New Pipe/Concertina CD

It has been nearly 5 years since I made my last CD on the Bagpipes, but I have begun to make another one quite recently, not surprisingly it is made up from the environment I have been living in for the past 3 years…Spain and Sweden and of course the Scottish Borders. I became aware that a lot of the melodies I have been learning, listening too and practicing have not been melodies from my own region (I guess this is why I made a effort to learn new Border Pipe melodies – see “New Melodies for the Border Pipes” blog post below).

This new CD are mainly melodies from Northern Spain (Catalonia, Sanabria, Galicia) and these reflect the contacts I have had during my time there, they are not only notes or notation, but memories and people, places and times.

Another group of melodies are from Sweden, a country I like very much and have spent time kayaking and enjoying the nature, Their music fits very well into the Northumbrian Small Pipe fingering and scale range. Some of these melodies I learned from a harpist I play with in the UK, we play only ‘non-British’ melodies from France, Sweden and Spain and these will also be included on the CD mainly Scottisches and bourrées.

A few Belgium/Nederland tunes will be there too, I got these melodies when I lived in Amsterdam in the 1980s and I remember my time there through these tunes.
And of course there will be a few Northumbrian melodies with a 2nd voice/harmony to accompany the pipes. I will also include the English concertina  on some of the melodies either to accompany the leading melody or to add a 2nd harmony. Since the Northumbrian Small Pipes are ‘somewhere’ between a F and a F# I have to correct the pitch of the concertina!

The Cd is enjoyable to do but it takes many hours work, and this is only with the recordings…not to mention the mixing, production, CD design and printing…

Making a Scottish Small Pipe chanter

Turning the drilled piece of red wood after it has been bored makes it “chatter” (vibrate) especially in the center, so care is needed to steady the wood with the hands as one turns down the wood to the thin diameter. I am trying a different design with the reed stock so I went away from the traditional measurements. The reed end of the chanter fits into a “reed stock” so the chanter can be removed while the reed is still in the bag/stock.

I do not have a metal work lathe yet, so I turned the form down with the chisel then finished off with rough sandpaper to get the thickness even along the chanter, this helped to reduce “chatter”. The bottom end of the chanter is a little thicker to the top by a few millimeters.

Making Swedish Sackpipa (1)

I completed turning the chanter down to a workable size. I turned the bottom for the chanter so it would be able to fix a sliding part so I can tune the bottom E note exactly to the drone (1st getting it tune with the middle A – the root note). I saw this idea being used by Bors Anders, a sackpipa maker in Sweden. I used Beech wood to contrast the white Damson wood.

 The drone I had already made years ago, I think the wood was Lime wood with a nice grain. It is only temporary, used for quickness to test out the chanter. It is the same length as the chanter which is what is required and the same bore size.

Next is to make the bag and reeds…

Gaita Sanabresa in Zamora

Wandering through the medieval streets of Zamora, Spain, we came across a folkloric group dancing and playing Gaita Sanabresa.

The Fiesta was in aid of married women all over Spain, a sort of weekend long celebration. The colourful costumes of the women and loud resonating gaita made the streets come alive with tradition and feeling. Traditional music in its natural setting always makes it relevant.

Rabels in Castilla and Leon

I made my first Ravel last weekend. I did not know anything about them, only a idea that it was a “up-right” fiddle played in the Medieval Age, but I was wrong. The style of playing in Spain can be up-right or it can be rested into the shoulder and played like a violin, it is played mainly as an accompaniment to singing. It is a popular instrument in the northern region of Spain called Cantabria, but it is also popular in Castilla and Leon, where the workshop was held to make one. One finished ravel was made from a wooden clog, and nicely decorated.

Clog Ravel

The shape is like a cross between a violin and a guitar, it is bowed and the strings can be made from gut or metal. it is made from wood with the body made from a different wood to the soundboard, which is of a harder type.

My Ravel nearly finished

There are 3 stringed Revels (Rabel in Spanish) but we made the 2 string model. They are tuned a 4th a part, when I got home I found mine tuned nicely in a A (440c) and the drone string to a E (440c). Playing it is a different matter as I am not used to bowing, but I can find a scale now and the rest is practice.

 Making it was a joy, I really enjoyed it. As there were too many of us to make one from the beginning we went through the process of making the body and the bow by cutting out the form, but the main construction had already been done for us by our teacher Luis Payno, who is a maker of such instruments and more besides, concentrating on Shepherd instruments of Spain….single reed flutes, bagpipes etc. his web site is http://www.es-aqui.com/payno/pral.htm

A lot of the work was simply gluing and sandpapering, dying the wood and putting on the strings, but it took us 2 days. The workshop was held in a village called La Pedraia de Portillo, near to Valladolid in the region of Castilla and Leon. Accommodation was there in the old Missionary house, and meals were in the organizers home, excellent food! The company was great with late night party on the Saturday with music and more food, my only regret is that I could not understand much of the conversation, and neither could Leila who speaks Spanish, they were speaking a dialect of the area. There a mix of people from the area and some had done this before and some where obviously going to do it again in a more professional enterprise.

Completed Ravels, mine is on the bottom row, 2nd along

Animusic Conference (Aveiro University), Portugal

The Conference went well. I gave my paper on the Open-ended flute in Iberia. I got some positive feed back from other participants, and made some constructive contacts. A few leads which might lead me to other areas of music inside of Spain and Portugal which can only be positive, but in the question of the open-ended flute inside of Iberia is still in question and probably always will until some concrete evidence emerges of this flute type in Iberian history.
Other ney papers were given at the Conference, Turkish ney was, for me, interesting. But I found their information only related to Turkey. But the Turkish ney is surely more than that, as it was the Ottoman ney, which had its influence as far as Iberia. Also when one hears the styles of pre-1926 neyzens they style of playing is not like the ´mystic´style of one hears today in Turkey. It is more of a Arab style, melismatic; and with influences of Western music with uses of arpeggios etc. Neyzen Tefik can be said to use these influences.
We can not just look at one instrument and give all the credit to one country, no country works in such isolation, especially with a large Empirical Empire like the Ottoman.

Iberian Ney

Since there is only a few days to go until I fly off to Porto in Portugal, to give my paper on the “Open-Ended Flute of Iberia”, at the Organology Congress in Aveiro University / A N I M U S I C : Associação Nacional de Instrumentos Musicais / National Association for Musical Instruments – Portugal. I thought to share my Abstract here to post the question “Where has the open-ended flute gone in the Iberian Peninsula?

Commonly known as the Nay, or Kaval (or many other names), I believe it once exisited in Iberia during the occupation by the Moors for over 8 centuries. It is a long time to be under the influence of any power, and one would have thought that such an versatile instument such as this flute type, would have left its mark on the Iberian musical landscape? But, it seems to have completely vanished, except for some Ensembles who are using it in Sephardic and Andalusian recreations, but they are using it with no historical basis, as there is little to find. I think more work needs to be done on this topic, by people who can translate old text documents and find out in what capacity this flute was played and in what music.

“The Iberian Ney: Renewal and Invention”
By Kevin Tilbury

My paper intends to describe the open-ended flute of North Africa and asks the question, “What has happened to the open-ended flute of the Iberian Peninsula?” Since instruments have crossed over from north Africa into the Iberian Peninsular at different periods in history and many of these instruments have survived, flourished, transformed and progressed, I ask why the opened flute, such as the Nai and Qasba, which are evident in north Africa have not survived in Spain and Portugal. There seems to be a lack of evidence present in today’s musical sources.
Yet, the Iberian Peninsular offers an ideal environment, geographically, climatically and musically for this instrument to flourish and adapt and feel at home amongst the music of many regions and styles of Iberia. My own research so far in will show that there is amble interest and source material to resurrect and construct these types of flutes. With interest in Andalus and Sephardic music and various instrument makers constructing and experimenting with old traditional instruments it seems a good time to open the question and hopefully examine why and how the open-ended flute disappeared from the Iberian Peninsular.
Without drawing any final conclusions I hope to open certain areas of research, questions and debate asking why and how the open-ended flute died away and if there is factual evidence to reinvent this instrument back into the Iberian musical landscape.”

Penrith Theatre Concert,19.12.11 (UK)

The Charity “Music Vision” was booked into Penrith’s Theatre for two nights. I was to play a selection of tunes on the Northmubiran Small Pipes in the 2ndhalf. The theatre went back to 1928 and possibly before due to the black and white photographs back stage. The acoustics were good and the stage had ample room compared to Cumwhitten Hall. 

“Music Vision” did their set and other performers came on stage too some local to Penrith, I came on 2nd to last and played the same set as Cumwhitten but with guitar accompaniment. I felt the tunes were beginning to be a little fast for my taste, and it was difficult to hold it back on stage. The tempo of the tunes were good for dancing: waltz tempo and reels etc, but I was after a different sound. The melodies are dance melodies but since no one was dancing why play them as such? I wanted to slow them down and bring out the lyrical quality, the slightly held notes and vibrato using the microphone’s reverb. This I could not to a dance rhythm as well. 

There was a different mood, the audience were a little ‘flat’ no energy and lethargic and I also felt the musicians were too, perhaps after the good response everyone had on Friday it was a little hard to follow. But I felt I played well and the audience clapped a long under reduced steam for my set. Every night is different when performing and I think every audience should not be taken for granted, also there was little alcohol and I think for Cumbrian audiences is a major factor!

Cumwhitton Concert 16.12.11 (UK)

I was invited to play a small village hall on the outskirts of Carlisle, (UK) called Cumwhitton. The hall reminded me of my early music days of practising on stage no bigger than a postage stamp, tripping over wires and microphone stands. Tables were lay out and the hall could take 90 people (in fact there was well over 100), as people arrived it was clear there would be a lot more and they brought their own drink it was going to be lively.

The concert was in aid of the local Charity “Music Vision” who encouraged people, mainly with disabilities to sing and perform, they did a wonderful thing, and some of the people were severely handicapped but performed with conviction and feeling. The performers were all local, age ranging from 13 to over 65, some suffered from nerves better than others. 

Three school girls opened the performances by playing in a group singing songs and one was playing drums. The other school children who had meant to perform backed out as the school and Health and Safety imposed a lot of rules and regulations, insurance and other stupid laws (shame on them) and I guess the parents did not let them come, how stupid and pathetic can they be? Other singers had good voices, one 15 year old girl sang wonderfully.
There was a poetry reading, songs, solo guitarist, bands, and a Compare who had a more of her body out of her dress than in it. Good audience participation, jokes, moving recitals, and I did my performance on the Northumbrian Small Pipes. The tunes were: Mallorca/Wards Brae; Ye Banks and Braes of Bonny Doon/Believe me If All Those Endearing Young Charms/Bonny Lad; they were well recieved with the audience keeping time by banging on the tables.