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SEAMUS ENNIS "Forty Years of Irish Piping" Green Linnet GLCD1000

I suppose true fame is when you refer to a musician only by surname, and everybody knows whom you mean. In Irish traditional music, I can think of only two of these; Coleman, and Ennis. What's to be said about Seamus Ennis that hasn't already been said? Uilleann piper; singer; storyteller; collector; above all, an inspiration to generations of musicians of all kinds. His work with the Irish Folklore Commission and the BBC as a collector ensured that many older musicians have their rightful places in the tradition. Even atheist musicians genuflect when talking about Ennis.

This CD is a compilation from many sources (and also a re-issue from 1977, originally on Gael Linn), resulting in duplication of some tunes. This doesn't detract in any way, but shows Ennis in his various moods. He plays his flat set, concert set, and whistle, he also sings and tells stories. On one track he refers to his father in the present tense, so that's a measure of how old some of these recordings are. Recording quality is less than perfect, but, as an illustration of Ennis' musicianship, this is an essential for anyone with an appreciation of crisp "close" piping with masterful use of the regulators.

Just jigs and reels; no hornpipes, polkas, or slides; the only slow air is a fine Waterford version of 'Seán Ó Dhuíbhir a Ghleanna'. My own favourite track is No 3, 'The Bucks of Oranmore'; a classic Ennis rendition. Close second is No 10, 'The Salamanca/Duke Gordon" (sic), played on the flat set. I'm not sure what to make of No 2, a 'Finnegan's Wake' version of the instruction 'First You Must Learn the Grip'.

The only pity is that there's no information on the tunes. There's a potted biography by Harry Bradshaw, but devil a word about the music. Ennis was always keen to talk about the origins of tunes, as he does on a couple of tracks, so that's the only complaint about this. I wouldn't particularly recommend it as an introduction to Ennis; "The Pure Drop" or "The Fox Chase" are probably best in that regard. (Both of these should still be available as a double CD, "The Best of Irish Piping" TARACD 1002/9). But, for those with a grá for the uilleann pipes, this is an insight into the master and his music.

Mick Furey

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This album was reviewed in Issue 40 of The Living Tradition magazine.