JOHN MASCHINOT - UILLEANN PIPES & IRISH FLUTE
John Maschinot is a multi-instrumentalist, performing professionally on the uniquely Irish uilleann pipes, Irish wooden flute, tin whistle and bodhran. John is passionate about presenting performances that represent the surprisingly wide breadth of traditional music. His solo concerts not only include evocative Celtic music, but may include a blues number or two on the uilleann pipes, an Appalachian dance tune on wooden flute, or a "classical" piece on tin whistle, all a reflection of his 35 years of listening, travelling, collaborating, playing and performing. John has apeared on numerous radio and television stations including NPR, WABE FM, WGPB FM, WSB TV, WMLV FM, WXIA TV, WAGA TV and WREK FM, and is a recipient of Irish American Magazine's Stars of the South award. John has also produced programs for radio and is sought after for his traditional music consultation services.
Find out more about the uilleann pipes HERE.
UILLEANN PIPES SLOW AIR
"PORT NA NPUCAI"
(SONG OF THE PUCA)
The Celtic Company is a logical outgrowth of John's love of artistic collaboration. As director of The Celtic Company he arranges and presents performances featuring a variety of artists and ensembles. As leader of The Buddy O'Reilly Band, he's brought traditional music and dance to stages across the Southeast, and indeed, throughout the U.S, for almost three decades, introducing audiences to Celtic music "before Celtic music was cool". The trio ensemble Celtic Fire, in collaboration with Young Audiences Woodruf center, has brought Celtic music and dance to literally thousands of schoolchildren and families over the past two decades. Two new ensembles, Longhollow Hooley and Ah Surely! offer "Irish-Americana" music and Irish music and dance, including songs in Irish Gaelic, respectively. The Celtic Company has been presenting large scale productions and internationaly known touring artists for over twenty years, including Atlanta's popular Celtic Christmas - Music, Dance and the Soul of the Season at The Rialto center for the Arts, Georgia State University.
John doesn't view musical enjoyment only as an end in itself but as an intregal part of a lifelong adventure through culture, conviviality, expression and spirit. As a teacher he shares not only the techniques of traditional music but that participation in music can lead to a richer life experience. As a teaching artist in schools, John strives to energize young minds to the notion that music, in all of its diversity, both present and past, can open our minds to fresh, creative and exciting ways to look at things.
John has taught numerous workshops for uilleann pipes, flute and tin whistle. He's a regular teacher at the weeklong Mountain Collegium at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. He also teaches privately at his studio in Atlanta.
Learning to Play Irish Music… by Ear
Don’t get me wrong - I’ve got nothing against written music. More power to those who are good readers!
As long as reading the notes doesn’t “get in the way of the music”.
Irish music is full of all sorts of musical inflections and ornamentations (one might call them “lilt” or “lift”) that, in my experience, have yet to find their way onto paper (or screen).
Luckily today we have an over-abundance of recordings to help us (and sometimes hinder us!) on our quest to not only to just play the notes, but to make music while we’re at it.
OK - ready to dive into your first set of Irish Reels?
Whoa, hold your ponies! First you must learn to play by ear. The Irish stuff will come in time.
Best to start with some simple tunes you already know by heart. The simpler the better, the tune doesn’t have to be Irish. “Mary Had a Little Lamb”? You betcha! “Amazing Grace”? Amazing! Any tune that you already know will give you a head start on learning to play by ear.
When you get good and bored with “Happy Birthday”, Grasshopper, then it will be time!
In between now and then though, do some homework. Just listen. Listen to (good) recordings (I stipulate “good” because Lord knows there’s a lot o’ crap out there!). Go and find a concert or session featuring solid musicians (you’ll know it when you hear it). Listen and record (whenever possible). Listen over and over. Start humming or “diddling” along with tunes you like.
When you think you’re ready (Aw hell, don’t wait that long), listen to the tune below. Get it into your head, hum (or lilt) it, try to play it if you want. It’s called "The Britches Full of Stitches". It’s one of the most commonly played tunes in Irish music, meaning, if you’re among a group of seasoned musicians they’ll probably turn their noses up and maybe reluctantly play it with you. Which is one reason why I love it!
THE UILLEANN PIPES
Though the origins of the uilleann pipes are somewhat shrouded in mystery, we can safely point to the development of the instrument as we know it during the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century. We do know that the uilleann pipes were developed as a parlor instrument, much quieter and more mellow than the Great Highland bagpipes.
There are several factors, besides tonal quality, that distinguish the uilleann pipes from many other types of bagpipes.
The heart of all bagpipes is the chanter - that part that the melody is played on. The uilleann pipes are unique in piping in that the chanter is capable of producing two octaves by “overblowing”. This not only means that a wider range of notes is available, but also, in the hands of a good piper, gives a distinctive expression to the music being played.
Visually, the uilleann pipes appear quite different from most other types of bagpipes. The player must always play while seated, because of the way that the instrument is set up and played. The piper never blows into the pipes with his/her breath, that would destroy the delicate reeds. Instead a bellows is fitted under the forearm of the piper with which to pump air into the bag, giving us the name “uilleann”, which is Irish for elbow.
The three drones (tenor, baritone and bass) lie across the piper’s lap. Fixed into the same stock as the drones are three stopped pipes known as regulators. These pipes have from four to five keys each. The piper strikes the keys with the wrist and heal of the hand in order to produce harmonic accompaniment to the tune being played on the chanter.
So, the uilleann pipes are quite a complex instrument to play! But even more perplexing (and often vexing) to the piper is the maintenance and tuning of the pipes and their seven reeds. No particular standard has been set for uilleann pipes production, therefore a good bit of variation occurs from maker to maker, and even between pipes made by a particular maker. And weather (heat, humidity) plays a major role in the tuning, sounding and playability of each reed. So pipers quite often must make their own reeds, an exacting process that’s as much luck as it is art and science!
I began my “adventures” in uilleann piping when I was still a teen in the late 1970s, during a renaissance of Irish music and the uilleann pipes. I loved all types of bagpipes. (I’ve since counted over 100 types in existence throughout the world!). But I was particularly struck by the sound of the uilleann pipes; a timbre that could roughly be described as a combination of the Scottish Highland pipes, violin, human voice and a soaring rock ’n roll electric guitar solo. At least that’s how I heard it!
Ever since I first heard the uilleann pipes way back in the ’70s, I was beguiled by the sound. I had heard the Great Highland Pipes of course, and loved their sound. But this instrument, the uilleann pipes, sent shivers down my spine when I heard it. It was a mellow yet powerful sound, about the same volume as a good strong singer, and about as expressive to boot. I was especially fond of the slow airs back then, that’s what “got me”. But then I started listening to a range of pipers and quickly got equally excited about the faster dance music. I found that Irish music, especially as played on the pipes, was a deep well to drink from… you could drink and drink and yet there was always more!
THE UILLEANN PIPES
The uilleann pipes have a different harmonic structure, sounding sweeter and quieter than many other bagpipes, such as the Great Irish Warpipes or Great Highland Bagpipes. The uilleann pipes are often played indoors, and are almost always played sitting down. The uilleann pipes /ˈɪlən/ or /ˈɪljən/; Irish: [ˈiːl̠ʲən̪ˠ]) are the characteristic national bagpipe of Ireland.
Earlier known in English as "union pipes", their current name is a partial translation of the Irish-language term píobaí uilleann (literally, "pipes of the elbow"), from their method of inflation. There is no historical record of the name or use of the term 'uilleann pipes' before the twentieth century. It was an invention of Grattan Flood and the name stuck. People mistook the term 'union' to refer to the 1800 Act of Union; this is incorrect as Breandán Breathnach points out that a poem published in 1796 uses the term 'union'.
The bag of the uilleann pipes is inflated by means of a small set of bellows strapped around the waist and the right arm (in the case of a right-handed player; in the case of a left-handed player the location and orientation of all components are reversed). The bellows not only relieve the player from the effort needed to blow into a bag to maintain pressure, they also allow relatively dry air to power the reeds, reducing the adverse effects of moisture on tuning and longevity. Some pipers can converse or sing while playing.
The uilleann pipes are distinguished from many other forms of bagpipes by their tone and wide range of notes – the chanter has a range of two full octaves, including sharps and flats – together with the unique blend of chanter, drones, and regulators. The regulators are equipped with closed keys that can be opened by the piper's wrist action enabling the piper to play simple chords, giving a rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment as needed. There are also many ornaments based on multiple or single grace notes. The chanter can also be played staccato by resting the bottom of the chanter on the piper's thigh to close off the bottom hole and then open and close only the tone holes required. If one tone hole is closed before the next one is opened, a staccato effect can be created because the sound stops completely when no air can escape at all.