Northumbrian Small Pipes:
people, bagpipes conjures up a vision of a kilted piper
playing in the Highlands of Scotland, but, the 'Scottish'
bagpipes are not the only pipes by any means. One of the
lesser known bagpipes is the Northumbrian Small Pipes. Unlike
the Scottish pipes, the bag is inflated by a small pair
of bellows which the piper pumps with his elbow. They produce
a far sweeter sound and are designed for indoor playing,
rather than outdoors.
are still many people who play the Northumbrian Pipes
and it's still possible to buy a set. Traditionally,
the pipes are made from blackwood, ivory and silver
or brass. Each set takes many hours of careful work.
Once made, the drones and chanter must be fitted with
reeds which need careful tuning and which can be affected
by changes in humidity. Like all bagpipes, the Northumbrian
Pipes will only produce their best when they are in
constant use. The bag, (made of leather), can dry out,
the reeds can go off key and the bellows, (made of
wood and leather), can crack. A good set of pipes is
unlikely, ever to be sold secondhand - they tend to
be passed down through the family or passed on to a
you are interested in the history and construction
of the Northumbrian pipes try this resource
page. It contains a collection of items I gathered
while making a set of pipes.
There aren't many CD's available featuring the Northumbrian
pipes (Scottish pipes are ten a penny). When I first
started listening, there was only one by 'Billy Pigg',
who was, until his death, one of the better known pipers.
There is however, one new piper on the scene who is fast
approaching international fame - Kathryn Tickell,
a talented artist on the Northumbrian bagpipes and fiddle,
Kathryn was named official piper to the Lord Mayor of
Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1984. She was the first person
to hold that title in over 150 years. Since then, she's
earned a reputation for playing the pipes on several
folk albums and with Sting.
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