The Master's Touch

A Tutor for the Uilleann Pipes

by Séamus Ennis

Edited by Wilbert Garvin and Robbie Hannan


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Séamus Ennis (1919 - 1982) was one of the most dynamic and influential figures in the history of uilleann piping. This book brings his tutor into circulation for the first time and includes an introduction, transcriptions of tunes and a discography. Wilbert Garvin is a Lecturer in Education at The Queen's University of Belfast. Robbie Hannan is Curator of Musicology at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Last updated on the 28th August 1998. Return to NPU Home Page : FOREWORD by Liam O'Flynn Séamus Ennis has stamped an indelible impression of himself upon Irish traditional music and upon the uilleann pipes in particular. As a young piper I had heard of Séamus from other musicians and of course from radio broadcasts and felt instinctively drawn to his music. It was a hugely exciting and daunting experience for me when I finally met him at a session in Dowling's pub in Prosperous, Co. Kildare, in the late 1960s. Before leaving that night he offered me any assistance he could give and told me to 'keep in touch.' I very eagerly followed up on this invitation and we became firm friends, sharing a house together for almost three years. His willingness to impart his great store of knowledge and piping skills was extraordinary. When we travelled together he always drove and that could be a fairly 'hairy' experience! The conversation always returned to music with fascinating stories about places, tunes, songs, players and singers. I absorbed a great deal from him in this way. Planxty was in full flight at this time and he took a terrific interest in the group. He gave us songs and tunes in abundance. Séamus' world revolved around music and he had little time or patience with the 'goings-on' in the world around him! He was a man of strong will and many idiosyncrasies but they seemed to form a natural part of a unique musical personality. He was at the height of his powers at the time when traditional music and the uilleann pipes did not enjoy the popularity and recognition they receive today, but that pride and belief he had in himself sustained him through much indifference towards his achievements. The influence and impact of his music on me has been very great indeed. His technical mastery of the pipes was absolute. His tone unmistakable. The measure and balance in his playing in terms of both technique and expression were combined with elegance and restraint and a gift to colour it all with the most delicate shades. These are the qualities that will always excite and enthrall me when I listen to his playing. Séamus' tutor captures much of his approach to piping and I am sure that it will be of interest to all pipers and to traditional musicians generally. We owe Robbie Hannan and Wilbert Garvin our gratitude for making it available to us all. Séamus would be pleased.

Liam O'Flynn
June 1998

The Master's Touch is available from Na Píobairí Uilleann. Cost IR£12 plus postage. Discounted price to NPU members, IR£10 plus postage.