Joe McHugh is originally from Derry N. Ireland. At an early age he became fascinated with music and was taught to play the piano by his mother and later taught himself to play the guitar and mandolin. One day his father returned home with a set of Uilleann pipes and Joe's musical future was sealed. He started to learn the pipes from local pipers in the Derry area such as Brendan Saunders and Finbar McLaughlin.
Early influences were the music of Planxty and the Bothy Band especially the piping of Paddy Keenan. Later Joe meet pipers such as Joe McKenna who also influenced Joe's music, later the two Joe's were to play mighty piping duets in a band called Slua Nua, which recorded an album on the Shanachie label.
The piping of Patsy Touhey the American vaudville, Irish imigrant piper, from Louhgrea Co. Galway had also an influence on Joe's style and technique.
Joe's father was a great fan of fiddle music and his grocer shop in Waterloo street was often the meeting point for fiddlers from all over, music was never far away.
It was when he went to study at the University of Ulster that he met many like minded people who were completely in love with the music and it was these years had a great impact on Joe. It was at that time that Joe met the likes of Ben Gunn, Gary Hastings, Ciaran Curran, Paddy O'Neill, Brian Mullen, Len Graham, Joe Holmes, Jackie Devenney and the late departed and sadley missed Eithne Ní Uallacháin. In 1977 he won at the age of twenty years the coveted All Ireland Uilleann Piping competition. Since then he has toured extensively world wide with many different goups of musicians. In 1990 he lead a group of traditional Irish musicians for a tour of Russia and Uzbekistan which was featured in the BBC-RTE documentary "The Soviet Session". This resulted in a musical partnership with hammer dulcimer player Barry Carroll and the release to critical acclaim of THE LONG FINGER album.
In recent years he has recorded and toured with Antonio Breschi, Martin O'Conor, Afterhours, Alan Burke, Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners, SluaNua, Shirley Grimes, Airla, Rattlin' Strings, Bob Bales, Gilbert Paeffgen, The Keiser Twins, and A Tale of the Gael.
In the summer of 2000 Joe was invited by Andreas Vollenweider to join him on a European tour. This involved festivals in Turkey, Germany, Italy and Switzerland culminating in the "Live At Sunset" concert at the Landesmuseum Zürich.
Joe's musical horizons cover not only "pure" traditional music but with his imaginative musicianship he also inspires and adds a celtic dimension to World Music and Jazz.
Over the past few years he has turned his creativity to composing instrumental pieces in the traditional idiom. He has appeared in numerous movies were he plays the pipes
With the Rev. Gary Hastings and the Rev Paddy O' Neill. Playing tunes on St.Patrick's Day Morning 1978 in The Anchor Bar in Portstewart.
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