published Friday, September 2nd, 2011

McPeake brings fresh take on Irish musical traditions to Nightfall


What: Nightfall concert series featuring McPeake.

When: 8 p.m. today; Slim Pickins opens at 7 p.m.

Where: Miller Plaza, corner of M.L. King Boulevard, Cherry and Market streets.

Admission: Free.

Phone: 265-0771.


Venue website:


Peake is finishing up work on its debut album, "These Days." Uilleann piper Francis McPeake IV said the band would be finished mixing the album this week, then the project would be shipped to the manufacturer for a physical/digital release later this month.


Slim Pickins is a local bluegrass quintet of Justin Hupp (upright bass), Deron Stevens (mandolin), Brad Clark (guitar), Randy Steele (banjo) and John Boulware (fiddle). For more information, visit the band's MySpace profile at

You won't find it mentioned in medical journals, but coming from a family of uilleann pipers can sometimes feel like suffering from a hereditary illness, said Francis McPeake IV.

As a fourth-generation performer of the notoriously temperamental Irish bagpipes, McPeake said the instrument's inconstancy leaves him questioning his ancestors' mental health.

"There are so many days that I wish that my family had been fiddle players, guitarists, flute players -- anything but [uilleann pipers]," he said. "So many times, I've said, 'That's it. I'm going to play tin whistle the rest of my life.'

"At times, you could lift up your pipes and throw them across the river."

Despite his frustration with the instrument, McPeake has been an avid piper since shortly after he began playing music at 15.

It's a passion that continues to baffle him.

"Never in a million years would I know the answer of what keeps me piping," he said.

McPeake grew up around music, but he wasn't attracted to playing until he felt left out when his friends abandoned him to attend rehearsals at the Francis McPeake School of Music, which his father and grandfather founded in 1977 in Belfast.

After he accepted the inevitable and took up the family tradition, McPeake fell in love. In the early 2000s, he founded his current five-piece group, McPeake, around a core of Northern Irish musicians, many of whom attended the family school.

Although their approach to Irish music is flexible enough to mix modern compositions with old standards, McPeake said the philosophy of the school -- to introduce traditional music to a wider audience -- still reigns supreme.

"Because of the way we were taught to express our music, we were always brought up with the idea that ... you have a certain duty to perform," he said. "At least once a performance, you play it as traditionally as possible so you make sure to keep the music alive.

"Second, you always pay tribute to the musicians who came before you and taught you the music because that keeps them alive as well."

McPeake and his bandmates will do their part to ensure Chattanooga is exposed to Irish music, in its traditional and modern forms, when they take the stage at Nightfall tonight.

That's assuming, of course, that McPeake's pipes decide to cooperate.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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