Peter’s Pondering Pipes #5

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

We have moved from Ireland, via Northumberland, Wales, and now move down to Cornwall.

I am learning as much about pipes as you are so I shall ask an expert, Dr Merv Davey, to tell us a little about Cornish Pipes. Every 5th May might be the only time of year you get to hear any Cornish being spoken, so remember to join in and say Gool Peran Lowen (Happy St Piran’s Day) to your nearest and dearest each year!

Another name that constantly crops up when researching bagpipes is Julian Goodacre. He is a maker and researcher of the historical bagpipes of the British Isles, and is based in Peebles, Scotland. He has particularly specialised in reviving the extinct English bagpipes, Scottish bagpipes, and Cornish bagpipes.

Here he can be seen with THE CORNISH BAGPIPE SEXTET playing Shepherds Hey. Julian Goodacre – High G Cornish Double Pipes Callum Armstrong- low G Cornish Double Pipes John-Francis Goodacre- Cornish Double Pipes “This is the first video of my low G Cornish Double bagpipe, recorded by Ria Strangneth in The Great Hall of Elcho Street. Peebles. Jan 3rd 2019.” You may wonder where the other three players are! Well, each bagpipe is, in effect, two instruments, hence three players equals a sextet!

And here they are playing Half my Life by Julian Goodacre High G – Cornish Double Pipes Callum Armstrong- low G Cornish Double Pipes John-Francis Goodacre- C Cornish Double Pipes The Wiston Lodge Sessions Recorded at Wiston Lodge, Biggar, Lanarkshire, ML12 6HT. Scotland January 1st 2020.

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.

Peter’s Pondering Pipes #3

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

Uilleann pipes are not limited to the Irish and can often be found in the Scottish borders and especially in Northumberland.

Now, Northumberland is dear to my heart. It is a lovely county; it’s people are wonderful and welcoming, forthright and fun to be with. The historic county town is Alnwick. Northumberland and the historic county of Durham are traditionally known together as Northumbria. Northumberland is the least densely populated county in England, with only 62 people per square kilometre. (163 per square mile).

The Uilleann pipes found in Northumberland differ slightly from the Irish pipes in that the chanter is a closed, rather than an open, pipe. The traditional style of playing on the instrument is to play each note slightly staccato. Each note is only sounded by lifting one finger or operating one key and thus no sound is produced with all holes covered, so the pipes are briefly silent between any two notes and there is an audible transient ‘pop’ at the beginning and end of a note.

I am no expert so will let Kathryn Tickell explain in more detail. She is a renowned small pipes, and fiddle, player and I’m sure you will find her not only an entertaining musician but also a very personable lady.

The sound is low on this first video so you will probably need to increase the volume.

Remember you may need to reduce the volume before watching this next video!

and here we have Kathryn (and her pussy cat) enjoying Because He Was A Bonny Lad.

The first ever Tune of the month from Kathryn

Peter’s Pondering Pipes #2

In my first venture into pipe music, here, I introduced the Uilleann pipes, most often associated with the Irish.

The tone of the uilleann pipes is unlike that of many other forms of bagpipes. They have a different harmonic structure, sounding sweeter and quieter than many other bagpipes, such as the Great Irish warpipesGreat Highland bagpipes or the Italian zampogna. Uilleann pipes are often played indoors, and are almost always played sitting down.

Here you can learn a little more about the Uilleann pipes with some interesting historical detail and even a bit of narration in Irish.

And here is a more light hearted look at how the pipes work and sound:

and if you are wondering what the young lady is sitting there for, here is the answer:

Peter’s Pondering Pipes #1

I like pipe music!

I suppose I first grew to love The Pipes in the army where I saw innumerable pipe bands, enjoyed various concerts, and marched to their haunting beat.

I further grew to love them when posted to the Outer Hebrides where “The Pipes” were a way of life. They told of ancient battles and skirmishes, of the love and loss of sweethearts, of the struggles of daily life, and of the joys of singing, dancing, and community spirit and support.

My knowledge of the pipes was expanded over the years as I encountered more examples and I learned that not all bagpipes are the same. I discovered that bagpipes appear in one form or another all around the world. We will see some of them in later posts

Most people will associate bagpipes with the Scots and immediately think of men in kilts. However, I don’t want to start off there. Instead, I’m going to show you the Uilleann pipes, most often associated with the Irish.

Without further ado, here are The Chieftains, performing at the WGBH, Boston, MA, I think in 2012. They were still touring in March 2020 when Covid-19 put a stop to everything. You will see a rounded performance of music, singing, and dancing!

Sadly, Paddy Moloney, seen here playing the pipes and tin whistle, died on 12 October 2021 at the age of 83. May he Rest In Peace, having enjoyed giving so much pleasure to so many people over many years.