New York - Last fall, scholars and fans of Irish music both here and abroad were devastated by the unexpected news that Bill Ochs, a major figure in the North American Irish music world and a specialist in the uilleann pipes, tin whistle, and flute, had died at age 70 on October 5 after a brief but intense bout with cancer. Bill was a pioneer in the revival of uilleann piping in this country; he began playing in 1971 after hearing Liam O'Flynn in a concert at Washington Square Church, and studied pipes with Tom Standeven, Andy Conroy, and Pat Mitchell. He performed widely throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including as a member of the original touring lineup of The Green Fields of America with Liz Carroll, Jack and Charlie Coen, Michael Flatley, Sean McGlynn and Mick Moloney. Although he continued performing, Bill turned his attention to teaching and for three decades taught countless students on the whistle, pipes, and flute both at the Irish Arts Center and at his Hell's Kitchen apartment in Manhattan. He was also in demand as an instructor at workshops and festivals in the U.S. and Canada.
Bill took the methods he had developed as a teacher and codified them in an instruction book for the pennywhistle, an instrument he loved as dearly as the pipes. That book, The Clarke Tin Whistle, is widely regarded as one of the best introductions to the instrument with over 250,000 copies in print since its publication in 1988. Bill's fascination with the whistle also found expression in two CDs and a video he produced of County Clare musician Micho Russell. With Edward Haber, Bill also produced a CD of Cathal McConnell. Bill's contributions to the scholarship of Irish music and his enormous generosity of spirit as a teacher, colleague, and friend have left an indelible mark on the Irish music community at large and on all those who knew him or his work. A memorial celebration will be held on Saturday, April 22, at 1:30pm at All Souls Unitarian Church, 79th St. and Lexington Avenue, NYC. All are welcome.
Margaret Vetare - 31.3.17
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