The definitive performances of one of Ireland’s great pipers. What we did not record ourselves has been edited and reprocessed from old and rare sources. This illustrated and documented musical biography was originally issued as a double-length cassette and is now available on CD.... more
Co. Dublin native Séamus Ennis (1919-1982), master uilleann piper, teacher, singer, storyteller, broadcaster, and song collector, is credited with being one of the most pivotal players in the evolving history of Irish music. During his career, Ennis witnessed and promoted the changing of the generational guard. He understood that it was essential to embrace new technologies in order to preserve Irish music while simultaneously emphasizing and passing along the organic, ever-developing nature of the oral tradition.
Ennis took up the uilleann pipes at the age of 13 under the tutelage of his father, a civil servant and national multi-instrumental champion. After graduation, Ennis told Colm Ó Lochlainn, a close family friend and the editor of “Irish Street Ballads,”, that he was thinking of joining the British Army. It was the beginning of WWII, and Lochlainn offered Ennis a job with The Three Candles Press to keep him off the lines.
While at The Three Candles, Ennis learned how to transcribe and print slow airs, a skill that he put to use after war shortages closed the press. He was subsequently hired by the Irish Folklore Commission to collect songs. Given a pen, some paper, a bike, and three pounds a week, Ennis spent the next five years collecting tunes from across Ireland.
In 1947, Ennis went to work as a broadcaster at Radio Eireann, where he recorded pipe great Willie Clancy for the first time. In 1951, Ennis moved to London to record traditional Irish, Scottish, and Welsh music for the BBC.
Ennis began work as a freelance musician in 1958, later returning to Ireland where he lived until his death in 1982.
Ennis bridged old Éire and modern Ireland. A master of the slow air, he lives on in the style and approach of many of today’s top pipers, having influenced the tradition as it transformed throughout the twentieth century. The once-obscure tunes that he collected are some of the most well-known today, and his work in broadcasting helped to legitimize Irish music’s widespread entertainment value.