Leading Irish musicians perform through film for annual Ace and Deuce concert.
The Ace and Deuce of Piping annual concert of traditional Irish music has been staged through film this year, in an innovative departure by Na Píobairí Uilleann in response to the public health crisis. Recorded in various locations around Ireland in August 2020, The Ace and Deuce of Piping was produced, directed and edited by film-maker and uilleann piper Maitiú Ó Casaide.
Leading artists Mary Bergin, Mick Conneely, Anne Skelton, Néillidh Mulligan and Caoimhe Ní Mhaolagáin, Doireann Glackin, Sarah Flynn, Colm Broderick, Brian Lennon, Séamus Quinn and Ciarán Curran featured in this year’s line up. The Ace and Deuce concert is one of the most important annual events for the performance of traditional music, song and dance and is normally staged in Dublin’s iconic Liberty Hall Theatre.
Speaking about the decision to host the event through film, Na Píobairí Uilleann chief executive Gay McKeon commented, “The Ace and Deuce is a landmark event for traditional music and we felt that in the current environment it was absolutely imperative to provide a platform for the artists and bring their performances to the audience through film. I’d like to thank all the artists for participating in the Ace and Deuce project, Maitiú Ó Casaide for pulling the production together, sound engineer John Blake and cinematographer Victor Tzelepis.”
Colm Broderick – uilleann pipes
Carlow-born Colm Broderick began piping at 13 and is one of the country’s most exciting young talents. Having received tuition from Ciarán Somers, John Tuohy, David Power and Gay McKeon and at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy, Colm featured on Na Píobairí Uilleann’s 2018 compilation CD of young pipers, A New Harvest. He cites Leo Rowsome and Liam O’Flynn as the most significant influences on his music. It is therefore fitting that he is currently playing the 1936 set of Leo Rowsome pipes which were made famous by Liam O’Flynn, who performed on them for most of his life. The pipes are on loan to Colm from Na Píobairí Uilleann.
Sarah Flynn and Doireann Glackin – concertina and fiddle
Sarah Flynn (concertina) and Doireann Glackin (fiddle) are neighbours hailing from the north side of Dublin. Their 2018 recording The Housekeepers, produced as part of The Arts Council’s Deis Programme, has propelled this wonderful duet to the forefront of Irish music. The Housekeepers shines a light on the music and lives of six remarkable early 20th Century Irish Traditional Musicians; Ella Mae O’Dwyer, Nora Hurley, Aggie Whyte, Ellen Galvin, Molly Myers Murphy and Julia Clifford. Sarah is drawn to the concertina and fiddle music of County Clare. Noel Hill, Mary MacNamara and Bobby Casey have greatly inspired her. Musicians from other regional styles including Ella Mae O’Dwyer and Jesse Smith have also influenced her playing.
Doireann meanwhile is a fiddler player and sean-nós singer. She learned the fiddle at an early age from her father, Kevin Glackin and she has been heavily influenced by the music of her family and her locality. From her maternal family, the Ó Riadas of Cúil Aodha, she inherited a love for sean-nós singing. Doireann has been conducting research into the sean-nós singing tradition of the Muscraí Gaeltacht as part of a PhD at NUIG. Glackin cites musicians such as Tommy Potts, John Kelly and Joe Ryan as her main influences.
Mary Bergin and Mick Conneely – whistle and bouzouki
Legendary whistle player Mary Bergin was born into a musical family in Shankill, Co. Dublin and has enjoyed an outstanding career in traditional music touring extensively worldwide. She has contributed to many great recordings both as a solo artist and with the group Dordán and her 1979 solo album Feadóga Stáin remains a stand-out classic. In 2000, Mary won the prestigious ‘Traditional Musician of the Year' Award.
Mick Conneely was born in Bedford with roots in Co. Galway where he now lives. As a child he attended classes with Brendan Mulkere, as well as learning at home from his father, Mick Snr. He has played, toured and recorded with many artists, including playing fiddle with De Dannan periodically over a 22-year period from 1991–2013. In 2001 his debut solo album Selkie was released to critical acclaim on the Cló Iar-Chonnachta label.
Anne Skelton is a native of Claremorris, Co. Mayo though she has been living in Galway for almost 30 years. She began singing at the age of 8, learning songs from her father - John Kelly - a singer and step dancer who learnt in turn from his father and uncle. Her style follows in the line of her mother's family - the Murrays - who were all singers as well. Anne’s singing also takes a lot from the Northern Singing Tradition, and she was influenced in particular by the music of Rita Gallagher and Róisín White. She teaches at traditional summer schools throughout Ireland regularly and has participated in National Singing Projects such as Man, Woman and Child and the Birdsong Project. She guests regularly at Singing Festivals and Singing Circle events.
Néillidh Mulligan and Caoimhe Ní Mhaolagáin – uilleann pipes and sean nós dancing
Néillidh Mulligan was born in Dublin into a family steeped in the traditional music of Co. Leitrim. His father, Tom Mulligan, was a renowned fiddle player and piper. Néillidh received his first grounding in traditional music attending whistle lessons with Paidí Bán Ó Broin and Ned Stapleton at the Church Street club. His father Tom then “graduated” him to the pipes aged 11. Néillidh attended classes with Leo Rowsome, who taught both in the School of Music on Chatham Row and in the Thomas Street Piper’s Club. Other influences included pipers Séamus Ennis and Tommy Reck, both of whom were friends of the Mulligan family. He has released three solo CDs: Barr na Cúille, The Leitrim Thrush, and An Tobar Glé. More recently Néillidh was featured as part of Na Píobairí Uilleann’s Piper’s Choice series of DVDs alongside pipers Pádraig McGovern, and also Pat Broderick who passed away earlier this year and Na Píobairí Uilleann would like to remember Pat for his great dedication to the instrument.
Dublin-born Caoimhe Ní Mhaolagáin is Néillidh’s daughter. She is a fiddle player and sean-nós dancer. Caoimhe has developed her own distinct, original style, and with strong connections to West of Ireland, she has been influenced by the old traditional, Connemara dance style.
Brian Lennon, Seamus Quinn and Ciarán Curran – flute, fiddle, and bouzouki
Brian Lennon, son of the late Irish music giant Ben Lennon, plays flute, whistle and fiddle. He is a member of traditional group, Céide, and the recently-formed largely acapella group, Coda. He is also a former member of Cois Cladaigh chamber choir.
Fiddle player Seamus Quinn, from Derrygonnelly in Fermanagh, is a devotee of the great Sligo-Leitrim musicians who flourished in the 1920s and 30s in America such as the fiddle players Michael Coleman, James Morrison and Paddy Killoran. His own playing incorporates much of the lonesome, lilting lift that those great musicians brought to their music.
Ciarán Curran is a native of Kinawley, Co.Fermanagh. He too boasts a strong family tradition – his late uncle Ned Curran was a renowned fiddle player. Other influences include his friend Cathal McConnell, and of course Ben Lennon himself, to whom he attributes his strong backing rhythm and bounce. Along with Gabriel McArdle, Seamus and Ciarán recorded with Ben on the classic Dog Big Dog Little album, named after two mountains on the borders of County Fermanagh and Co Leitrim. Ciarán is perhaps best known as a longstanding member of the highly acclaimed band, Altan.
Pipe-making Mentoring Scholarships awarded to BCFE graduates as harp-making commences
NA PÍOBAIRÍ UILLEANN (NPU) has awarded two Pipe-making Mentoring Scholarships in memory of legendary piper and pipe-maker Leo Rowsome whose anniversary was celebrated last month.
This is the latest initiative in NPU’s instrument making programme which is run in partnership with Ballyfermot College of Further Education (BCFE). After being announced earlier this year, harp-making has now commenced as part of this innovative programme meaning that, for the first time in the history of the State, the making of Ireland’s two most iconic instruments is being taught formally through a structured curriculum.
After receiving a number of excellent applications for the inaugural Rowsome Scholarships, NPU has issued awards to two emerging pipe-makers – Mark Blackwell of Co. Meath and Dubliner Eoin Dillon. The Mentoring Programme (supported by the Design and Crafts Council Ireland) will see the scholarship recipients paired with established pipe-makers who will provide mentoring on a one-to-one basis in their workshop over an intensive period.
Mark Blackwell, a graduate of BCFE, and Eoin Dillon (2nd year, BCFE) have undertaken training at Na Píobairí Uilleann’s PipeCraft centre in Clonshaugh as part of the college’s Higher National Diploma in Irish Traditional Music Performance Programme (Ceoltóir).
As part of the Mentoring Programme, both students will receive detailed feedback on pipes they have made already, further direction from skilled pipe-makers as well as experiencing the workings of an operational workshop. Blackwell will receive mentoring from Achill Island pipe-maker John Butler while Dillon, who has already worked with maker Cillian Ó Briain, will visit Co. Laois pipe-maker Patrick Hyland.
Fifty years after Leo Rowsome’s death, his work continues to inspire and set an example of excellence for today’s uillean pipe makers. In tribute to Rowsome, Na Píobairí Uilleann is keen to support the development of emerging pipe-makers and provide the opportunity for established pipe-makers to convey their unique skills.
About Na Píobairí Uilleann
Na Píobairí Uilleann (NPU), the Society of Uilleann Pipers, was founded in 1968 when there were fewer than 100 uilleann pipers remaining. Today NPU is a thriving arts organisation dedicated to Sharing the Sound of Ireland through Access, Education, Performance and Preservation.
Since unveiling its restored Georgian premises at 15 Henrietta Street, Dublin, in January 2007, NPU has been busy catering for the expanding demand for regular tuition, as well as releasing a number of significant publications and recordings. With demand for pipes considerably exceeding supply, a dedicated Training Centre – PipeCraft – was established in 2011 to deliver training in the very highly skilled craft of uilleann pipe making.
NPU lobbied the Irish Government to ratify the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage which resulted in the inclusion of Uilleann Piping on the UNESCO representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in December 2017.
Photo Credits: (1) Commemorative Stamp 50th Anniversary of Na Piobairi Uilleann Piper Society, (2) International Uilleann Piping Day, (3) Mary Bergin, (4) Mick Conneely, (5) Néillidh Mulligan, (6) Leo Rowsome, (7) Eoin Dillon (w/Kila), (8) (6) Na Píobairí Uillean (unknown/website).