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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Live Recordings From The William Kennedy Piping Festival Volume 2  

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Live Recordings From The William Kennedy Piping Festival - Volume 2  
Private Label WKPFCD003  

A double CD jammed full of great piping, recorded at recitals from 2003 to 2017: what more could any piper wish for? The William Kennedy festival is one of the world's premier piping events, and despite its modest size it attracts the best players on a global scale. Hosted by the Armagh Pipers Club, to whom all credit should go for making this music available, the festival naturally has a leaning towards Irish pipes but this recording features pipes and pipers from at least a dozen other countries as well as the same number of Ireland's own foremost exponents of the uilleann pipes.

The Vallely family is among the founders and greatest supporters of this festival. Cillian Vallely contributes a showpiece medley, while his brothers Caoimhín and Niall are credited with research, production, engineering and mixing. Considering that these 36 tracks come from almost the same number of different years and venues, the sound quality over more than two and a half hours is exceptionally good and consistent. There are also excellent notes on each track. Performances by Paddy Keenan, Mick O'Brien, John McSherry and Francis McIlduff, Seán McKeon, Brian McNamara and Robbie Hannan are supplemented by tracks from Lousie Mulcahy, Síle Friel, Mikie Smyth and others who might not be so well known outside Ireland but who have all proved their mettle since these recordings were made. Even within the Irish half of the programme, the styles and material are too varied to list: it's all here, and it's all good.

For many, the attraction of this CD will be the non-Irish pipers: Highland pipers from Scotland and Canada, Scottish smallpipes from Anna Murray and Border pipes from Ross Ainslie, Breton piping by Patrick Molard, central French pipes, Belgian and Spanish pipes, Andy May's Northumbrian smallpipes, players from Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and Sweden who are all new to me, and the truly amazing Sardinian launedas of Luigi Lai. It's impossible to mention all the highlights, but Tejedor from Asturias and Anxo Lorenzo from Galicia are featured from 2003 and 2011 respectively, Nuallan from Cape Breton with their three bagpipes pitched in A are accompanied by Mac Morin's dancing piano from 2017, and the performance by Greek duo Makris & Mougolias inspired Seb Lagrange to write a cracking tune which he and Gaël Rutkowski recorded recently. Good music breeds good music, and this recording will doubtless have many worthy offspring.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.