Meet some of the artists performing in the 29th William Kennedy Piping Festival.
A duo from the French Basque country (Gascony). Arnaud Bibonne sings and plays bagpipes (the boha and other cornemuses), and Maider Martineau plays the Basque horn (alboka) and other wind instruments, a type of tambourine (pandero) and a diatonic button accordion (trikitixa). They teach and promote Basque and Gascon music, song and dance, appear at many festivals and concerts, and released their first album, Bohada, in 2021.
Allan MacDonald Quintet
Known for reviving the 17th-century style of pibroch, Allan MacDonald (Ailean Domhnallach) is one of three renowned piper brothers from the Gaidhlig-speaking village of Glenuig on the west coast of Scotland. A lecturer and composer, he has participated in many previous editions of the William Kennedy Piping Festival. Finlay MacDonald is head of piping studies at the National Piping Centre and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, has played with many famous artists and groups, and is an organiser of the annual Piping Live! Festival. Multi-instrumentalist Ali Hutton, from Perthshire, played in the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band before developing a professional career with groups such as Brolum, Back of the Moon, Old Blind Dogs and Symbiosis. Iain MacFarlane, best known as a fiddler, also plays the pipes, and has worked with famous bands such as Boys of the Lough and the Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band. Leonard Barry is an uilleann piper from Tralee who has played and taught the pipes in the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia, and has released two albums, Mind the Pipes and New Road.
Probably the best-known contemporary exponent of the Northumbrian smallpipes, and a pianist, composer, teacher and pipe-maker. The Andy May Trio has released two albums, About Time and Just a Second. He also plays in the Nordic/Celtic band Baltic Crossing.
Barry Kerr & Síle Denvir with Donogh Hennessey
Harpist and sean-nós singer Síle Denvir is from the Conamara Gaeltacht, and has worked with The Chieftains, her own group Líadan, the RTÉ National Symphiony Orchestra and others. She is one of several recipients of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil awards to appear in the 2023 WKPF. Barry Kerr, from Lurgan, is an uilleann piper and flute player as well as a visual artist, and is currently the University College Cork Traditional Artist in Residence. He and Síle have produced three albums jointly, and others as solo artists. Guitarist Donogh Hennessy played with Sharon Shannon’s band before joining Lúnasa, with whom he toured for several years.
The current Pipe Sergeant of the St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band, Brendan has played in other renowned Highland pipe bands including the Field Marshal Montgomery and Strathclyde Police.
Best known as the uilleann piper with the supergroup Lúnasa, Cillian also plays the low whistle. He has toured worldwide and performed on over 50 albums.
The senior uilleann pipes tutor with Armagh Pipers Club, Éamonn was formerly a professional musician touring extensively with Dolores Keane and others. He then had a career as a primary teacher and is now a pipe-maker based in Monaghan.
Gay McKeon, Paddy Glackin & Mary Corcoran
Dublin piper Gay McKeon’s recordings include two solo albums, the latest being The Turning of the Geese, and a trio album with his two sons. He is the CEO of the national association of pipers, Na Píobairí Uilleann. Pianist and fiddler Mary Corcoran, also a Dubliner, came to prominence on winning the piano title at the 1976 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. She has since made several recordings with artists including Patsy Moloney, John Regan and Tommy Guihen. Gay and Mary were to have performed at the 2023 WKPF alongside The Chieftains’ fiddler Seán Keane, who died on 7 May; fortunately the great Dublin fiddler Paddy Glackin, a founding member of the Bothy Band, stepped into the breach.
Méabh, Annie & Aoife Smyth with Marty Barry
The Smyth sisters from Co. Armagh are former students of Armagh Pipers Club, where Méabh is now a tutor. In 2018 Méabh won the Ed Reavy International Fiddler if the Year Competition; in 2021 she won the Fiddler of London title and in 2023 was named Young Musician of the Year in the TG4 Gradam Ceoil awards. Annie was also a finalist in the 2021 Fiddler of London competition. Aoife is primarily an uilleann piper, and plays keyboards. Marty Barry is a traditional musician and singer, playing guitar, banjo and bouzouki. He and Méabh have each featured on albums with other artists.
Mná na Píob
A trio of women uilleann pipers: Máire Ní Ghráda lectures at the University of Limerick and teaches at many Irish and overseas piping events; Mary Mitchell-Ingoldsby is a musicologist in University College Cork, and Rosaleen O’Leary is well known as a feis adjudicator as well as for her many performances and recordings.
Duo Gällmo Branschke
The Swedish Olle Gällmo, awarded the prestigious title of risksspelman for his virtuosity on the säckpipa, and pipe-maker Matthias Branschke from Germany have played and taught together for many years. In 2019 they released an album, Double Yolks, featuring both Swedish and German folk tunes; Olle also has a solo album, med pipan i säcken.
This Belfast-based band consists of Conor Lamb and the Breton Loïc Bléjean on uilleann pipes and whistles; Deirdre Galway, guitar and vocals; Dermot Mulholland, banjo and bouzouki, and Dermot Moynagh, double bass and bodhrán. Following the debut album Open the Door for Three (the lineup then consisting of Deirdre, Conor and Aaron O’Hagan), their latest is titled Clear Skies.
From Maghera, Co. Derry, Robert has won numerous top-level awards for his Highland piping, and also plays the Lowland and Border pipes. He is a composer and songwriter, a music teacher, and has for some years played with the famous Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band.
This Scottish ensemble consists mainly of Highland pipers following the traditions of the Western Isles and Cape Breton. While the lineup has changed a few times in the three decades since the group was started by pipe-maker Hamish Moore, the current core members are Calum MacCrimmon, Angus MacKenzie, Fin Moore and Angus Nicolson with Allan MacDonald proving pibroch song and small pipes.
Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn
A uilleann piper from Monaghan, Tiarnán has achieved many awards for his playing, including the Seán Ó Riada Bonn Óir (gold medal) and five All-Ireland Fleadh Ceoil titles. He has featured on dozens of albums and many broadcasts, and has appeared in festivals and concerts in many countries. He is a piping tutor with Armagh pipers Club
A young but very accomplished piper from Co. Tyrone, and a former student at Armagh Pipers Club, this is Maeve’s first Kennedy Festival appearance. She holds an All-Ireland title for solo uilleann pipes. She features on the compilation CD Bláth na Finne.
One of Ireland’s best-known pipers, Mick has featured on many recordings and has performed and taught all over Europe and the USA. Named Musician of the Year in the TG4 Gradam Ceoil awards in 2023, Mick had in 2014 received a Gradam Ceoil award jointly with his daughter Aoife Ní Bhriain and Emer Mayock for their exploration of the music in the 19th-century Goodman collection.
José Manuel Tejedor
This Asturian gaita player came to fame at the age of 17 when he won the Macallan trophy at the inter-Celtic festival at Lorient, a feat he repeated in 1993 and 1997. He has released albums as a solo artist and in the group Tejedor (with his brother Javier and sister Eva). He first performed in the WKPF in 2003.