Roger O'Keeffe

tunebook 7 tunes.

Born in Dublin 1948. Family musical background was mainly Italian grand opera. The only type of Irish traditional music that could be heard when I was growing up was execrable Céilí band stuff, which led me to subscribe to the general consensus that diddly-i music was strictly for culchies.

I did like the occasional well-meaning but genteel orchestral arrangements by the BBC Northern Ireland orchestra under David O’Curry (a chapter that has been airbrushed out of all versions of the history of the Irish trad revival).

I was bowled over by a rolling wave that began with the Mise Éire sound track, and continued with Ceoltóirí Cualann, The Chieftains, Leo Rowsome’s "King of the Pipers" album (which I would have been unaware of but for the enquiries of a Swedish university lecturer), Planxty and The Bothy Band.

Started playing tin whistle for ballad singalongs because it was easier to learn a tune than all the verses of a song.

First encountered the pipes in the flesh when Breandán Breathnach, Dan O’Dowd, Pat Mitchell, Brian Gallahar and Mick O’Brien brought them out of the closet at the TCD Cumann Gaelach "Eigse na Tríonóide" in I think 1970 or 71.

Got my first practice set of pipes for £17 from John Keenan (Paddy’s father) in 1971 or 72, a Matt Kiernan chanter with bag and bellows made by John (he was inordinately proud of the bellows, and would repeatedly tell me "That’s a bellows that will last you a natural lifetime": I still have it).

Started attending NPU soon afterwards, my first tune was "gander in the Pratie hole" which Dan taught me, but my main teacher at the early stages was Brian.

Lived for 22 years in Belgium and played a Rogge concert-pitch set - too infrequently and badly. Involved in organising local sessions and pipers’ tionóil.

Moved home to Ireland in 2011 to what I hope will be long retirement sweetened by a magnificent Coyne-inspred Bill Haneman set in B.