention was to bring the music notated into these historic documents to life by the wonderful performances of a young piper from Waterford, Caoimhin Ó Fearghail, accompanied by the very talented Aoife Ní Bhriain on the fiddle.

James Goodman (1828- 1896) from Dingle was a Canon in the Church of Ireland and an early Professor of Irish at Trinity College but is known for his passion for Irish music and the sound of the uileann pipes, which he learned to play himself.

Tunes Munster Pipers stirs blood irish heritage

By listening to local pipers and musicians in West Cork, when he was based at Skibbereen, he carefully and accurately took down the notes as he heard them played and set them down by hand in two folios of musical manuscripts, thus preserving for posterity the sounds of Irish music from a time before the Potato Famine in Irish-speaking Ireland.

With these manuscripts now available for all to see a selection of these exquisite pieces of music could be performed at this special concert by two young virtuoso musicians.

The skills of Aoife Ni Bhrain were not confined to her talents on the fiddle but extended to her charm and humour in introducing each item to an audience that were perhaps not familiar with the history and significance of this archive or the delicate intricacies of each individual piece.

Jigs and reels

Caoimhin in addition to sublime pipe playing also revealed his talent as a vocalist and although it was a concert billed as Tunes of the Munster Pipers he did actually put the pipes to one side to perform one set on the flute.

Before the concert started there was a short film featuring Grace Toland (left), Director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive describing the valuable collection and her mission to bring this music literally from manuscript page to stage by the performances of two of Irelands finest traditional musicians.

Starting with Fáinne Gael an Lae (The bright dawn of day) and two jigs, The Cauliflower and Kissing & Drinking followed by a song from Caoimhin in Irish called Maidin Bhog Aoibhinn, a ‘soft pleasant love song’.

There then followed a programme consisting of a variety of tunes, songs jigs and reels. Each of these beautiful tunes was introduced with affection and enthusiasm by Aoife, who at one point suggested that every fiddle player secretly wanted to be an uilleann piper and that this manuscript was ‘the best artefact’ in existence for Irish pipe music.

The concert ended on a high note with some up-tempo reels including the Tinker’s Frolic and the Light Horse then two polkas.

Wonderful music

Having experienced such high quality performances of this wonderful music, which to those in the audience not familiar with hearing uileann pipes, the concert was a revelation and the applause at the end showed their appreciation of both the musicianship and the work of Irish Heritage for presenting this unique concert.

It was attended by Councillor Richard Cotton the Mayor of Camden as well as by representatives from the Irish Embassy, joined by family descendants of Canon Goodman himself.

Long may Irish Heritage continue to bring us these musical moments and continue their support for young Irish musicians in London.

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