Peter’s Pondering Pipes #4

This is the fourth post in the series. Previous posts can be found by clicking on #PETER’S PONDERING PIPES.

We have moved from Ireland, via Northumberland, and now journey to Wales.

The Pibgorn is a Welsh reed-pipe (a kind of ‘bag-less’ bagpipe, if you will, similar to the Basque alboka), with a long history of use in Wales going back to the Middle Ages. There is a Pibgorn revival at present, and some makers have ‘re-bagged’ the pipe to recreate and revive the equally ancient Welsh Bagpipe.

Unique amongst British pipes in having a single reed, Welsh Pibgorn Pipes tend to be in D, have an eight note scale, use open fingering and have a single drone on the shoulder. Drones can usually be retuned up a tone, so that minor modes can be played. The chanter usually ends in a piece of carved horn, projecting forwards and amplifying the sound.

With a repertoire drawn from traditional Welsh sources (and even hymns) they sound ancient and very different from all other British pipes.

If we first look at the Pibgorn reed pipe it is obvious that it was a fairly simple instrument that could be made by a shepherd, or stockman, to entertain himself during brief interludes of rest from work. It has a limited musical range but can, with practice, achieve quite sophisticated sounds. Here it is described in the marvellous Welsh language.

Again, in Welsh, we have Gavin Morgan now describing his experience with the Welsh Pipes.

And now, at Cuffern Manor, on 2/3/2011, we hear John Tose, on Pibau cyrn (hornpipes) and daughter Micky Tose on Ukulele. He apologises for a slight fluff on the first tune and says “ah well, no-one’s perfect.”

He goes on to say: This is a bellows-blown bagpipe set that I made from soft maple. The chanter is a pibgorn (Welsh hornpipe) which I also made from soft maple and cow horn. Chanter reed is cane (phragmites australis) and the drone reed is a very steady metal body/ plastic tongue reed, both of which I also made. Plans for the chanter itself comes from Gerald KilBride’s Website The drone, reeds, bag and bellows are my own design. Gerald’s website is a great resource for instructions on how to reconstruct the ancient Welsh Pibgorn. Please forgive the lack of skill in playing…..and also forgive the fact that I have taken a little bit of “creative licence” in my interpretations of these three traditional Welsh tunes. For example in the first tune (Hyd y Frwynen) I made up the C part of the tune while I was learning it. In the second set of tunes (Llongau Caernarfon and Mopsi Don) the drone started to drop in pitch a few cents due to the reed being nearly brand new and it has not really settled in. Hope you like the pipes.

And, finally, here is an example of more commercial Welsh bagpipe music, by Estron, (mostly comprising the Tose family – see above) showing some of the fantastic Welsh countryside with images taken during a walk over the Preseli hills, early May, 2016.

22 thoughts on “Peter’s Pondering Pipes #4

  1. This is lovely, Peter. The first instrument, all hand made and so simple yet it produces such a unique sound. The father and daughter…at first she seemed a downcast lass then halfway through she lifted her head and smiled, what a sweet face! Then the wonderful Wales countryside…I wish I could have seen so much more of the British Isles. My fault that I didn’t of course. I did go to Wales once for lunch in a pub that was owned by relatives of a friend, but I don’t even remember where it was. I don’t think I could ever get my head around the language, though I love to hear it. Thank you Peter!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How fascinating. I love the feeling of music so much I have long been convinced I am ‘musical’ and can learn to do these things. I cannot learn to do these things. And watching these videos confirms that. But oh how I love it. I am so very much enjoying these different bagpipes and players Peter!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am so loving the very different physical appearance of them as well. And I would love to be watching over the shoulder of the first human who ever figured out to put these pieces together and make these sounds. Wouldn’t that be something!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m with SueW. I prefer Gafin and his cheeky grin, too.
    Wales is such a wild and rough-looking country I have on my list to visit.
    This series is wonderful! Looking forward to the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

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