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Liam O’Flynn left ‘a perfect legacy for generations of musicians’

Here’s a nice piece written by Leagues O’Toole author of the must read “The Humours of Planxty” book.

Liam O’Flynn’s abilities first came to prominence as a member of the cutting-edge trad-folk band Planxty.


There has been a sad sense of anticipation leading up to the passing of Liam O’Flynn, or Liam Óg Ó Floinn as he was often referred to, amongst those who knew of his illness.

O’Flynn was no ordinary musician. There was something deeply significant about his work with the ground-breaking group Planxty, his remarkable solo recordings, his collaboration with late poet laureate Seamus Heaney, and other landmark projects such as The Brendan Voyage with composer Shaun Davey in 1980. It’s also no coincidence that O’Flynn graced the recordings of some of the music world’s deepest thinkers such as Kate Bush, Emmy-Lou Harris and Enya.


Liam O’Flynn: master piper VIEW NOW

Liam O’Flynn plays for Paddy Glackin

O’Flynn was the foremost living exponent of that most mystical instrument, the uilleann pipes. He didn’t so much play the pipes as search them for the deeply resonant rapture and reflection that they brought to Irish music. Seamus Heaney perhaps said it best himself in the sleeve-notes of O’Flynn’s incredible 1995 solo album The Given Note: “There has always been a classical quality about Liam O’Flynn’s playing, a level, confident strength: you feel that he is unshakably part of a tradition. But there is something up and away about his style, a sheer delight in his own personal impulse. His great stature as a piper turns out to be one more instance of the truth of Oscar Wilde’s paradoxical law that in art the opposite is also true: in other words, behind these tunes you can hear freedom as well as discipline, elegy as well as elation, a longing for solitude as well as a love of the seisiun.”

Liam O’Flynn’s abilities first came to prominence as a member of the cutting-edge trad-folk band Planxty, put together by Christy Moore and also featuring Dónal Lunny and Andy Irvine. His piping and tin-whistle playing were central to the band’s exhilarating opening period in the early 1970s, beginning with Moore’s Prosperous album and the game-changing Planxty debut “the Black Album”. A regular feature of the Planxty performance was when the other musicians put down their instruments as O’Flynn performed a solo air or “aisling”, which always brought the venue to a meditative standstill followed by an emotional eruption of applause.

O’Flynn was universally considered a kind, thoughtful and private man. He lived in Kildare, where he felt a deep affinity with the land and a shared love of horses with his wife Jane, a well-known showjumper.

The Kildare-born musician began his journey with the uilleann pipes under the tutelage of the great Leo Rowsome, and quickly became a star apprentice winning numerous prizes at Oireachtas and Fleadh Ceoil competitions. He later developed under the guidance and influence of two giants of piping, Willie Clancy and Seamus Ennis. Through these influences O’Flynn developed an important understanding of the role he played within the tradition and lineage of Irish music culture. As he said himself: “Seamus Ennis gave me much more than a bag of notes.” And O’Flynn, as Master Uileann Piper of Ireland, never compromised this position once, leaving a perfect legacy for generations of younger musicians within this “living tradition” to learn from.

Happy St. Patricks Day!


Album Review: The Masterful Irish Craft of Usher’s Island

Usher’s Island – Usher’s Island (Vertical Records, 2017)

Usher’s Island is a new superband that brings together some of the greatest contemporary Irish folk music musicians. Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny, Paddy Glackin, Mike McGoldrick and John Doyle have played with the most iconic Irish and Irish American bands: Planxty, Bothy Band, Lunasa and Solas.

The majority of the compositions on Usher’s Island are traditional songs and tunes rearranged by the band, along with a handful of originals by Usher’s Island members.

The way the album was made connects with Irish tradition as well. Mike McGoldrick bought a cottage in County Galway, western Ireland that had been used by musicians in the past to hold sessions. McGoldrick turned it into a recording studio for three days.

Throughout Usher’s Island the listener is treated to fascinating storytelling songs and delightful ensemble pieces with superb instrumental interaction and superb solos weaved in. Irish music at its best.

Personnel: Andy Irvine on vocals, mandola and harmonica; Dónal Lunny on vocals, bouzouki, baritone bouzouki, bodhran and keyboards; Paddy Glackin on fiddle; Mike McGoldrick on wooden flute, low whistle and uileann pipes; and John Doyle on guitar, bouzouki and vocals.

Usher’s Island features masterfully-crafted Irish music with dazzling acoustic interplay and exceptionally expressive vocals.

Buy Usher’s Island in Europe

Buy Usher’s Island in the rest of the world

Sad News: Uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn dies

Liam O’Flynn was born to a musical family in Kildare in 1945
The uilleann piper Liam Óg O’Flynn has died. He had been ill for some time.He was well known as a member of the traditional group Planxty with Christy Moore, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny.O’Flynn also played on a number of best-selling discs, including the Brendan Voyage and Grainne Mhaol.

He was regarded as a master piper and a global ambassador for traditional Irish music.

O’Flynn was born in Kildare in 1945 to a musical family.

He gravitated towards the uilleann pipes and by 11 he was taking classes with the renowned Leo Rowsome.

He formed Planxty alongside Moore, Lunny and Irvine and they became an influential and innovative group.

They toured extensively and O’Flynn was able to bring his skill with the uilleann pipes to a worldwide audience.

Planxty broke up in the mid 1980s, but O’Flynn’s career continued to flourish playing with several famous musicians, including Kate Bush, Emmy Lou Harris and Mark Knopfler.

He also worked with composer Shaun Davey on the Brendan Voyage.

His expertise was extensive and he worked with orchestras, on film soundtracks and with poet Seamus Heaney.

The Arts Council has expressed its regret at the passing of O’Flynn.

Chair of the Arts Council Sheila Pratschke said: “Liam O’Flynn has left behind him an incredible legacy of music through his recordings, his careful support of other musicians and artists and his dedication to transmission of the great heritage of Irish music to future generations.”

Ms Pratchske said he had a huge influence on the artistic life of Ireland and was well known for his artistic collaborations with artists from other traditions and practices.

Arts and Media Correspondent


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