Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Take a McPeake at what's in store for St Patrick's Day

For more than 100 years the McPeakes have delighted audiences and made friends with music royalty including Bob Dylan and Van Morrison.

Francis McPeake III is said to have taught Beatle John Lennon the uilleann pipes.

Their anthems, including Will You Go Lassie Go, My Singing Bird and Jug Of Punch, are known throughout the world.

Now, for the first time in 25 years, the family will be reunited on stage on St Patrick's Day in their native Belfast. The clan will lead a ceili at the Ulster Hall.

Said Eugene McPeake: "I am very excited about the fact that this will be our 50th annual Saint Patrick's Day performance and many senior members of the family will be there.

"It is an immense pleasure and privilege for me personally to play at big events with the original McPeakes. It is always a great experience and this will be the first time in 25 years that all surviving members will have performed together publicly."

Patriarch Frank McPeake was born in 1885, leaving school at 13 to become a linen worker.

His musical career began after a visit to Belfast by the blind Galway harpist John O'Reilly.

O'Reilly stayed for six weeks to teach McPeake the uilleann pipes, the Irish form of the bagpipes.

From this beginning Frank McPeake became a famed piper.

He allegedly put away his pipes after his daughter and wife died within a year of each other, but was persuaded to resume when his son Francis showed prowess.

He and his father performed together in the Royal Albert Hall in 1956, and with other son James, a harpist, formed The McPeakes.

Their unique combination of harmony singing with pipes and harp was revolutionary, and paved the way for groups such as Planxty and Horslips in the 1970s.

Younger members continue to tour the world today.

There will also be a preview of a documentary about the family directed by Eugene.

It receives its premiere at the Ulster Hall next month.

He said: "I hope the film will be able to appropriately tell the compelling and dramatic story of how every generation of my family has been part of the traditional Irish music scene in Belfast."

Also performing on Sunday will be the Cathal McAnulty Band.

Eugene said no one should be shy about dancing.

He said: "Complete beginners will be able to learn their steps during a short workshop before the main show begins on Sunday.

"Our world champion Irish dancers, many of whom have performed in Riverdance and other similar shows, will be there to keep everyone right."

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