The Pipers Club’s series of monthly concerts has featured some of the best-known names in Irish traditional music, and on Friday 23 April we hear from two hugely successful musicians both now based in the United States. Kevin Crawford, the Birmingham-born, Clare-formed, New York-resident frontman of supergroup Lúnasa is joined by John Doyle, the singer-songwriter raised in Dublin and now living in North Carolina. They are pictured below along with their partner in the trio The Teetotalers, the great fiddler Martin Hayes. Join us at armaghpipers.com or on Facebook for an hour of free music and song, with the occasional discreet plug for Carrying the Tune, Kevin’s new album on which John features extensively!
A highlight of the Pipers Club year since 1966 has been the Annual Concert, featuring club students and tutors. The first one took place on St Patrick’s Day, in Armagh’s City Hall. The Hall is long gone, but we’re still here and that’s something to celebrate! Almost seventy of our students, past students, tutors and parents have contributed to the 2021 all-online concert, going out “as live” on Facebook on March 17th at 12:00 noon, and on our home page. Join us for a couple of hours of music, song and dance – solos, duets, trios, family groups and “virtual” groups. All free! You can download the concert programme from this link; https://bit.ly/2OCVeLR
Welcome to the fifth Fonn Friday concert of the 2020-21 season, tonight at our home page, armaghpipers.com!
Singer and cellist Alana Henderson, an alumna of Armagh Pipers Club who has toured widely (with Hozier among others), is joined by Cork-based fiddler Clare O’Loughlin for the fifth in our Fonn Friday series. The hour-long free concert goes online at 8pm, and will be viewable for one week only. Both musicians are also providing master classes for APC students, accessible by logging into the Student Area of the website.
OK, so the 2021 Annual Concert won’t be possible in the traditional format, but that’s not stopping us! Go to our home page, armaghpipers.com, to have another look at the Christmas carols concert. We want to do something similar for St Patrick’s Day, Wednesday 17 March, when we will post up a ‘virtual’ concert featuring many contributions recorded by our students, tutors and families.
The first big public concert by the Pipers Club took place on Friday 17 March 1967, in Armagh City Hall, now the site of the North-South Ministerial Council secretariat. There has been an Annual Concert every year since, often around that time of year but sometimes at Christmas or in the summer. In recent years these have been hugely popular events, filling the Market Place Theatre with superb music and song, students in blue polo shirts, tutors and backstage helpers keeping the programme running smoothly, proud parents, brothers, sisters and members of the public.
The Annual Concert has become a central element of the Club’s activity, with teaching in the first and especially the second term focused on getting each class group note-perfect in the pieces selected for their instrument and ability level. For many of our young people, this event was their first taste of performing live on stage to a large audience, and for more than a few, it opened the door to a career in music.
Will you help make the 2021 concert into an online showcase for our talented tutors, our brilliant young students, our shared cultural heritage, and the musical families that have kept the Pipers Club going since 1966?
To take part, just choose a tune, a song or a dance. This can be solo, in a family group, or in some other combination that is allowed under the current restrictions. Let us know what you’re planning, to avoid any clashes: email email@example.com. Then record it on a phone (landscape mode), a tablet or a laptop and upload it to this link: https://bit.ly/3pSTxYC. Please start by introducing yourselves and the piece – maybe tell us where you learned it or why you like it.
Please aim to have your recordings with us by Monday 1 March, to allow time to edit everything together. The concert will be launched on our home page at mid-day on St Patrick’s Day and will be moved a few days later to another part of the website.
This is open to everyone who is or has been associated with the Pipers Club, not just our current students and teachers. In these difficult times, many of our students have so much of their learning online that they have decided to take a break from the Club, until we can resume face-to-face classes with all the fun that goes with that. We understand that. We are very grateful to those who have stayed with us for online lessons, and look forward to welcoming everyone else back as soon as we can do so.
Timetables for all classes have been updated to give more detail of the Fonn Friday concerts, and most timetables have one or more slight changes – please log in to the Student Area and go to your class page to check how yours is affected.
The changes were necessary to address a small number of Zoom timing clashes (where a tutor teaches more than one subject, where a student is taking a second class, or where two students in the same family had classes at the same time). We also took the opportunity to schedule some extra Zoom classes, so that in this term 80% of our classes now have four live Zoom lessons and six recorded ones.
On Saturday 23 January, they will each present master classes for registered students of the Club; Karan will have one for junior singers and one for advanced singers, appearing on the respective class pages from 10am, and Niall will have one for Levels 1 and 2 concertina players, and one for Levels 3 & 4. The rest of the series has now been booked:
5: February 19 – singer and cellist Alana Henderson with fiddler Claire O’Loughlin
6: March 19 – singer and bouzouki player Daoirí Farrell with piper Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn
7: April 23 – singer and guitarist John Doyle with Kevin Crawford on flute and whistles
8: May 21 – singer and multi-instrumentalist Barry Kerr with Christy Leahy on button accordion
9: June 18 – the season finale featuring two families long associated with the Club, the Smyths of Ballymacnab and the Mulhollands of south Derry
Term 2 starts on Monday next, 11 January, with other class nights on 18 & 25 January; 1, 8 & 22 February and 1, 8, 15 & 22 March. That’s a total of 10 class nights, same as last year’s Term 2 and the same as this year’s Term 1. As in Term 1, most lessons will be recordings released through the student section of the Club’s website, with more than a third of the total delivered live through Zoom. The big innovation for Term 2 is that we are able to provide more support and attention to students by offering extra small group or one-to-one Zoom tuition on nights other than Monday. These short “clinic” sessions are designed to provide learners with personally tailored guidance – it might be around a technical problem such as tuning or maintaining the instrument, or it might be extra help with the trickier parts of a tune. We will circulate everyone who registers for Term 2 with details of how to book these special sessions.
It will take a little while to update every class page with the Term 2 timetable, but that should be complete by Friday. Notices will then go out for the first round of Zoom classes.
Term 2 will also feature monthly Fonn Friday concerts and master classes with leading lights from the world of traditional music. The first of these, on 22 January, features Niall Vallely and Karan Casey, and we have other big names lined up for the following five months.
For returning students, the procedure is very simple – click on this link.
For new students, please go here.
The cost for Term 2 is the same as for Term 1, that is, £100 for one student; £175 for two from the same household; £225 for three, and £275 for four or more. Payment can be made by bank transfer or through the website. Your log-in credentials remain valid so long as payment is received by 29 January.
Term 3, from Easter to mid-June, will as in previous years be free of charge for anyone who has signed up for Term 1 and/or Term 2. We aren’t making any definite plans for it just yet, because with the roll-out of the vaccine programme we may dare to think of a return to some face-to-face teaching, and possibly some public performance. We only just got the 2020 Annual Concert under the wire before the March lockdown, but if there is to be a 2021 one, it could only be in the third term, and then only if we are convinced that our audiences and our children will be safe.
We are grateful for the continuing support of our funders, especially the National Lottery through the Arts Council, the Heritage Fund, and Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.
Here’s hoping that as 2021 advances, we will regain our cherished freedoms to meet, embrace one another and make music together!
Happy New Year from Armagh Pipers Club!
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 concert for the Pipers Club!
Here’s hoping that we see these and hundreds of other familiar and friendly faces in Armagh in November 2021.
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.
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.