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A-Measg Chairdean features recent alumnus Matt Phelps

Tri
Tri includes Matt Phelps '05 on bagpipes, Doug Lamey on fiddle and Cliff McGann on guitar.

By Lauren Lamothe '11
Communications Intern

An album exploring the Gaelic Scotland musical tradition serves as the debut offering by the Massachusetts based group Trí.

A-Measg Chairdean, or Among Friends, features a core group of three musicians, with bagpipe player Matthew Phelps '05 bringing in skills that started forming at the age of seven when he heard his first pipe band.

"At that point my peers were all starting their first piano or saxophone lessons through school," Phelps said. "I told my parents that bagpipes were what I wanted to learn and my mom found a local instructor for me and I started taking lessons shortly after my eighth birthday."

At the recommendation of one of his father's friends, Phelps began attending instructional workshops at Gaelic College in Cape Breton Island.

"Over the next few years my stays in Cape Breton grew longer so that by the time I was 15 or 16 I was spending nearly the entire summer at the Gaelic College," said Phelps. "It was there that I developed my love for Cape Breton Music, a music that generally includes fiddle, piano, and guitar as well as pipes and is more closely tied to the dance tradition than is a lot of highland pipe music."

A member of the St. Andrews Presbyterian College Pipe Band while in college, Phelps exemplified the diverse interests of the students by winning the Alan Bunn Memorial Chapbook Award during his senior year. A former historical re-enactor with the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, Phelps moved to Homer, Alaska after completing his B.F.A. in creative writing. He spent two years living in "a tool shed on my brother's property, without electricity or running water."

"I worked as an antler gatherer and apprenticed myself to a knife-maker," he said. "I worked as a laborer building boardwalks in remote communities. I also worked in the firewood business, as a caretaker of horses and as a house mover."

Phelps currently lives in Massachusetts and makes his living as a piper.

"I teach two bands and about 15 private students and play at weddings, funerals, birthday parties, etc." Phelps said. "I'm the Pipe Major of the Grade 4 Stuart Highlanders Pipe Band of Wilmington, and am a playing member of the grade three band of the same organization."

Phelps is also a part of two ensembles, which he says could really be described as traditional folk groups.

"Trí is heavily influenced by the Cape Breton tradition and consists of pipes, fiddle, and guitar and we regularly perform with two Cape Breton step dancers," said Phelps. "Our first album is the culmination of two years of playing together with Cliff McGann (guitar) and Doug Lamey (fiddle). We brought in a few friends to record on a couple of the tracks, including Kimberley Fraser on piano and our producer Keith Murphy on vocals/piano/foot percussion."

"We're very proud of our first effort in the studio and are looking forward to doing it again."

A-Measg Chairdean (Among Friends) can be contacted at www.triceol.com. Visit this website for upcoming appearances, photos and to contact the band.

    Return to Alumni & Friends Magazine 2009
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