Border Bagpipe List

Rummaging through my music files trying to find a piece of music, I came across several lists of tunes that I used to play a few years or perhaps a decade ago. I find lists of tunes interesting as they tell of what a musician was interested in at that time; if one compared those melodies with what one is playing today then one can see a shift in musical style, taste and interests.

I will list the tunes on the piece of paper, they are tunes for the Border Pipes; all in a 1 octave range. Some of the tunes I still played today and will be continued to be played as I love them, some date back earlier to when I first started playing Northumbrian Small Pipes in 1987. They are old friends…and still remain so.

The tunes come from various musical manuscripts/books; with a guess it is a list from about 2012. I also think the list contains melodies that I was playing with the “Half-Long” bagpipe repertoire in mind, its repertoire represented by the Cock’s Bagpipe Book, that I had bought in the 1980s.

My Border pipe has a upper sharpened 7th note making in more a Half-Long chanter than a Border chanter (which has a flattened 7th). The list was written at a time when I decided to call my Border pipe, a Half Long pipe; which is a term not often used today in piping circles.

I do not play some of these melodies today, perhaps it is a list that reflects my intentions… a “to do list”, the majority of these tunes I have memorized. I seem to remember I was rehearsing for gigs in Spain during that time; and perhaps this is why I have included Spanish tunes as well as Belgian tunes?

Perhaps I was looking for a repertoire to play at the concert on my Half-Long pipes that give a balanced repertoire from both sides of the English and Scottish Borders; as well as including a European connection, the list would suggest this.

The Half-Long Pipes List:

Peacock Manuscript (Northumbrian Small Pipe repertoire of 1800) tunes commonly played:

Bonny Pit Laddie
Millar’s Daughter
Butter’d Peas
O’er the Dyke
Highland Laddie (both versions)
Newmarket Races
Jackey Layton
Frisky
A Mile to Ride
Welcome to the Town Again
Bonny Lad
Fare Well
I’m O’er Young to Marry Yet
Sr. Charles Rant
General Toast
Oyster Wife’s Rant
Holmes Fancy
Wylam Away
Tolloch Goram

(Peacock tunes that I play occasionally, not fully memorized):

The Bonnie Mare and I
All Night I Lay with Jockey
O’er the Border
My Dear Sits O’er Late Up
I Saw My Love Come Passing by Me
Parks of Yester
Holey Ha’penny
Fenwick O’Bywell

Cock’s Half-Long Bagpipe Book (1950s)

Fair Main of Whickham
Sandhill Corner
Till the Tide Comes In
Noble Squire Dacre
Sunderland Lasses /Lads of Alnwick
Chevy Chase
Peacock’s March
Brave Willie Forster
Follow Her over the Border
Felton Lonning
Christmas Day in the Morning
The Lass and the money is All My Own
Peacock’s Tune
The Piper’s Maggot
Blackett O’Wylam

Matt Seattle’s Workshop Notation:
O’Stumpie
Sky Crofters

Highland Bagpipe Tune
The Battle’s o’er

Over the Hills and Far Away (Border Bagpipe Book Collection of Tunes)
I’ll gang nae mare tae yon toun

Galician tunes:
Muineira Des Hio
Rumba Des Cortes

4 Belgian Tunes

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Concert: Newcastleton Folk Festival

I decided to have a theme for this year’s concert at Newcastle Folk Festival. Last year at the Friday night concert, I played a random set of tunes from the Peacock Manuscript. But this year I wanted to select different “variation” pieces of Northumbrian music played on the Northumbrian Small pipes.

These variation sets, are long pieces of music; similar to having 5 or 6 melodies added after each other. They are very characteristic of old Border Northumbrian melodies. There are suggestions why these variations came to be added after the main piece of music (the A and B sections of a melody). Some say they are for dancing, for the musician not to be bored; some say they are for listening, as in a concert environment and the player can express their virtuosity and skill.

Whatever the reason these variations can be simple or complex, often long in length sometimes having 25 sections; or as little as 2.

The old manuscripts have variation pieces in them: Dixon, Peacock, and Bewick are the manuscripts I chose to play from.

I started the concert with a reason why I chose to do the variation pieces. This was because 2 years ago I was sitting in a session listening to a friend of mine playing a variation piece on the Scottish Small pipes. As I was listening a man learned across to me and whispered in my ear “it goes on a bit”. He clearly did not like these long pieces of music. It is an expression I have heard before, especially from non-musicians. They do not understand why it is so long, or what the tune is trying to convey to the listener.

People have a short concentration span, 3 minutes on average, as long as a pop song; after that their mind goes onto other things. The variation piece needs concentration to listen and understand it properly; or the audience needs activity as in dancing. These melodies more makes sense when one is playing for a dance; it can get very boring to play the same melody over again, often 15 times while the dance is going on. It makes more sense to keep adding parts so the musician can keep an interest and therefore put some life into the playing.

The comment, made by the man in the session, kept in my mind for a while and I mused upon its reason and solution. “How could I make these traditional pieces of music more understandable and digestible for the listener?”.

In the concert at Newcastleton, I began with a very simple variation piece, Peacock’s “Highland Laddie”; mentioning that the 2nd part of the tune, is another melody called “Butter’d Peas” also from Peacock with the parts changed around. Instead of parts C and D, as in the Highland Laddie, they become parts A and B in Butter’d Peas.

With this example I began to mention my method for other variation pieces. I said “I began to chop up the variations into A and B parts, to make them more easily remembered, as well as giving them a life of their own, then when I had mastered the 2 parts, I joined them onto the variation piece once more”.

To demonstrate this I played Dixon’s “Highland Laddie” mentioning that I missed out the last 2 parts as I found it was “enough for me to play”. I wanted to say that musicians should play what feels comfortable to them, what they like and what they consider appropriate. There is no law that you must play all of the variations. Pick out the best parts and play those.

My next example was Bewick’s “Blackett O’Wylam” where I played all of the parts; followed by Peacock’s “Newmarket Races” where I only played the first 4 parts.
The next melody was Bewick’s “Sir John Fenwick’s” where I played all of the parts, and lastly I played Dixon’s “New Way to Bowden” where I played all the parts.

The concert was recorded and I will upload the recording at a later date.

Rehearsals in Retiro Park

Sun, nature, music and good company…for me, you can not beat that. Alba and I decided to rehearse for the first time together with the fiddle and the Galician chanter. We met in Retiro Park, inside of Madrid, on a saturday morning and with our little red book containing our set list – a collection of Northern Spanish and Northumbrian tunes – we began rehearsing the melodies to who ever passed by.Fiddle and Gaita

The bagpipe is a “hybrid” a combination of using a Galician chanter (in the key of D) and drones, which I made, based on the Border pipes, using a Northumbrian tuning (D and A). Alba simply tuned her fiddle into my chanter… and away we went.

Some people decided to sit on the benches and listen, take videos… old, young and a group of Hip-hop teenagers! The weather was great.

here are some of the videos from the rehearsal.

The Millar’s Daughter, is a Northumbrian Smallpipe tune found in Peacock Manuscript.

Frisky, is a Northumbrian Smallpipe tune found in the Peacock Manuscript.

Danse La Pirineo is a Aragon, Spain.

Muiñeiras De Rengos, a Asturian tune, here is just an extract.

Kelso Lasses, is a tune from the Scottish/English Borders, a 9/8 tune.

L’Arrastrat’ is a tune from Catalonia, and the following tune is from Mallorca, Bollero de Santa Maria

Ribeirana de Redondela is a melody from Galicia.

I’m Over Young to Marry Yet, and the Highland Laddie, are Northumbrian tunes, both from the Peacock Manuscript.

A melody from Zamora, Spain.

Another version of the Northumbrian melody “Frisky”

The Millers (Galician) Daughter!

Here is a recording of a Northumbrian Small Pipe melody called “The Millers Daughter” from the Peacock manuscript from 1800. It is a melody I have played a lot on Small Pipes and Border Pipes over the years.

I am experimenting a lot these days, by playing various Small Pipe melodies on the Galician chanter. The reason why I am playing these tunes on a Spanish bagpipe is not for this blog right now, but there are certain Northumbrian tunes that go well with the Gaita (bagpipe) and certain tunes that do not feel ‘right’.

I bought this chanter, which is in the key of D. A high pitch sounding instrument, that is not that common in Spanish music. Normally you would hear a chanter in C or Bb. I chose D as I wanted it compatible with a lot of Northumbrian/Irish session instruments.

The pitch is a little high, so I made a bass drone in D and a tenor drone in A, but this did not sound right either, it did not suit the melodies too well, so I made another bass drone in D. 2 bass drones in D, give a deeper harmonic in relationship to the high-pitched D chanter (although this recording does not show it too well, this was only a demo).