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5 Irish Tin Whistle Players You Need To Hear (photo: Daniel Fernandez)

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5 Irish Tin Whistle Players You Need To Hear

The tin whistle is a humble instrument but can sound amazing in the hands of an expert musician. Also known as the penny whistle, these instruments found their way into the hands of Irish traditional musicians in the mid 1800s. Listen and learn about 5 influential Irish whistle players.

Myles O’Malley

Myles O'Malley became known as the Tin Whistle King in the 1930s and led his own successful band during the period.

Born in 1910 to Irish parents in Massachusetts, O'Malley was an avid saxophone player before he picked up the whistle. He performed with the Truman Carew Big Band from Boston after graduating from high school. Carew featured O'Malley on tin whistle for a St. Patrick's Day radio broadcast in 1931; that performance helped propel his popularity on the whistle.

O'Malley recorded his Irish band for Decca, and he also went on to form and lead the Decca Recording Orchestra.



Micho Russell (1915 – 1994)

Born in Doolin, County Clare, Micho Russell came from a very musical family that included his brothers Packie and Gussie. His tin whistle playing and Irish folklore knowledge gained attention during the folk music revival of the 1960s.

Donncha Ó Briain (1960 – 1990)

Another fine tin whistle player from a musical family, Donncha Ó Briain comes from the Dublin O’Brien family which includes his brother Mick, a well-known uilleann piper and whistle player. Donncha suffered from muscular dystrophy but is considered one of the most acclaimed whistle players of his generation despite his illness. Besides recording one album for Gael-Linn in 1979, he was also a highly regarded teacher in Dublin and released a collection of tunes called The Golden Eagle.

Sean Potts (1930 – 2014)

Sean Potts was born in Dublin and was a founding member of The Chieftains. In 1972, Potts recorded the Tin Whistles album with fellow Chieftain Paddy Moloney. The recording features solo and duet whistles with only bodhran and bones accompaniment, effectively highlighting the whistle as an important instrument in Irish traditional music.

Mary Bergin (1949 - )

Mary Bergin is often regarded as the model Irish whistle player. Her two solo recordings Feodὀg Stáin (1979) and Feodὀg Stáin 2 (1993) are considered must-have examples of Irish whistle playing. Besides performing around the world, Mary is known for teaching whistle at numerous workshops and summer schools. She has also published three volumes of her tin whistle tutor designed to take musicians from a beginner level to more advanced stages of development.

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