Armagh Pipers Club featured in Friday 4 September’s edition of the Folk Club, on Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle, from 10.30pm. Lynette Fay interviewed the Club’s founder, Brian Vallely, as our panel of tutors plan for the new term, with classes launching on 14 September. The programme also featured APC alumnus Brian Finnegan, among many other great musicians. Catch up online at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b075tgm4
Armagh Pipers Club has just launched its new-look website, armaghpipers.com, containing full details of the Club’s programme over the next few months.
The traditional music teaching charity, which has been at the centre of Armagh’s cultural life since 1966, responded to the coronavirus lockdown by rapidly developing an effective programme of online teaching. Throughout March, April, May and June, almost 350 teaching videos were created covering all instruments and performance levels. The Club has built on that experience to develop a new and enhanced online programme for 2020-21, starting on September 14th.
While the continuing public health crisis means that the Club’s internationally renowned William Kennedy Piping Festival has to take a break this year, special one-off funding from the Arts Council and from the Heritage Fund has allowed it to meet the extra costs of upgrading the online learning experience. The Arts Council has also renewed the Lottery funding that has for many years helped to keep tuition fees at affordable levels.
As well as offering recorded lessons from more than 20 top-level tutors, the Club will provide regular opportunities for live interaction between the tutors and small groups of students, allowing each student’s progress to be monitored and assisted. While the Club’s primary aim is to continue serving the hundreds of students who come to it from its traditional catchment area of Armagh and six neighbouring counties, this new way of working could also expand the charity’s reach considerably, by allowing it to welcome new online pupils wherever they may reside in Ireland or abroad.
SKILLED TEACHING STAFF
The Club’s online tuition programme for 2020-21 will mainly be delivered in recorded classes made available on Mondays throughout the term, supplemented by regular Zoom sessions for each class group. Over the course of the year, the Club will deliver more than a thousand recorded or interactive classes, led by a highly skilled group of teachers working at all levels of instrumentation and singing, backed up by a small technical team.
Classes at four levels, from beginner to advanced, will be available for accordion, concertina and tin whistle. Because it is not practical to teach absolute beginners in more complex instruments without personal contact, for the time being there will be only three levels of classes in banjo, fiddle, flute, harp and uilleann pipes. Singing classes and the very successful adult session classes will continue, as well as preparatory classes for the London College of Music graded exam programme.
With the health and safety of its community of students and tutors as the Club’s first priority, it will return to traditional face-to-face teaching only when it is safe to bring together the scores of families who have come from miles around to attend its classes in rented school premises. However the online classes will be interspersed with other events, such as concerts by visiting artists, and celebrations of National Harp Day and International Uilleann Pipes Day.
REGISTRATION NOW OPEN
Registration is already open online through the website, but will also be available during office hours at the Club’s Scotch Street premises for those not able to use the online registration system.
The Club also reaches out to all musicians currently cut off from face-to-face classes due to the continued spread of the coronavirus. No matter what level musicians are at, the Pipers Club has a suitable class.
It will be possible to easily switch between class levels, as all classes in all instruments will be available to delve into by registered students. This proved to be a popular option during the experimental ‘lockdown’ emergency, when students were able to venture outside the particular class that they had registered for, and pick up tunes and techniques from across the full range of classes. The new setup, which houses the recorded lessons on the Club’s own website, avoids the advertising clutter and distracting content of YouTube.
Armagh Pipers Club invites new and returning students to register now and keep the music and song alive throughout these difficult days. The website, armaghpipers.com, has the Club’s contact details for anyone seeking more information.
The Club ended its 2019-20 education and artistic programme with a live stream on Facebook of its Virtual Song Trail of Armagh. This extraordinary video performance by many of our young musicians and singers is an hour-long concert including solos, duets, small groups and a mosaic of synchronised singers. The Club’s director of music, Eithne Vallely, introduces each piece with a few words about the place, the people and the musicians.
There are many locations in and around Armagh City that are recalled in songs and tunes. In 2017, an Arts Council-funded Pipers Club project gathered together 41 traditional songs in a book, By Dobbin’s Flowery Vale, and it was launched along with two CDs of APC students and tutors performing every song.
In 2018, to wind up the Heritage Lottery-funded Musical Footsteps project, a more focussed booklet was produced for a walking tour of the city taking in many locations that either featured directly in songs or contained some allusion to the subject of a song. This Armagh Song Trail went live only once, during the William Kennedy Piping Festival, when young singers and musicians from the Club led guests from the Áras uphill to the Cathedral, down to the Mall and back to base, stopping for songs along the way.