Irish Times

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.

Gallery

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!

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Archive: 2004 – Planxty Live At Vicar St. Dublin Reviews

Micheál Martin should bottle and dispense Planxty: with curative properties that should tackle every ailment from ingrown toenails to cancer. Endorphins were flowing so fervently across the entire audience last Friday in Vicar St that we levitated rather than ambled towards the exits.

There was an air of expectation hanging over the crowd beforehand that would fire a rocket launcher. 23 years is a mighty long time to wait for the rekindling, but somehow we guessed that the wait would be worth it.

Just as soon as Liam Ó Floinn exhorted the rest of them to ‘take it away boys’, we knew we were on home turf and that not only would the sods be cut, but that they’d be turned, footed and loaded on the trailer by the time the lights came up, an exhilarating two hours later.

Ó Floinn’s invisible readying of the bellows, Lunny’s and Irvine’s intricate tapestry of bouzouki and mandolin, and Christy’s nervy introductions had the sardine-packed audience on the edge of their seats from the get go. Lunny’s bouzouki has always been credited as the engine of the band, and rightly so, his muscular, driving rhythms marking out their territory. Andy Irvine’s mandolin and guitar cross-stitched in between with that old familiar ease, his vocals lending their characteristic finesse to the pot. And Christy’s sheer ebullience guaranteed that the epic sagas such as The Good Ship Kangaroo gathered all before them in their welcoming gabháil.

But Liam Ó Floinn was the lynchpin that not only held them together but bolstered them so securely that they could take flight. His utterly controlled, surgically precise reading of everything from Sí Bheag Sí Mhór to Tabhair Dom Do Lámh and An Buachaill Chaol Dubh was enough to lure the hardiest of piping allergists into the midst of the mêlée. And when he sidled into the heart of Christy’s ultimate set piece, that spellbinding, 26 verse tale of adultery, murder (and true love) that is Little Musgrave, well, some of us simply exited the planet at that moment, content to float free on the sheer genius and magic of the ensemble playing.

They acknowledged their inheritances generously, from Ballyvourney’s Elizabeth Cronin to Mickey McConnell and John Reilly. They traced the thread from Turlough O’Carolan all the way to the anonymous donation of Little Musgrave, found by Christy on a series of loose pages languishing on an auctioneer’s floorboards.

There were punters there who probably still have the stubs of their tickets from the early days. Everyone just knew that this was going to be something special. For those of us who’d lived their music through the albums, never having witnessed them in 3D, it was akin to an awakening. Liam Ó Floinn’s pipes were the real revelation, the Marilyn Monroe who burst from the cake at JFK’s birthday party. Breaths will be held in anticipation of their live album, and after that, who knows? But these boys’ appetites for one another’s company won’t be easily sated by a dozen New Year gigs. New tunes are lurking very close to the stage door. We could almost hear them tiptoeing towards Lunny’s bouzouki as we floated home.

Siobhan Long – Irish Times

source: www.irishtimes.com


Music Review/Live: 13 Feb 2004
Colm O’Hare

It’ll doubtless go down as the most anticipated (and long awaited) re-union in Irish music history. More than thirty years after they first transformed the possibilities of Irish music forever, the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young of trad/folk finally decide to re-convene for a series of gigs.

It’ll doubtless go down as the most anticipated (and long awaited) re-union in Irish music history. More than thirty years after they first transformed the possibilities of Irish music forever, the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young of trad/folk finally decide to re-convene for a series of gigs. It was always going to be a bit special but few could’ve predicted the reaction when it finally happened; ten sold-out gigs with many travelling from abroad to witness what may well become known as the “third coming”. The venue helped hugely – Vicar St. is the perfect location for such a celebration – intimate enough to make it involving for the audience and big enough to cater for the demand.

It was better than anyone could have hoped. Looking remarkably fit and healthy, the original line-up of Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Liam O’Flynn and Christy Moore strode out to a heroes welcome. Clearly well-rehearsed, they trawled the hallowed Planxty back catalogue with renewed vigour. Along with some unforgettable ensemble playing (their strongest point), they each took the spotlight in turn; Christy performed a stunning pair of ballads, including a particularly breathtaking version of ‘Only Our Rivers Run Free’. You could hear a pin drop as Liam O’Flynn took centre stage for a stunning, ‘Buchaill Caol Dubh’, while Andy Irvine’s ‘West Coast of Clare’ was as moving as ever. Donal Lunny’s bouzouki playing tied it all together magnificently.

It was also a night of stories and fond reminiscences. Christy remarked that the band had talked about getting back together more than once over the last 20 years. “We’d meet up, play a few tunes and then go home and forget all about it,” he laughed.” He went on to say that they finally decided to take the plunge after watching Leagues O’Toole’s No Disco documentary special.

Another rare sight was Christy playing the keyboards. That he did so with such skill and finesse, adding subtle touches and flourishes in all the right places was even more more surprising. We were treated with two variations of ‘As I Roved Out’. The atmosphere was electric as their best loved and most recognisable piece ‘The Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ segued into ‘Tabhair dom do Lamh’, while the encores included a rapturously received ‘Cliffs Of Dooneen’

“We’ll never see their likes again,” said one man on the way out. “Some of us will,” quipped another. “I’m coming back again next week”

It was that kind of night. Encore!

source: www.hotpress.com/

Archive: Album Reviews – Andy Irvine – Way Out Yonder (2000)

ANDY IRVINE “Way Out Yonder” Own Label AK2

A new Andy Irvine release always sets off a tingle with me, because I know, just know that I’m going to find something in it to enjoy, whether a new song, radical, sad or otherwise here, or maybe a Balkan-influenced tune there. Maybe there’ll even be a guest musician or two that I’ll appreciate.

Well, Andy, you’ve not let me down this time, as this one’s got the lot. The title track is as jaunty a tune as I’ve heard for a while, one of these ones that keep popping back into your head for no reason other than enjoyment, with swirling harmonica and intricate string work.

And as for the songs – well, my money would be on the opening number “Gladiators”, a history lesson about the I.W.W. in Australia at the time of the First World War, to be one which is picked up by club singers, but maybe others’ tastes would prefer the new version of “The Girl I Left Behind” or the totally whimsical and imaginative “They’ll Never Believe It’s True” (they won’t!)

“Moreton Bay” is the only traditional song in this collection, here getting a suitably poignant arrangement, and Andy breathes new life into “The Highwayman” – yes, the Alfred Noyes poem everybody got at school, here sung to a Loreena McKennitt tune.

As for the musicians, let’s just say there’s ten of them and three backing vocalists, any of whom would pull the crowds out. Get the CD to find out more – I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

Gordon Potter
This album was reviewed in Issue 41 of The Living Tradition magazine.

source: www.folkmusic.net

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