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Piper's Choice 3
Na Píobairí Uilleann NPUDVD009

Na Píobairí Uilleann is the Irish piping association, the premier organisation for uilleann pipers worldwide. The successful format of their Pipers Choice DVD series is for piper and broadcaster Peter Browne to interview three emminent pipers while they perform some of their favourite music and explain the details of their approach to piping. It's half performance and half patter, with Peter generally getting the best out of his interlocutors. The DVDs are recorded in the grand and slightly echoey halls of Na Píobairí Uilleann's home in Dublin, with piping memorabilia panelling the walls. Sound and video quality are excellent, and there are adequate notes on the pipers and the music, as well as scene selection menus.

Volume 3 features the rather reclusive Paddy Keenan, extraordinary traveller piper and star of The Bothy Band. Paddy plays seven selections here: reels, jigs, airs, and a set dance, and talks on a wide range of subjects. In his trademark leather hat, he describes his introduction to piping, his approach to the music, his pipes, his own and indeed other people's styles. Paddy talks freely and naturally, as though the film crew wasn't there at all, and he plays as ever with dexterity and passion, and with that rare flair which keeps you on the edge of your seat. Paddy Fahey's Jig is a challenging tune fitted beautifully onto the pipes by Paddy, and more conventional piping jigs are handled with an easy brilliance. The modern air John Walsh's reveals something of the direction this man's piping is taking these days, while The Coolin and Molly Bán show why Paddy deserves his high standing among traditionalists. For pure virtuosity, it's hard to beat The Rambling Pitchfork or The Skylark as played here.

The contributions of Mick Coyne and Nollaig MacCárthaigh shouldn't be underrated. Mick is a very lively piper whose background with the Liverpool Céilí Band and the group Garva is widely known. From lack of a teacher in his youth, Mick evolved his own very exciting piping style. His versions of Rolling in the Ryegrass and The Flogging Reel are fascinating. Mick also sings with the pipes, a neat trick if you can manage it. Nollaig is a piper I hadn't come across before, a Dublin stalwart born and bred: I was expecting a female piper, a first for this series, but it turns out that Nollaig is also a man's name. He plays a storming set of slip jigs starting with the unusual Hey for Stoneybatter (a version of The Butterfly named for an area of Dublin's North Side), as well as reels, jigs, some great hornpipes, the air Johnny Seoige and a couple of fine polkas. Like previous volumes, this DVD is a boon for pipers and other players of traditional music, and a fine evening's entertainment for anyone interested in the Irish pipes. Find it at - and a lot more besides.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 86 of The Living Tradition magazine.