Festival fans send greetings

The 27th edition of the William Kennedy Piping Festival should be taking place this weekend, and its postponement has been felt not just by local music fans and the hospitality industry, but by those from all around the world who had this Armagh fixture in their diaries. We get occasional messages such as this one from Jan and Magda Thys, from Belgium:

Mid-November, and now, for the first time after 10 years, there is a big empty space in our agenda and we have to make do with enjoying our photos and recordings from previous WKPF editions at home. How we miss strolling through the streets of Armagh and bumping in to musicians everywhere. And so many music lovers, old and new friends …

We would like to thank all of the organisers and volunteers who are always working so hard to organise this fantastic festival. We are already looking forward to the next edition, hoping the corona-virus will have faded away enough for us all to be able to meet again and enjoy the music off all kinds of pipes. Through you we have had the opportunity to meet many local and international pipers. We have met so many new musicians, festival goers, people from far and not so far away, who have over the years become good friends.

From even further afield, Catherine Kinder from North Carolina has posted memories of last year’s Festival. She and Scott had a good excuse for not coming this year anyhow, having their hands full with baby Kevin – who was name-checked by Jarlath Henderson in his recent Fonn Friday convert for the Pipers Club!

Here’s hoping that we see these and hundreds of other familiar and friendly faces in Armagh in November 2021.

Christmas concert goes online 

This year’s end-of-term event will be an online version of our traditional carols concert (the 2015 one is pictured here). 

We invite all students to record one or more of their favourite Christmas carols, or pieces of seasonally appropriate instrumental music.  Work on your own or with others in your family or social “bubble”.  When your recording is ready, click on the following link to send it to us: https://www.dropbox.com/request/QOuZsSE7dQdUA0PPvOZw

We will then edit all the contributions together to make a one-hour concert which will go out on the evening of Friday 18 December.  To allow time for production, we need your recordings in by Friday 11 December, but you can send it in as soon as it’s ready.  Avoid those received or promised so far: Christmas 1915; Wexford Carol; Candlelight Carol; Grandma got Run Over by a Reindeer; Silent Night; The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby; Oíche Nollag; Breton Carol/Christmas Polka/Christmas Eve Reel; Still, Still, Still; A Mother’s Child; Singing in the Land; Away in a Manger; Coinnle na nAingeal (M. Mhac an tSaoí); Joy to the World; Masters in this Hall; Baby Born Today; A Christmas Childhood (Kavanagh); Enfants de Palestine; Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil; What Child is This/Greensleeves/Carol of the Bells; Little Christmas/Apples in Winter/Christmas in Kinsdale.

November newsletter

To download the latest Pipers Club newsletter, click here. News of the forthcoming International Uilleann Piping Day concert (Saturday 7th) and the second Fonn Friday concert (with Brian Finnegan and Jarlath Henderson, Friday 13th). Still time to nominate yourself, your family or someone else for the annual Dick MacRae award, and an invitation to submit carols, songs or poems for our online Christmas concert.

Lá na Cruite / National Harp Day

17 October is National Harp Day – Lá na Cruite – and several Pipers Club harpers are performing in Harp Ireland’s online showcase for the premier national instrument. So many musicians from all over the country are taking part that the video timetable runs on into the 18th. One of our two groups was on show on Saturday night, performing a piece by Anne-Marie O’Farrell, and the second group can be seen 1hr 34 mins into this Facebook segment, playing Carolan’s Welcome (as this year marks the 350th anniversary of Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin’s birth).

Full details, and links to the performances, at https://www.harpireland.ie/national-harp-day-overview/harp-day-2020/

Check your class calendar

Students/parents: please make sure that you have noted down the days and dates of your recorded and Zoom lessons from your class page.  These were updated a couple of weeks ago to allow all the Zoom lessons to take place on Monday evenings, but if your computer has stored the old calendar and you haven’t cleared your broweser cache, you might still see the old version.  Here’s how to be sure: the new version has the words “revised calendar” at the top.  If you don’t see that, you need to clear your cache and reload the page.  

Revised class calendars

Students/parents should check the updated calendar at the top of each class page. The Club is reverting completely to Monday night teaching, so any Zoom classes previously scheduled for Tuesdays will now be managed by our expanded team of Zoom hosts. To fit in the extra classes, there are now four start times – 6.30, 7.00, 7.30 and 8.00 – and it is very important that students turn up on time for their class. Classes will still take up 40-50 minutes.

This change has been made to avoid a number of clashes with other cultural and sporting activities on Tuesdays.

We have taken the opportunity to move more of the junior classes (Levels 1 and 2) to the earlier start times, which might better suit our younger students. We have also weighted the live Zoom classes more towards Levels 1-3, where students will get three (or four) Zoom and seven (or six) recorded lessons.

Feedback from students and parents is always welcome. You can contact us through the website.

Music classes well under way

We hope you are enjoying your new term’s online tuition, and in particular the opportunity for live contact with tutors through the once-a-month Zoom lessons. This week’s programme sees the third set of Zoom lessons, so that every class group will have had two recorded and one live lesson.

Our new programme launched with Zoom sessions timetabled for Tuesdays, as well as the Monday evenings that have traditionally been reserved for Pipers Club activities. We now know of some Tuesday clashes with the other commitments of our students and tutors, so we are investing in staffing and technology to increase the number of Zoom classes that we can run on Mondays. Reorganising a timetable for 33 class groups is a pretty big exercise, but we aim to move to all-Monday Zooming by 19 October. Tutors, parents and students should check their class pages in the next week or two for updated timetables.

Please get in touch if you need any additional help with instrument tuning, etc.  Our students can order half-price copies of the famous APC tutor books, all of which have CDs included: go to our online shop for 50 Simple Tunes for the Tin Whistle, My Second Tune Book (“the yellow book”) or Jig It in Style (“the red book”).  Most Level 1 and Level 2 classes draw on these books, and it’s good to have a copy handy rather than download one tune at a time from your class page. To get your discount, remember to select the “registered student” option before checkout.

Just a tip from observing the first round of Zoom classes: the student should sit in a reasonably well-lit area. Back-lighting, for example if sitting in front of a window while it’s still daylight, can make it hard for the tutor to see you. We welcome any feedback from students about the Zoom lessons, the recorded lessons (usually released at 5pm on Mondays) or any other aspect of their online experience. We know it’s not the same craic as getting together with your friends in the classroom, and we look forward to a return to all of that, but your safety will always come first!

London College of Music exams

LCM exams for the foreseeable future will be held in two formats – online exams and recorded exams. Further details are on the LCM website. The closing date for this year’s Winter Session is extended to October 17th. Any candidates who were entered through the Pipers Club for Spring exams can sit the next round of exams with no additional fee – however you must let us know. If you have already taken your exam online, please let us know how you got on so that we can keep a record of results.

Anyone else wishing to enter for the Winter Exams, please send your details – full name, address and date of birth, grade and instrument – to info@armaghpipers.com, and we will advise you of how to pay the entry fee.