(WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass.) — Irish bagpiper Paddy Keenan, the “Jimi Hendrix of the pipes,” performs in a cabaret setting at the Clark Art Institute on Friday, April 1 at 7:30 pm. Opening for Keenan is the Williamstown-based folk band Long Journey. Keenan was a founding member of the groundbreaking Irish group the Bothy Band.
At age 17, having fallen in love with the blues, Paddy Keenan left Ireland for England and Europe, where he played blues and rock. Returning to Ireland after a few years, he began playing around Dublin with singer/keyboardist Triona Ni Dhomhnaill and singer/guitarist Micheal O Dhomhnaill. Fiddler Paddy Glackin then joined the three, and they asked flute player Matt Mollov to play with them shortly thereafter. Next accordion player Tony MacMahon joined the group, and then guitarist Donal Lunny was asked to listen to the six. Liking what he heard, he joined as well, and the loosely-knit band began calling itself Seachtar, the Irish word for seven.
Seachtar’s first major concert was in Dublin. They played a few more gigs around the country, but circumstances soon forced Tony MacMahon to drop out. When the rest of the band decided to turn professional Paddy Glackin left as well; he was replaced by Donegal fiddler Tommy Peoples, who was later replaced by fiddler Kevin Burke. All the group needed now was a name.
Micheal O’Dhomhnaill had recently returned from Scotland, where he happened across a photograph taken in the 1890s of a group of tattered musicians. “The Bothy Band,” it was titled, in reference to the migrant Irish laborers who worked in England and Scotland and were housed in stone huts known as “bothies.” Micheal suggested that the band take this name, and the others agreed. Thus was born one of the most influential bands of the 1970s, the Bothy Band.
The Bothy Band forever changed the face of Irish traditional music, merging a driving rhythm section with traditional Irish tunes in ways that had never been heard before. Those fortunate enough to have seen the band live have never forgotten the impression they made — one reviewer likened the experience to “being in a jet when it suddenly whipped into full throttle along the runway.” Keenan was one of the band’s founding members, and his virtuosity on the pipes combined with the ferocity of his playing made him, in the opinion of many, its driving force. Bothy Band-mate Donal Lunny once described Keenan as “the Jimi Hendrix of the pipes”; more recently, due to his genius for improvisation and counter-melody, he has been compared to jazz great John Coltrane.
Keenan plays uillean pipes — bagpipes with bellows strapped around the waist and pumped by the elbow, producing a sweeter and quieter tone than their Scottish cousins. His flowing, open-fingered style of playing can be traced to the style of such great traveling pipers as Johnny Doran; Keenan’s father and grandfather played in the same style.
Tickets are $20 ($18 members); purchase tickets at Clark Art Institute or call 413 458 0524. Food and drink will be available for purchase.
ABOUT THE CLARK
The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and drawings, English silver, and early photography. Acting as convener through its Research and Academic Program, the Clark gathers an international community of scholars to participate in a lively program of conferences, colloquia, and workshops on topics of vital importance to the visual arts. The Clark library, consisting of more than 240,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Clark also houses and co-sponsors the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.
The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $20; free year-round for Clark members, children 18 and younger, and students with valid ID. For more information, visit Clark Art Institute or call 413 458 2303.