Tim Britton Biography

Tim Britton is among the foremost of a generation making innovative contributions to the Irish tradition. These compelling tunes and bittersweet songs formed the basis of much of American music and have since risen to be one of the most dynamic areas in world music.

Although he is best known for his virtuosity on the rare Uillean (i'lan) pipes (a sophisticated Irish bagpipe), wooden flute and tin whistle, he is also accomplished on the Highland pipes, mandolin, and as a singer and storyteller. His unique approach as an American with many influences is founded on a thorough knowledge of the tradition.

Born into a family central to the folk music scene, Tim was exposed to a panorama of traditions at the many festivals throughout the sixties. His father, George, a folksinger, was instrumental in the early folk music revival around Philadelphia. His mother, Charlotte, was an agent for performing artists and ran the Britton Folk Studio for 25 years, one of the most successful folk music schools. His two sisters have traveled the country playing a range from folk to funk; Ellen lives in Nashville, touring for several years with country star Pam Tillis, Shania Twain and others.

At age ten, Tim became fascinated with his Celtic roots and immersed himself in all facets of the culture. Picking up the tin whistle and later the Highland and Uillean pipes, he scrutinized recordings of the masters. He was further nurtured by the weekly dances held at the Philadelphia Irish Center, quickly gaining the respect of the musicians there, as well as learning to dance. Due to the healthy Irish music scene on the east coast, he was able to play with numerous musicians, young and old, from Ireland and America. His determination to acquire a full set of pipes led him to learn the art of pipemaking, soon becoming one of the most respected in the field. At age fifteen, Tim received a grant to attend the Willie Clancy School in Ireland, an annual workshop in Irish music, where he played with some of Ireland's finest, prompting the local newspaper to acclaim him as "a discovery".

In the following 35 years Tim has performed from Ireland to Hawaii with, among others, Mick Moloney and the Green Fields of America, Paddy O'Brien and Chulrua, Doc Sevrinsen and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Na Casaidigh, Eileen Ivers, John Whelan, Chanting House, Touchstone, Johnny Cunningham, Liz Carrol, Billy McComisky, Mark Simos and Gerald Trimble. Tim has performed at most of the nations festivals, including the 1982 World's Fair. He appears on over thirty recordings with the likes of banjo wizard Bela Fleck and singer Maura O'Connell, as well as one for the Smithsonian. Patrick Ball's storyteller CD, for which Tim did much of the music, won the 1996 NAIRD award for best spoken word album. Besides performing in concert, Tim has played on National Public Radio, including A Prairie Home Companion and All Things Considered, as well as numerous other radio and television appearances, and has composed and performed music for stage plays, radio drama, commercials, and modern dance. In 1989, Tim was designated as a "master" by the Iowa Arts Council and nominated for a "Best of Philadelphia Music Award." He has also taught at numerous workshops and in school and community programs, organized piping conventions, and authored a book and video on reed making. When Tim isn't touring, he can be found making pipes, or engineering and producing recordings in Fairfield, Iowa.

His performances lead you on a mystical journey through evocative a cappella numbers, delicate instrumentals, searing slow airs, and exuberant dance tunes, from ancient hearthside to a glimpse of a new world.

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