There is something magical about pipe tunes. The Northumbrian Pipes are incredibly versatile and have a greater range than many other pipes. In his foreword to the second edition of the Northumberland Piper’s tune book, the Earl of Tankerville notes ” The sound of the Northumbrian Pipes is compelling without being either aggressive or raucous. It is ‘compelling because it fits perfectly the land of its origin – the lonely parts of Northumberland – where it mingles its own type of Harmony with the cry of the curlew and the sounds of the Black-Face sheep roaming the hills and moorlands”. I think he has captured the character perfectly.
Though I cannot compete with some of the great tune writers who have given us so much of the Northumbrian Pipe Repertoire, I do, occasionally put pen to paper. I think its a lovely way to try to capture a memory or a feeling – and is very therapeutic. In the following tunes, I have, attempted rather inadequately to capture some of my own memories. In some cases (for example the Howtel Rant and Elmerice Fairfax), the influences are obvious, so please forgive!
One thing – after nearly 4 decades of piping – both with highland and Northumbrian pipes, one does learn many tunes….sadly one forgets many too! Whilst I think these tunes come from my own pen – it is just possible, that I may have merely remembered them….(!) If this is the case – then, once again, my apologies. I have run these past a number of more seasoned pipers than myself to try to weed out long remembered masterpieces written by someone else! If you spot one, please let me know on the comments page.
One of the things that I love about pipe tunes is the narrative – many come with a backstory. Where appropriate, I have included these here….
One final thing – my recording equipment is rather inadequate at present, until I have managed to sort out decent recordings, I have included midi sound files created by a machine – though this is a bit mechanistic, it may give you a feel for the music (albeit rather soullessly) if you don’t read music.
- Mindrum Billy
- The Howtel Rag