Florida Irish Pipers is an association of uilleann pipers from all around Florida. They are part of the Southeast Piper’s Club, which is a unique community of individuals living in the southeastern United States, happy to share information, tunes, and friendship. Many are also members of the Irish Piper’s Club, based in Seattle, WA, and Na Piobairi Uilleann, based in Dublin, Ireland. “We host a tionól in Florida every other year, sharing the responsibility of the Southeast Tionól with our Georgia piper friends. A ‘tionól’ is a music workshop, which usually focuses on Uilleann Piping, though other instruments are often represented. In the past, our tionóls have included instruction in pipes, Irish fiddle, and sometimes flute, whistle, concertina, bodhran and guitar. Our tionóls take place on a weekend with group classes on Saturday and 1/2 Sunday led by pipers who are masters on the instrument. Sessions are held Friday night and Saturday after the Saturday evening Instructor’s concert. This weekend is ideal for pipers, fiddle players, concertina players and Irish traditional musicians looking for a good music and great craic!”
The next Southeast Tionól will be held sometime in late March 2012 at Roswell, GA. In addition to the annual tionóls, Florida’s uilleann pipers regularly perform a various venues around the state.
Florida Irish Pipers website and contact information: http://www.floridairishpipers.org
Uilleann pipes give traditional Irish music its mournful, haunting quality and are distinguished from other forms of bagpipes by their tone and wide range of notes. They have a different harmonic structure, sounding sweeter and softer than other bagpipes. Not only do they have the ability to play two octaves, but they can play separate notes, lending variation and coloring to musical phrasing.
The bag of the uilleann pipes is inflated by means of a small bellows strapped around the waist and the right arm. Their name is part translation of the Irish language term “píobaí uilleann” which literally means “pipes of the elbow”, from their method of inflation. The bellows relieves the player from the need to blow into a bag to maintain pressure, and also allows relatively dry air to power the reeds, reducing the adverse effects of moisture on tuning and longevity. Uilleann pipers can converse or sing at the same time as playing. Unlike other bagpipes, uilleann pipes are most often played indoors, and are almost always played sitting down.
Mastering the uilleann pipes takes years of practice and dedication, and are one of the most difficult musical instruments to play well. Here is a short music video of Seamus Ennis, the world’s most famous piper, demonstrating his genius on the uilleann pipes:
If you want to purchase your own set of uilleann pipes, prices range from around $265 to over $10,000. According to Kathleen Cavanagh of the Florida Irish Pipers: a full set can cost up to $10,000 or more depending upon the maker. For instance, Rowsome sets or even Geoff Wooff sets can be $20,000. Since the instruments are hand-made for the most part, the price varies. Also, the waiting list of some makers can be quite long. It is best to talk to an experienced Uilleann Piper from the list of pipers on the FIP website for advice on buying a set BEFORE purchase. In addition, their site has one of the most comprehensive listings of Traditional Irish Music Sessions in Florida.