The sound of Northumbria
2nd March, 2015
You may have heard the sweet melodious notes of the Northumbrian pipes (called small pipes) on your travels. This busker – seen in Northumberland Street, Newcastle – is playing such an instrument. It looks a bit like conventional bagpipes but you will see it is blown with a bellows. The way the pipes is constructed gives it a staccato sounding style and the music is also quieter than (say) the Highland bagpipes that most people are familiar with. The first record of Northumbrian pipers are from the 17th century but their history is likely to go back much further. In 1633 un-named pipers were paid for playing to road menders at their work in Gateshead. There are town pipers (Waits) recorded in Alnwick (1680's); Hawick, Jedburgh (1500) and Hexham (1665-80).
To read some interesting stories and information and about this Northumbrian instrument go to Pipersgathering. You might like to listen to some of Kathryn Tickell's work as she is a noted English player of these pipes and has recorded several albums.