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"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don't clean it up too quickly."
– Andy Rooney  
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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 12 December 2021  

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Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  Irish tunes and an Irish bagpipe
  By Timothy Page

   Eric Olson, a Black Forest resident, has been playing the Uilleann bagpipes for more than 20 years.
   When people think about bagpipes, the Scottish War Pipes are probably what comes to mind, but the Uilleann pipes are different.
   Smaller, quieter and meant to be played indoors, the Uilleann pipes are used for Irish folk music, and that is just how Olson began playing this niche instrument.
   “I started with listening to American folk music and bluegrass, and then I listened to fiddle tunes,” Olson said. “Then, I found that I really liked the Irish tunes … I just really wanted to play that instrument.”
   Olson said he has a great fondness for the community that playing the Irish folk tunes has brought him.
   “For me, playing any kind of music is social. I get to join with other people, and we get to play music among ourselves and we get to have that interaction that musicians have,” Olson said,
   “Then there’s the other part of playing for other people.”
   Olson said, “The piper has a responsibility every morning of filling the bag with as many good tunes as it will hold, and spending the rest of the day squeezing it out.”
   Olson acquired his set of pipes from a maker in Berthoud, Colorado, and said a good set can cost about $1,400.
   “It’s a craft. It’s a trade. It’s what people used to do, instead of these giant factories making stuff,” Olson said. “So I really respect the craftsmanship people have to make something by hand.”
   Currently, Olson is also rebuilding his home after losing it in the 2013 Black Forest fire.
   “In the intervening years, I’ve been doing fire restoration,” he said. “That includes building greenhouses. I’ve planted over 700 trees and shrubs, pathways, terraces, garden beds. Just all kinds of things, just to make this place pretty again.”
   He said there is plenty of work that still needs to be done.
   “I just love doing it. I’ve made a lot of progress, but you’re just always in the middle.” Olson said. “There’s always the things you’ve done and at least as many things as you have yet to do.”
Eric Olson is shown here with his Uilleann bagpipes, a smaller version of bagpipes. Photo submitted
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