Joey Abarta has spent the last sixteen years touring North America, Europe, and Asia, teaching and performing music on the uilleann pipes, the irish bagpipe. A Los Angeles native, he first received instruction on the pipes from Dubliner Pat D’Arcy, a founding member of the Southern California Uilleann Pipers Club.
His musical skills have been further honed by several visits to Ireland, a year-long stint working in Japan, and continuing relationships with master pipers. In August of 2009, Joey’s accomplished playing won him an All-Ireland championship, placing second worldwide at the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann. In the fall of 2014 Joey became the first American uilleann piper to win first prize at the An tOireachtas, one of the biggest competitions for traditional music in the world. In 2015 Joey was honored to be a recipient of a traditional arts apprenticeship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council meaning he was awarded a grant to teach his art to the next generation.
Currently based in Boston, Joey divides his attention between performance, teaching, and recording. In addition to performing solo, he performs with Nathan Gourley of “Life is all Checkered” fame and had toured with Mick Moloney and the group The Green Fields of America; while at home, he organizes the meetings of the Boston Pipers Club, teaches for Comhaltas’ Boston Music School, and organizes various traditional music concerts and events.
Sheila was born in Glasgow with family roots firmly entrenched in the Donegal Gaeltacht. She began playing music on tin whistle, then flute for several years, before getting her first set of pipes at 16. Growing up in Scotland she received tuition from visits to workshops in Ireland, mainly Scoil Gheimhridh Frankie Kennedy with Gay & Sean McKeon and Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy with Tommy Keane and Mick O’Brien. Sheila credits NPU for continued support in her piping, having frequently travelled to Henrietta Street for tuition and help in maintenance of her pipes, especially from Gay McKeon. She plays chanters by Paddy Hyland and Benedict Koehler with the remainder of her set by Gordon Galloway.
Sheila features on Na Píobairí Uilleann publications The Rolling Wave CD (A new generation of uilleann pipers) and the Pipe Up DVD. At the beginning of 2014 Sheila released her first album The Friel Sisters along with her sisters Anna and Clare, with whom she has played across Europe, America and in Asia. Along with teaching pipes she has performed at various tionóil, NPU events, and at Cumann Píobaireachta Tharlach Mhic Suibhne events promoting uilleann piping in Donegal.
Born in the Philadelphia area, Tim has been immersed in traditional Irish music since he was a child. After taking up the uilleann pipes at the age of 11 upon the receipt of a practice set from local fluter and gentleman piper John Donnelly, he became entrenched in learning about the history of Irish music in the area. Players such as fiddler John Vesey, fluter Eddie Cahill, and the music of Ed Reavy were both early and continual subjects of study. Tim learned much of his formative music from Derry flute player/singer Paddy O’Neill and the legendary Tyrone accordion player Kevin McGillian. Having learned from two other American piping icons, Tim Britton and Jerry O’Sullivan, Hill spent his teenage years developing his own style derived from hours of scrutinizing recordings and transcriptions of pipers past and present. Additionally, the musicians recording in America during the cylinder and 78rpm eras, particularly the piping of Patsy Tuohy, James Early, and Leo Rowsome, as well as the music of Sliabh Luachra, Donegal, and Leitrim-Roscommon-Sligo areas remain as pillars of influence.
Now living in Oakland, California, Tim serves as the current president of the San Francisco Piper’s Club and teaches pipes regularly. He has made a name for himself in the Bay Area and greater West Coast as a piper and flute player and performs frequently with his partner, concertina, flute, and sean-nos singer Autumn Rhodes, as well as with the Golden Gate Ceili Band. He is also in the process of recording a solo album, due out at the end of 2019.
Patrick Hutchinson is an internationally recognized performer and teacher of the Irish Uilleann pipes, with more than thirty years exerience and an eclectic repertoire that encompasses both the traditional and the experimental.
He grew up in Liverpool where he had his first lessons on the tin whistle, but learned to play the pipes in Canada, a student of the well-loved Toronto piper and teacher Chris Langan. Patrick has appeared on WGBH’s A Celtic Sojourn, with the Cambridge Revels, and on recordings by Loreena McKennitt and Oliver Schroer, among others. He has provided the music for many theatrical productions including Brian Friel’s Translations, Frank McGuinness’s Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, and Carthaginians, and his piping can be heard in the Highlander movies. He holds a Ph.D in ethnomusicology from Brown University, which he did in order to write about his teacher, Chris.
Currently, he teaches pipes for the Comhaltas Boston Music School. He twice won the All-Ireland title in Uilleann Pipes Slow Airs, twenty-two years apart, most recently in 2014 in Sligo.
You can find Patrick teaching in the Video Tutor section of the Na Píobairí Uilleann website at pipers.ie. He is known for his own unique settings, and for bringing to light tunes long buried.
Dublin born Mick O’Brien plays uilleann pipes, whistle and flute. Mick began his musical education on the Uilleann pipes in the renowned Thomas Street Pipers Club in Dublin. His father Dinny O`Brien, a traditional accordion player, was also a constant source of tunes and inspiration. Mick recorded his first LP with his family when he was 13 years old. He later joined Na Piobairi Uilleann, where he absorbed hundreds of tunes and refined his technique.
Mick has toured extensively and given master classes throughout Europe and North America. His first solo album ‘The May Morning Dew’ (1996) was received with great critical acclaim. “Kitty Lie Over,” Mick’s duet recording with Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, is widely regarded as one of the finest recordings of traditional music in recent years, as is the follow- up album “Deadly Buzz.” Together with his daughter Aoife Ní Bhriain (fiddle) and Emer Mayock (flute, whistle), Mick recorded an album entitled “Tunes from the Goodman Manuscripts,” the largest recorded selection to date from the Goodman Collection.
Fiachra is from Roundstone, Connemara, in the West of Ireland. Fiachra was immersed in traditional Irish music from a very young age and he started playing at the age of 11 on the tin whistle. He used to travel the 30 miles to Carna, South Connemara every week to Noreen O Sullivan, for those ever-important first lessons, which shaped the unique and relaxed style that he plays in now. Soon after he became interested in the banjo and the local priest gave Fiachra a banjo to set him on his way. So now, equipped with his tin whistle and his banjo he traveled all over the country to summer schools and festivals, where he developed his technique and personal style. In ‘97, Fiachra once again enrolled in Scoil Acla, but having played both tin whistle and the banjo, he wanted to try a different instrument. The uilleann pipes. He didn’t have a set but borrowed a practice set from the NPU (Na Píobairí Uilleann). The class of beginner pipers followed their workshop teacher Mick Kilbane down to Keel, Achill Island, and in the local chip shop, Fiachra had his first uilleann pipes lesson. He took to this instrument with such enthusiasm and it just seemed to fit with him. Soon after the summer school in Achill, Fiachra traveled to Kinvara to Eugene Lambe, who made him his first set of pipes. There was no one teaching the instrument in the local area so Fiachra traveled great distances for lessons, some of his teachers being Tommy Keane and Eamon Brophy.
Fiachra was very much influenced by the old South Connemara style and from an early age was privileged to hear sean-nós singers and music played for sets and sean-nós dancing unique to the area. In 2000, Fiachra became good friends with an Australian music composer and very accomplished guitar player, Garry Jones. They decided to join forces and started performing as a guitar and pipes duet. Together they performed in Australia and at different venues around Ireland. Fiachra regularly plays in Central-Europe with a band based in Germany. All of this helped develop his technique and style further.
Fiachra has performed with The Chieftains, Sean Cannon from the Dubliner’s and Paddy Keenan. He has to his credit many prestigious titles including a Junior 1st place on the Uilleann Pipes in the Oireachtas competition, Senior All Ireland Champion on the Whistle Slow-Airs, Uilleann Pipes and Uilleann Pipes Slow-Airs.
Fiachra went to study woodwork in Letterfrack, Co. Galway and after graduating, work brought him to Sligo where he became heavily involved in the traditional music scene there and met and played with some of the best of the traditional musicians of the area. Fiachra is now touring with Quebec fiddle player Sophie Lavoie
Hailing from sunny Tallahassee, Florida, Michael Stribling is an award-winning uilleann piper and Irish musician. In County Cavan, Ireland he competed and won the title of “All Ireland Champion” on the uilleann pipes at the Fleadh Cheoil na Eireann. Michael has spent a significant part of his formative years in Ireland and England performing and studying traditional Irish music; he was mentored by the piping great, Jerry O’Sullivan. His style exhibits technical punctuation with a rhythmical drive, and is heavily influenced by the music of uilleann piping master Patsy Touhey. He regularly joins the internationally touring Irish bands Fullset and Runa. In the last few years, Michael has taught at tionóil and piping workshops in California, New York, Missouri, Connecticut, and Florida. In 2014, Michael added the traditional Irish element for renowned country music artist Trace Adkins’ Celtic Christmas tour, performing on uilleann pipes, flute and whistle When he isn’t playing music, Michael competes in Ironman triathlons across the United States.
Originally from Cambridge England, Jim Wenham has been resident in County Offaly in Ireland since 2002, where he continues to pursue his love of traditional folk music and in particular the uilleann pipes, having first heard them many years ago at the Cambridge Folk Festival. His journey as a pipes maker began by spending time with Limerick piper and maker Mickey Dunne and Kerry based maker Cillian O’Briain, and since then Jim’s own reputation as a maker continues to flourish. He has been resident reed maker alongside Dave Hegarty at the Willie Clancy Summer School since 2008, and continues also to host a successful three day reedmaking class at the annual Saint Louis Tionol. Jim’s relaxed and uncomplicated manner as a reedmaking tutor makes him a popular presence at tionóil both in Ireland and America.
New York born fiddler Brian Conway is a leading exponent of the tastefully ornamented Sligo fiddling style made famous by the late Michael Coleman. The winner of two All- Ireland junior titles in 1973 and 1974 and the All-Ireland senior championship of 1986, Brian’s early studies were with his father Jim of Plumbridge, County Tyrone and with Limerick born fiddler/teacher Martin Mulvihill. However, it was the legendary fiddler and composer Martin Wynne who taught him the real secrets of the County Sligo style. Later, Brian met and befriended the great Andy McGann of New York, a direct student of Michael Coleman, who further shaped his precision and skill on the instrument.
In 1979, Brian recorded a duet album, The Apple In Winter (Green Linnet) with fellow New York fiddler Tony Demarco. He released his debut solo CD, First Through the Gate, on the Smithsonian-Folkways label in July 2002. This CD was voted the Album of the Year by the Irish Echo. Brian is also featured on the CD, My Love is in America, recorded at the Boston College Irish Fiddle Festival, and on the documentary “Shore to Shore” which highlights traditional Irish music in New York. He is considered one of the musical rocks of the New York area.
In 2007, Brian released a CD titled A Tribute to Andy McGann on the prestigious Irish Label ClÃ³ Iar-Chonnachta. This CD pairs up Irish Music legends Joe Burke and Felix Dolan along with Brian in a CD which has received glowing accolades since its release in the summer of 2007. Brian followed this CD with a much-anticipated Solo CD titled “Consider the Source” in deference to the rich environment from which Brian learned his music. This CD was released in 2008 on the ClÃ³ Iar-Chonnachta Label. This CD features guest appearances by music greats Niamh Parsons, Dan Milner, Billy McComiskey, Joannie Madden, Felix Dolan, and Brendan Dolan. Earle Hitchner of the Irish Echo described this CD as “Easily one of the best releases this year.” Brian followed up that recording with the highly acclaimed Pride of New York, and last year, in 2017, recorded with the group Gailfean, featuring John Whelan, Mairtin DeCogain and Don Penzien.
Brian remains faithful to the rich tradition handed down to him. The distinctness of his tone, the lift of his playing, and the deft ornamentation he brings to the tunes have placed him among the finest Irish fiddlers of any style, Sligo or otherwise. He has performed all over North America from San Francisco to New York and places in between, such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Colorado. His talents have also been enthusiastically received throughout Ireland and the rest of Europe. He is also considered one of the premier instructors of traditional Irish music who has mentored many fine fiddle players, including several who have gone on to win All-Ireland championships.
Eileen comes from a family background that is steeped in the Irish tradition. Her father Paddy was instrumental in establishing the B/C style of button accordion playing as we know it today. Paddy was also one of the most prolific composers of traditional music. Her mother’s family, the Seery family of Dublin, were also well-known musicians. Her late mother Eileen Seery was a singer. Eileen’s grandfather Jim Seery played fiddle and was a founding member of Comhaltas Celtoirí Eireann. Eileen’s uncle Sean Seery was a piper and played in the famous Leo Rowsome Pipe Quartet along with Leo Rowsome, Willie Clancy, and Tommy Reck.
Eileen is an All-Ireland champion in both senior fiddle and senior fiddle slow airs. She is also a composer, and some of her compositions have been recorded by well-known artists including John Carty and Josephine Marsh. Eileen also has an interest in liturgical music and has composed music for two masses, Aifreann Baile Nua and Drúcht ar m’Ainm. She has been teaching music for all of her adult life, and has recorded three solo CDs to date.