Dave Page was an old time master uilleann piper. He helped to keep Irish traditional music alive and flourishing by encouraging many young musicians.
The Early years
Dave Page was a Uillean Piper, whistle and accordion player and a true Irish gentleman in every sense of the word.
He was born April 17th in 1906 of plain Irish folk living in Dublin. Life there was slower than now. Everyone was relatively poor but no one starved. Progress had not yet arrived in the form of electricity and most households cooked over a peat fire in the fireplace. People went to the neighborhood pub in the evening for a pint or two and a chat. The pubs were supposed to close early then and people would take a few bottles of ale home with them, bring out the instruments and begin the real socializing of the evening. Pub closing was always delayed however, if visitors were still coming in late or music was being played.
"There was a lot of music around all the houses because no one had a radio." recalls Dave. Most every home had a piano and there were always lots of fiddles, but not many other instruments. He says that things were nice in Ireland. "Things were not too plentiful but we didn't notice. We were too busy playing music."
As a child, Dave was musically influenced by his Mother, who lilted the traditional tunes to him. Dave discovered the charms of the Uilleann pipes in his teens. When he was eighteen, his brother Tom Page helped persuade their father to enroll Dave in Leo Rowsome's piping school and purchased for him a set of Rowsome pipes. Dave was very anxious to play his pipes and practiced many hours a day and late into the night. He recalls how he rushed home from work as a shoemaker to play before dinner and then commenced again after eating. He said that sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, he would think of a tune and rush downstairs just to play it. Since Dave knew many tunes from childhood, he needed only to practice technique.
When asked how long it took him to be in command of his instrument, he said, "Well, you never have full command of it." Dave proved to be a talented musician and was soon performing with the great piper Sean Dempsey and winning competitions and also performing with his teacher Leo Rowsome in his famous piping quartet. At the time the members of the quartet were Leo, Dave, Tom Rowsome, and Eddie Potts. The band played a wide selection of music consisting of marches, airs, set dances, jigs, reels and hornpipes. Dave described how Leo would step off stage for a moment during the quartet performances and switch out the reeds in his pipes for a different set which he used only for his solo pieces and have them in tune and in balance in just three or four minutes. Dave stayed in touch with Leo for decades even after moving to London and then later to Chicago.
When Leo Rowsome left the Siamsa Gael Celidhe Band, Dave took his place. The band was 7-10 pieces with Dave on pipes, Tom Page, Dave's brother on fiddle and leader, Mrs. Sheridan on fiddle, Dave always called her the queen of the Irish fiddlers, Mrs. Whelan on fiddle, Leo Malloy on piano, Billy Tighe on drums, and Tommy Breen on piccolo.
THE SIAMSA GAEL CELIDHE BAND
The Siamsa Gael band was one of the two most popular ceilidhe bands in Dublin during the 1920's and they played at dances and concerts throughout Ireland. A typical band performance was both a concert and a dance. The evening would start as a concert. The band would play and the audience sat on the floor. Sometime during the concert Dave would perform a piping solo. He usually left the stage and took a seat among the audience so that the pipes could be better heard. One of the tunes he remembers playing often for this solo was Hartigan's Fancy (or Coppers and Brass).
When the concert was finished the floor would be cleared and a long evening of dancing would begin, often lasting until morning. In the early 1930's The Siamsa Gael Band made two 78 RPM recordings, some of the earliest recordings of Irish Music. One was made in London on the Parlophone label, the other in Dublin on the Columbia label. At the first recording session the producer, upon finding that Dave played bagpipes, asked him to sit at the other end of the room away from the band and the microphone.
As the producer discovered that the Irish pipes were not quite as loud as the Scottish pipes Dave was slowly moved forward until he was sitting in front of the microphone with the rest of the band behind him.The depression came in 1929, but it wasn't felt so badly in Ireland. Everyone was already so poor, they really didn't notice it. This was the year in which Dave Page became Junior Uilleann Pipe Champion of Ireland. On October 23rd 1933 Dave married Bridget Healy, and lived in Dublin, shoemaking and playing the pipes, till after World War II. At the outbreak of World War II Dave joined the L.D.F. (Local Defense Force) to defend Ireland from possible invasion/ During the war he played the pipes on Radio Eireann.
COMING TO AMERICA
After the war, they moved from Dublin to London to find more work. He continued working in leather, making handbags. He also played in dance bands but there wasn't so much call for an Irish piper. He learned to play the concertina and piano accordion. Dave and Bridget came to the United States in January 1965 and settled in Chicago. The large Irish community there, welcomed traditional music. So Dave began playing music as usual.
He eventually was persuaded to try the Uilleann pipes again although his old Rowsome pipes had been sold years before. He hadn't played pipes for about ten years, but again became a fine piper. Eventually retiring to San Diego in the 1970's where Dave fell in with an enthusiastic group of young American players in the area where he would later resurrect Siamsa Gael Band, his students Ian Law, Judy Lipnick and John Tuohy continue to perform under that name. John Tuohy now owns Dave's pipes and plays them beautifully.
Dave died on April 8th 1987, just about a week short of his 81st birthday.
A LITTLE KNOWN TRUE STORY ABOUT DAVE PAGE
In Ireland during the early 1930's Dave Page was a member of a motorcycle group using 500cc bikes and wearing black leather jackets. They used to scream though the quiet villages around Dublin while Dave played the accordion on the back of a motorcycle. When they camped in the quiet farming villages, they would stay up all night playing their accordions out loud, thus enraging the local farmers who told them to get out of there with their loud Ceile Music. They always popularized Irish music wherever they went, even if it wasn't always appreciated.
Dave Page is survived by:
Tom Page (oldest son) lives in San Diego & is a language instructor specializing in Gaelic. He has three children, Tom Jr., Dave & Patricia Page.
Dave Page Jr. (middle son) lives in San Diego & continues to perform music and has his own company "Page Drums". He has two children Neville Page & Janette Page (Nall).
Daughter Maire Page (Wendt) lives in North San Diego County & continues to perform and study the flute. She has three children, Gregory Page, Louisa & Emma Steed.
Sean "Bobby" Page (youngest son) recently re-united with the family lives in Santa Theresa, Sardinia and continues to play Trumpet & Cello.