Pipes

I have 3 main sets of pipes:

  1. 1.    James Kenna set of Irish pipes circa 1760

  2. 2.    Denis Harrington set of Grand Union pipes circa 1845

  3. 3.    Makoto Nakatsui concert pitch Uilleann pipes from 2015

                        plus:

  1. 4.    Denis Harrington set of Union pipes circa 1830

  2. 5.    Ronan Browne concert pitch Uilleann pipes from 1995 (time to sell these now I think)


The James Kenna is a beautiful little 1-regulator set from the early years of the Irish Pipes.  I am eternally grateful to Ken McLeod for bestowing the set on me.  It is great fun playing it – an instrument of huge character and NOT for the faint-hearted!

It has one little 4-note regulator with a separate air feed from the top of the stock.  Many would think it limiting but you’d be surprised at how much fun can be had with those 4 notes...


The silver Denis Harrington dates from around the time of the Great Famine in Ireland.  They are very mellow with that deep rich purr that only an old B set can produce.

They were made in Cork city.  Very little is known about Denis Harrington except that he disappeared in the 1850s.  To date, there are only four full sets of his pipes left in existence: an early 2-regulator set in the Morpeth pipes museum, another late set in France, this one and my little 2-regulator brass set.  As you can imagine I am over the moon to possess them!



The Makoto Nakatsui pipes are my newest set.   Great fun to play, they have an exquisite tone and perfect response. 

I was lucky to have been awarded a 50% grant towards their cost by the combined offices of the Department of the Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, the Arts Council and the Music Network



The brass Denis Harrington is older than the silver set, perhaps circe 1830/40.  It had a bass regulator added at some stage but it wasn’t original and in the process of restoring the set I have brought the configuration back to being 2-regulator.

This is the set I played for decades, first with its original chanter, then Andy Conroy’s Bb Matt Kiernan and finally with a lovely Peter Hunter B chanter.  The original stock was badly cracked and had been turned down to a cylinder and covered with a brass artillery shell.  The present stock is a lovely thin-walled hollow stock made by Bill Haneman.  The bellows I play with the silver set came with the brass set and are likely to be original Harrington bellows.


The Ronan Browne set was made in the mid 1990s with great help from the wonderful flute maker Martin Doyle who gave me full access to his workshop, tools & wisdom and furthermore manufactured new tools whenever they were needed!

Although I made a chanter for the set, I never bothered reeding it past the first day as I am spoiled with a lovely Leo Rowsome chanter given to me by Andy Conroy and the chanter I play much of the time, a Peter Hunter from 1985.   I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had an ongoing relationship for many years where Peter gave me new chanters whenever he felt he had made something special and I now have chanters from him in D, C#, C, B, Bb and of course the famous blunderbuss G chanter!




Flutes

My favourite flute is my Martin Doyle “Celtic” with no keys or tuning slide.  I have never enjoyed playing a flute as much as this musical wonder.  Months can often go by without a note being played and I am amazed that the Doyle flute will perform perfectly on stage under demanding circumstances, played by an out-of-practice player!  Compare that to blowing in and warming up one of my old flutes only to find that a note disappears at an inopportune moment!


My “other” flutes include a boxwood Metzler, Bessons, “Pratten Perfected” Booseys and Rudall & Roses, plus a lovely  Goulding.

The Martin Doyle is my favourite!


Whistles

Naturally, I play Generation whistles, in C, Bb & modified B.


In concert pitch, my favoured cocktail is the lovely true but rich tone of the black Oak head, on a Feadóg body.  In the late 1990s I did some work with the Feadóg company investigating different head designs; something we never had to touch was their body – they were always perfectly in tune, way ahead of all the other makes.  During the testing I went through hundreds of whistles at a time and of many colours – my chosen instrument for years has been the old Oak head with a gaudy red Feadóg body and it sounds gorgoeus!


Better than all these whistles is the old Clarke’s C “penny whistle” which has the most beautiful reedy, breathy sound.  It also allow for great dynamics in playing – something sadly missing from much Irish music recently.


Most pipers play monolithic (if I can use that word) metal “low” whistles pitched an octave below modern concert pitch.  For very little reason other than pig-headedness, I never succumbed.  But as a jobbing musician, I soon found that it was necessary to approximate the sound.  Lucky me when I came across the fantastic wooden Bansuri whistles from India and on a trip in 1989, I picked up a few in each pitch from D down to D (below).  Although they are paper thin and extremely delicate, I haven’t lost or broken one in the intervening years.  They have a gentle but assertive sound and, like the Clarke’s C, they are very expressive dynamically. 


...and they aren’t made from extruded aluminium – YAY!



Now, if anyone wants to come and rob me, don’t bother.  I have two Dobermans, an angry Jack Russell, an epileptic cat, 15 security cameras and electric gates (and I mean ELECTRIC).  My instruments are all wired with GPS tracking and lastly, I spat into ALL OF THEM!!!

 
R O N A N     B R O W N E
An Spidéal,  Conamara,  Ireland
Phone: + 353 91 558 994   Mobile: + 353 87 2438 284