The Scotsman Sessions #191: John Mulhearn

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, from his home beside Glasgow Green, piper John Mulhearn plays two compositions from his recent album, The Pipe Factory

For his Scotsman Session, piper John Mulhearn plays McIver’s set, pairing his compositions Maggie McIver and The Gallowgate from last year’s album The Pipe Factory – “an album about place and sound.” He’s at home, beside Glasgow Green, but the eponymous factory where he made the album isn’t far away, a striking building from the 1870s situated just off the Gallowgate.

The historic East End inspired both tunes, Maggie McIver being the founder of the famous Barras market as well as the equally renowned Barrowland Ballroom. Mulhearn describes the tunes as “sort of quicksteps” and you can imagine their unhurried pacing through bustling streets.

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His lockdown has been busy enough. A teacher at Glasgow’s National Piping Centre, he was promoted to head of piping studies, with responsibility for the degree programme the Centre runs with the nearby Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He has also been working on his book Let Piping Flourish, a collection of 230 pipe tunes charting the history of the city’s immense contribution to piping. Stemming from the performance Masters he has been doing at the Conservatoire, the book’s publication marks the 25th anniversary of the piping centre as well as the 20th of the degree course and is due for release in August during Glasgow’s annual Piping Live! festival, currently planned to take place online.

John Mulhearn

As a performer, Mulhearn was part of the ten-strong piping collective Tryst, who made an impressive contribution to the opening concert of January’s online Celtic Connections: “It was a great opportunity for the band to be at the top of the show, then our own performance later in the festival.”

So far as the coming year is concerned, he and fellow Tryst piper Calum MacCrimmon are planning the first album from their Big Music Project, presenting adventurous new settings of pibroch – ceòl mòr or “the big music.”

For more on John Mulhearn, see www.johnmulhearn.wordpress.com

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