Willie Clancy was an uilleann piper from Co. Clare. Born in 1918 in Miltown Malbay, he emerged as one of the most influential uilleann pipers of the 20th century. the Willie Clancy Summer School was established in his honor in 1973.

Willie Clancy was born into a musical household. His father, Gilbert Clancy, played concertina and flute, and his mother, Ellen Hynes, was renowned for her traditional singing and also played concertina. This rich musical environment in County Clare, a region known for its strong traditional music heritage, nurtured Clancy’s early interest and skill in Irish music. He began the whistle at age 5, before progressing to the pipes, gradually acquiring his set including a Rowsome chanter. He larned from Hugh Curtin and Leo Rowsome, and was influenced by Johnny Doran’s performances, developing his own highly indivudial style of piping.

He was recorded for Gael Linn Records and a book of transcriptions entitled The Dance Music of Willie Clancy was edited by Pat Mitchell. The book broke new ground in being one of the first publications to feature extensive notation of irish tunes including individual interpretation and ornamentation. RTÉ released “The Golden Ring” in 2009, a collection of his recordings.

After his passing in 1973, the Willie Clancy Summer School was established in his honor in Miltown Malbay. Starting in 1973, this annual event became a focal point for teaching traditional music. The school offers classes in various instruments, particularly the uilleann pipes, and has grown to become one of the most significant traditional Irish music schools and festivals in the world, attracting participants from all over.

Going Further

The Instruments of Irish Traditional Music

Ornamentation in Irish Music

Paddy Moloney

Uilleann Pipe Fingering Chart

The Irish Low Whistle – A Complete Introduction

Willie Clancy article at Clare County Library

Wiile Clancy – An Phis Fliuch

Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy TV Series

The Willie Clancy Summer School

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