Music Generation, Ireland’s National Music Education Programme, initiated by Music Network and funded by U2 and The Ireland Funds, together with Local Music Education Partnerships helps children and young people access high quality subsidised music education in their local area. There are currently 11 Music Education Partnerships – Louth, Mayo, Sligo, Cork City, Laois, Wicklow, Carlow Limerick City, Offaly/Westmeath, Clare and South Dublin. Each area of the country offers a range of different programmes but two Partnerships, Louth and Laois, have turned a focus on the traditional art of Uilleann Pipe playing.
The history of piping in Ireland extends over a span of 13 centuries with the distinctively Irish uilleann pipes (‘elbow’ pipes) in its present form emerging around the beginning of the 18th century. Na Píobairí Uilleann (the Uilleann Pipers) was founded in 1968 to preserve the playing of the pipes and the production and maintenance of the instrument. One of the ways it achieves this aim is through the teaching of the pipes to young people. Music Generation Laois and Music Generation Louth are both working in association with Na Píobairí Uilleann to deliver an Uilleann Pipe Programme in their areas bringing this rich tradition of playing to a new generation of young pipers.
In Louth, piper Mark Redmond from Wexford travels to Louth every Wednesday to teach four young pipers at An Droichead, Barlow House, Drogheda before travelling to Dundalk to teach two young pipers and a recently formed group of four adults. Building awareness of the instrument and the Programme in the area, last November Mark took part in a schools concert as part of Drogheda Traditional Music Festival and gave workshops in a number of primary schools. For Love: Live Music 2013, Ireland’s National Music Day on 21st June last year, Mark along with some local pipers held a ‘Try the Pipes’ workshop in Marshes Shopping Centre, Dundalk. A new plan is currently being developed by Music Generation Louth, Na Píobairí Uilleann and the County Arts Office to increase participation in the Programme for the academic year 2014/2015.
Laois’s Uilleann Pipe Programme is intergenerational, with children and adults attending group lessons with tutor and CEO of Na Píobairí Uilleann, Gay McKeon. Prior to this Programme being established, there were limited opportunities to learn the pipes in the midlands area and now eighteen students currently travel from Offaly, Kilkenny and Kildare, as well as from within Co. Laois to attend the weekly lessons. Na Píobairí Uilleann and local pipes-maker Paddy Hyland provide huge support to the Laois Programme, offering expert advice and assisting with the maintenance of the instruments. In 2012 Laois Music Education Partnership purchased three sets of practice pipes from Paddy Hyland, creating a seedling instrument bank for the Programme, with some students hiring pipes directly from Na Píobairí Uilleann through their ‘Pipes on Loan’ scheme. As in Louth, a ‘Try the Pipes’ workshop to mark Love: Live Music 2013 was held in Laois Shopping Centre last June resulting in the enrolment of four new students and in September all of the Uilleann Pipe students enrolled on the programme participated in a workshop organised in conjunction with the Music Network tour Bellows, Bridge and Bow. Many of the Laois students also attend additional workshops at Na Píobairí Uilleann Headquarters in Henrietta Street, Dublin.
Music Generation is delighted to be working in partnership with Na Píobairí Uilleann on the delivery of these programmes, engaging young people and nurturing an interest in pipe-playing and looks forward to an expansion of the programmes to other areas of the country.