Interview: Fiadh Fitzpatrick (Player of Uilleann Pipes)

Interview to Fiadh Fitzpatrick on 24 July 2020.
Fiadh is 17 years old and a player of Uilleann Pipes at Music Generation Laois. She became 12-15 All-Ireland Uilleann Pipes Slow Air Champion.

➖ Could you tell us how you got into playing uileann pipes, and what brought you to learn a harp at Music generation Laois?

I began playing the uileann pipes when I was nine years of age. Before this I played the piano, the violin and I also sang, this meaning I was always brought up listening and playing music. My mum used to play CDs for us whilst in the car and I began to love the sound of the uilleann pipes. I was then determined to learn how to play this instrument. My mum got straight onto music generation laois and I began my lessons with Gay Mckeon.

➖ Could you tell us what kind of lessons you’re taking, the contents of lessons and your feelings and opinions about the lessons at Music Generation Laois? How do you think about Music Generation Laois as a whole?

In music generation Laois I take part in many lessons. Every week I have piano lessons, violin lessons, singing lessons, uilleann pipes lessons, and I take part in the music generation trad orchestra. Every week I look forward to taking these lessons. It is a great social aspect of my life. Altogether, I appreciate music generation Laois and everything they have done for me as it has played such a big part in my life and given me many wonderful opportunities.

➖ What music do you like the best? What is the content of the piece? Why do you like it?

Traditional Irish music is my favorite type of music. I think this as it is a huge part of our culture and heritage. My favorite piece of music is “Visions and Voices” composed by Martin Tourish in collaboration with the Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra. This piece was composed to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising. I think I really enjoy this piece as I helped in composing it and it symbolizes what it means to be Irish.

➖ What do you like to do apart from playing the uilleann pipes?

Apart from playing the uilleann pipes, I love to play the violin, the piano and singing. I play classical violin and piano and I thoroughly enjoy this as it’s something different and its also good to know a different variety of styles. This really helps in improving my traditional playing. Apart from music I also play sport. I play Gaelic Football, which is a sport native to Ireland. I also take part in hockey.

➖ You are part of the group ‘Lonrach’ including Aoife Buckley and the group placedwho placed the third at the final of Siansa Gael Linn music competition that took place in the National Concert Hall. Could you tell us your group and music in detail?

‘Lonrach’ is the Irish translation for the word ‘Shining’ and is the perfect description for this young vibrant trad group. The group formed in 2017 under the direction of Siobhán Buckley and its members come from Counties Laois and Cork. This group loves performing together and have performed in many venues around Ireland including The Dunamaise Arts Centre Portlaoise, An Ghrianan Theatre Letterkenny and the National Concert Hall Dublin. They have also supported and played alongside singer songwriter John Spillane on numerous occasions. The Siansa Gael Linn music competition allowed us to explore various tune types and experiment with harmonies and countermelodies which has helped us to develop and mature as musicians. The members of the group are Aoife Buckley – harp, piano, vocals, Fiadh Fitzpatrick- uilleann pipes, fiddle, Tim whistle, vocals, Leah Murphy- fiddle, Viola, guitar, vocals, Ellen Scott – fiddle, vocals, Maeve Scott – concertina, Tim whistle, vocals, David Scott – banjo, mandolin, vocals, Conall Nevin – button accordion, melodeon, vocals, Peter Bennett – mandolin, vocals.

➖ I hear that ‘The Spirit of Laois Suite’ was composed by Michael Rooney collaborating young harpers including you. You discussed about Laois and Michael composed the suite based on it. Where are your favorite places to visit in County Laois? Could you share the attraction of ‘The Spirit of Laois Suite’ you think? Can you tell me what it was like to work with Michael?

I really enjoyed working with Michael Rooney. He listens to everyone’s ideas and gives everyone a fair turn to contribute. It was very interesting to see all the ideas put together. I am very proud to be from Laois as it’s a small county and I think we have brought a lot to the country itself. We have many beautiful places in Laois including Emo court, where I like to spend a lot of my time walking around and taking in the natural beauty of nature. We have a beautiful mountain rage called the “Sliabh Blooms” coincidentally my Uilleann Pipes were made up there.

➖ Could you share the most memorable stories of domestic and overseas performances in each with photo or movie at Music Generation Laois?

Music Generation Laois has been a huge aspect in my life. I’ve got to travel to many places with music generation, Not only representing music generation Laois but also representing music generation Ireland. I have performed in many places including New York, Monaco, Spain and Dublin. Through these performances I have played for Royalty, the prince of Monaco, Presidents, meaning the president of Ireland, previous Vice president of America Joe Biden, The Kennedy Family and well-known artist Adam Clayton. As a seventeen year old these experiences have created amazing memories, and being able to share these experiences with my friends and family have made the memories even more magical.

➖ I hear that you keep learning Uilleann Pipes on zoom since the lockdown. Please tell us your feeling and opinions the lessons on zoom.

Throughout lockdown I figured out how to use zoom, through music. Every week I received many lessons on zoom. I found that zoom was a great alternative. At the start it took a bit of getting used too, but after a while it just began the normal way of taking lessons. I still learned many new tunes and I was able to progress and improve on my playing, in all my instruments.

➖ I hear that about 50 young musicians among 70 orchestra members in total have joined during the pandemic and lockdown and they met other members only online. What are you discussing about Colonel James Fitzmaurice and what are you learning apart from him? Do you have interesting episodes about this project? Could you tell us the feelings and opinions about it?

Throughout lockdown, music generation laois formed a whole new orchestra. I am lucky enough to be one of those members. We learnt all about James Fitzmaurice, this was amazing to learn about as he was from Portlaoise. We learnt all about his journey through life as we are aiming to represent this journey through music. Lon this timeline Colonel James Fitzmaurice lived through the roaring twenties. This time is still a huge part of music now. We learnt how to play in this style and learnt all different types of jazz music. For many people including me, I hadn’t experienced different styles of jazz so this was a huge eye opener for me. Every week I looked forward to the zoom call as I was not only learning history, but I was also getting to know young musicians.

➖ What is your dream in the future?

I have many goals and aspirations for the future, and hopefully music will play a big part in it. I would like to finish school and become a doctor and hopefully be good at what I do. I will continue to play music and to enjoy music and to share this love for music that I have with others. Eventually when I have gathered all the knowledge I can about music I would love to pass this onto many other people and to keep the tradition and the Irish culture alive.

➖ What do you want to do in Japan apart from the concerts? Would you mind sharing your expectation to the concerts in Japan and message to Japanese audience?

Japan is an amazing country and I am so excited to see this beautiful place. It has always been a dream of mine to see the Cherry Blossom tree. In the concerts that we will perform, I hope that we will share our Irish culture in a beautiful way and that represent Ireland proudly. I also want to experience the Japanese culture and heritage and I am very grateful to be given this opportunity to do so.

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