Musical Instrument Makers: Photos by Stephen Power, 2000s


Players of Irish traditional music naturally get all the limelight for their performances, but they themselves know that they are dependent on the skills of the makers of their instruments and their conversations are often about musical instrument makers. The pictures reproduced here, all taken by photographer Stephen Power, bring us behind the scenes in the craft workshops of four makers. They first appeared in his book Traditional Notes: A Celebration of Irish Music and Musicians / Stephen Power, Dublin : The Liffey Press, 2011.  The selections of Stephen's text below accompanied the images in the book.

Malachy Kearns, bodhran

'In Roundstone, Connemara, County Galway I discovered... Malachy Kearns... Malachy Bodhrán... a large affable man who seems to have a huge appetite for life and has become of the best known bodhrán makers in Ireland. Malachy started making bodhráns in 1976, training with Peadar Mercier of The Chieftains and made the bodhráns for Riverdance, and Christy Moore uses his drums - and the testimony from him "I kneel in prayer towards Roundstone" adorns a large photograph of the musician in Kearns'  large and always well-populated craft shop, where you can buy anything from a small hand-painted ornamental bodhrán to a full-sized professional standard instrument'.

Kuros Torkzadeh, fiddle

'Born in Germany, Kuros Torkzadeh moved to Ireland in 1994. A Classically trained and enthusiastic musician, he has been crafting and making instruments for the last 15 years. Kuros studied at the Newark School of Violin Making where he obtained a Diploma and the certificate of City and Guilds. He then worked in a series of established workshops in England, France and Ireland gaining experience in the field of set-up work, sound adjustments and the general restoration of instruments. At the same time this gave him the opportunity to acquire his inspiration while carefully studying a variety of fine old instruments. Now based in Ballinderreen near Kinvara, Co Galway, he operates a workshop, Kuros Violins, specialising in making violins, violas and celli as well as fine restoration and repair'.

Michael Vignoles, uilleann pipes

'Uilleann piper Michael Vignoles was born near Galway Bay and now lives and works in the Claddagh area of Galway city... Michael was immersed in music from a very early age. While growing up, he was an avid radio listener and became a fan of such bands as Planxty, The Chieftains and The Dubliners. In particular, the sound of Liam O'Flynn's pipes made a serious impression on him. Michael undertook a five-year apprenticeship as a fitter at the Institute of the Motor Industry and around the time he qualified, he had got himself a set of uilleann pipes that he was learning to play. When the bellows broke on his set, he asked pipe maker Eugene Lambe from County Clare to make him another one. But instead, Eugene gave Michael the materials and told him to make it himself... he continued to become an established pipe maker in his own right. Pipe making is a slow and painstaking business, and it can take many weeks – if not much longer – to produce a full set of uilleann pipes'.

Paddy Clancy, accordion

'Paddy Clancy was born in 1965 into a house steeped in the Irish music tradition. His father, Paddy Snr, who also plays the box, instilled a passion in his son for the instrument and its possibilities. A promising career in traditional Irish music began at the age of 14 with the award of Young Musician of the Year in 1979. Further accolades were soon to follow with Munster Senior competition titles in 1986, 1987 and 1988 and also in 1988. Paddy was crowned All-Ireland senior accordion champion at the Fleadh Cheoil in Kilkenny at the age of 23. This prestigious award provided Paddy with the opportunity to forge strong friendships and to travel on the Comhaltas tour of the USA and Canada in 1989. Paddy's love of the music didn't stop here; an interest in accordion construction and design led him to a career in accordion manufacturing and repair. This journey has finally lead Paddy to establish his own personal accordion range which he is proud to lend the family name to, the business is located at his family home in Ballingarry, County Limerick'.

With thanks to Stephen Power for permission to reproduce his images and text. The ITMA always welcomes such donations or the opportunity to copy such materials.

NC & TH, 1 December 2013

Musical Instrument Makers: Photos by Stephen Power, 2000s