Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

This is mainly directed at aficionados of the Uilleann pipes, but all replies are welcome, but I am, mostly looking for "expert" opinion.

I live the Irish and Scottish pipes but am far from an expert and not a player.
I ran across this gal Catherine Ashcrofton on Youtube.
I was very impressed, but I wondered what some knowledgable players and listeners would think.
Is she pretty traditional?
Are some of her techniques more modern?
What do you think of her interpretation/performance as a musician?
Other comments about her as a musician and piper.

If you have the patience, please listen to both tunes as they show different skills.
Catherine Ashcrofton: Táimse im’ Chodladh / King of the Pipers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P40YOU8ggJk


Thanks so much for your comments.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

I have to admit I wonder where this is going.

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Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Correction to the original post:
I meant: "I like the Irish and Scottish pipes"
not "I live …"

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

I like her playing enough that I bought all three Mochara cd’s last year.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

I enjoyed the air. I found jig a bit average. She’d go down a storm, no doubt, on the English folk circuit but I think she needs to do a bit less performing and a bit more hanging out in Clare and Galway for a few years if she wants to be taken seriously as an Irish trad performer. I hope somebody has the balls (and tact) to tell her that.

Right, I’m out of here!

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

(Still here, but not for long) …I’ll add, in case you are wondering, that i. I am not a piper and ii. I do not consider myself (nor does anyone else consider me) anywhere near the same calibre of musician as Catherine Ashcroft. But the bar is extremely high for being a ‘name’ in Traditional Music.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

I’m not a piper either! I agree with Creadur’s comments on the jig, it showed definite signs of the Finbar Furey ‘I’ll play this fast because I can’ attitude. But she’s young yet and will probably settle down to be a first rate performer.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

"If you have the patience, please listen to both tunes"
Say’s a lot that comment in its way! I’d shoot the sound guy before I criticised her in anyway myself. I don’t like all that reverb and stuff, that knocks the edge of the pipe sound and gives it more of a sampled keyboard type feel, that spoils the air for me.
That said I’d love to be able to play like that, she’s one heck of a player and she gets going around the 5 min mark with some real class. I like a dirtier sound though, something that feels like it has lived and been dragged through the soil a bit. This doesn’t to me but my taste is definitely not everyone’s.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

"Is she pretty traditional? Are some of her techniques more modern?"

Sounds to me like the fairly standard uilleann style most people play nowadays. No "modern techniques" I can hear.

"Other comments about her as a musician and piper?"

Seems obvious to me that she puts emphasis on the tone, the sound, of the pipes. Her pipes sound fantastic, a wonderful chanter tone and her regs sounding lovely, sweet and in tune. (Regs are often brash and a bit out of tune.)

I’ve heard players like that before, players who revel in the gorgeous harmonics of the pipes, emphasising that over intricate chanter-work.

I hear lacunae here and there in her chanter playing, some plain long notes where one would expect some work. There’s a sort of unwritten rule that long notes call out for something, either milk the long note by bending into in and perhaps putting some vibrato on it, or playing an ornament on it, or subdividing it with cuts and/or pats, or putting a tight triplet on it, or playing a different note before and/or after it, or whatever.

She’s young and in a year or so I don’t think those plain bits will be there.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

I would never claim to be an "expert", as I am only about 1/3 of the way through my 21-year indenture.

She is a very good piper and has achieved a high level of competency (far better than my own). I would say her techniques and playing are more modern than strictly traditional; partly this is because of her choice of instrument (a modern concert-pitch set).

Her performance on the youtube video was technically very good, as in no obvious mistakes, all the notes hit as intended, etc., but we don’t see much of her soul in this performance (in my opinion). Every musician expresses them selves differently and comes across differently in person on a stage though.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Here’s another performance of King Of The Pipers to listen closely to, here on a flat set

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUIwv_Wa1n8


"I would say her techniques and playing are more modern than strictly traditional"

Odd, I didn’t hear a single non-standard piping technique. What specifically stands out as modern?

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

The sound mix in my opinion is so Davy Spillane/ Riverdance it’s a bit trite to my ear. Perhaps she could be accused of playing to that kind of style. Like I say I’m all for tone, skill and the rest. I just like everything a little dirtier, it’s in the expression. To me this is designed to appeal to a wide audience and it will, there is no doubt at all.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

She played the jig too fast and ruined it IMO. Her air playing is outstanding. She is clearly very, very skilled.

She has a really nice-sounding set of pipes, she doesn’t need to blaze through dance tunes quite that fast. Dialing back about 10% would make for a much more musical presentation.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

A slightly less manic tempo affords opportunity for some the beautiful gracings, staccato, bent notes, chanter lifts, tonehole shadings, alternate fingerings etc that can give her playing a beautiful gloss.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

She’s young - she’ll (probably) slow down a bit sooner or later :-)

I hear nothing at all that’s non-traditional other than maybe the reverb-y sound.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Yeah, she’s using standard technique. The studio magic is a bit much for me. I like pipes to sound like pipes, not compressed, reverb-soaked, solid body electric guitars with the pickup selector set to the neck position…

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

I think she’s great. She’s not playing in a traditional setting is she? She’s playing on a stage, performing, using a sound system with reverb, and effect pedals. She can certainly play the pipes very well, and her instrument is in tune. I’d like to hear her playing acoustic, without a sound system, on her own or in a small session.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

I’ll second the traditional techniques comment.
‘Manic pace’. Yes there is that… .also ‘she’ll slow down eventually’…yes well, won’t we all, eventually?:)
She is, of course, a smoking hot young piper…erm, perhaps I should re-phrase that :)
Youth will be served, and all that. She is good.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Well OK, I was sloppy with my use of the word "techniques", and should have used "style" instead. Yes, her triplets, cuts and crans are all pretty standard and traditional. She does slide into notes much more than the great dead pipers did.

Her style on the other hand is somewhat dictated by her choice of instrument and where she is playing and all the processing as has been said. Modern concert-pitch pipes were invented for what just she’s doing, i.e. playing on stage in a large hall. The trade-off/cost of having that bright tone and volume is losing some of the darker tones, colours, shadings, and variations in tuning of individual notes that are possible with a good flat set. I suspect these may be what makes the "dirtier" sound that Steve T is looking for.

Steve T also said: "The sound mix in my opinion is so Davy Spillane/ Riverdance it’s a bit trite to my ear. Perhaps she could be accused of playing to that kind of style". I thought the same thing (as she is so fond of the Spillane-style slides into notes). A quick Google search turns up the fact that she did in fact play in the Riverdance show that toured China, so I guess the Spillane/Riverdance style/sound mix is not a coincidence.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Catherine is a nice player in an acoustic setting, on both whistle and pipes.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Thanks to everyone for all the comments and for the examples of other pipers playing "King Of The Pipers".
And thanks for keeping the comments in context.
I very much enjoy Catherine’s above performance, but very much appreciate the all comments about maturity, speed, stage effects, taste, and equipment; that put this performance into perspective. She often performs for large audiences that sometimes know very little about Irish music. I can imagine that could also have an influence on the performance.

I love the uilleann pipes, but am pretty new to more critical listening. All the comments really helped me; and I hope helped some others in their musical journey.
I am going to learn a lot from listening to the examples above. Contrasting different interpretations and skill levels of the same tune is such a great way to learn.

There were a few comments about her style being "more modern". I got that impression, but didn’t understand where that impression came from. In an interview she says she was initially influenced by Planxty and The Bothy Band. Both of which I would describe as being ‘a little more modern". Perhaps that is a characteristics of being in a band or of doing more formal concerts. Her technique may be traditional, but there are subtleties that sound more modern to me. "An Draighean" had some informative comments about style.

I believe that she still plays locally in Cumbria (which I would love to experience), and still performs with Maurice Dickson. I saw a post where Catherine Ashcroft was very excited about the acoustics of playing her whistle in a particular forest.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

https://youtu.be/T_3owszQ82U


A very talented player, obviously. I also thought the jig a bit too fast - for my own personal preference, and thought the slow air a bit too slow, but actually it’s not significantly different from the above, which is one of my favourite uilleann pipes performances.
Maurice Dickson has certainly played in Stonehaven at their Folk Festival [ celebrating 30 years this July ].
Next time he’s back, I hope he brings Catherine with him - I’d certainly pay to hear them.

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Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Am I the only one who thinks there is something off in the jig playing? Every time someone mentions the clip I relisten & it always bothers me. I just slowed the clip down, & unless I mistaken, I think shes missing beats here & there- particularly ~4:40, the last beat in the 4th bars.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

@chaos97
I believe you are mistaken.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

‘gal’?!

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Gal = slang for girl or woman. It does not have a negative connotation, if that is what you are implying.

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Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

One feels that there is a hint of male patronisation about it.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Mr Curryman - a bit of a "trigger warning" there :) :)

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

It might be a good time to end this discussion.
@Yhaal House, I apologize for using TASS (Traditional American Southern Slang ("gal")). :-) :-)

Who the heck is Mr Curryman - :) :)

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

//Who the heck is Mr Curryman//

@Steve Wiley - Mr Curryman is masquerading as an Indian restaurant (Yhaal House).

:) :)

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

It’s OK! You’re both speaking different languages. Mr. Curryman essays to employ English. We Colonials do not :)

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

I am no longer pissed (Colonial). To celebrate, I am going to get pissed (UK).
@AB - Loved the video

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Sorry to bring this back up, but I haven’t had the time & it was driving me a bit crazy that I was seemingly the only one hearing something off. I had to figure out what specifically it was.

Generally each phrase of the tune is ended |GGG AFD| and it’s how Catherine plays it pretty much every time, except in the A part. Particularly the 2nd time around, ~4:40 she uses |GFG A2F| & the ‘A2F’ is how the next bar begins. It gives the impression she has left out the end of the phrase & started into the 5th bar a beat early (at least to me I guess).

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

Hey @chaos97
Thanks for the tip about ~4:40. It explains the hiccup I was hearing but unable to identify.
It sounds unintentional to me, it would be fun to write it into a tune. Dancers would hate it.

Re: Hey Pipers. What do you think of Catherine Ashcroft?

She is young and has given us a remarkable performance on an air and a jig. Give her a break - her playing is an inspiration!