By Ed Forry
When the American Ireland Fund hosted its annual November Boston Dinner last month, the AIF’s Steve Greeley arranged to present a performance by a young uilleann piper they brought in as a featured guest.
It was a champion piper from Co Waterford, a young fellow named Cian Smith, and he’s just 10 years old.
Turns out, young Cian is a cousin of the Forry clan – we each trace our Irish roots back to the family of my grandmother, Hannah Crotty Forry, who came to Boston in 1890, where she met and married my father's father, Patrick Forry.
It was Cian’s first-ever visit to our country, and he traveled here with his parents, Cillian and Nollaig Smith, who live near the land of my grandmother’s home in Ballymacarbry, near the Tipperary border town of Clonmel.
Some of my family here in Boston have visited with our Waterford cousins over the years, but regrettably I failed to connect with them during my trip to Waterford last August. Greeley arranged for us to meet the Smiths in Dorchester on Veterans Day, when Cian made a two-hour visit to the Irish Pastoral Centre.
That night, Cian performed before an audience of 1,100 in the ballroom of the Westin Waterfront, exchanging some light-hearted banter with Greeley. And when he performed, it’s reported that he “brought the house down,” receiving a standing ovation from the large gathering.
Last summer, Cian attended the Fleadh Cheoil in Sligo, where he won first prize in competitions on the tin whistle and uilleann pipes. The young musician is considered a musical prodigy, and has studied for just two years with the gifted uilleann pipe player David Power.
After the fleadh, teacher Power uploaded a video of Cian playing the pipes. “Ireland could have just found its latest music star, the Irish website ireland-calling.com said. “The video has now been viewed more than half a million times and shared by thousands of impressed traditional music lovers.
“Cian performs a fantastic rendition of “The Boy in the Gap” was the note his teacher posted online along with the video stating how proud he is of Cian, and crediting the boy’s hard work and commitment. He also points out the amazing fact that Cian has only been playing for two years.
“There have been concerns that traditional Irish instruments like the uilleann pipes, tin whistle, and the bodhrán have fallen out of favor in recent decades,” the teacher wrote. “Seeing talented young musicians like Cian excel is great for the preservation of these iconic Irish instruments.”