Northumbrian Piping

Northumbrian pipes

The Primitives - played by Anthony Robb

01. Chevy Chase (trad)
02. Because He Was a Bonny/ Lad Holmes’ Fancy (all trad)
03. The Bonny Pit Lad (trad)
04. Believe Me If../Flett From Flotta (trad/D. MacLeod)
05. Cut & Dry Dolly (trad)
06. Farewell To the Creeks (J Robertson)
07. Hesleyside Reel/Noble Squire Dacre (all trad)
08. The Keelman Ower Land (trad)
09. Mallorca/Meggy’s Foot (Late Duke of Windsor/trad)
10. Roisin Dubh/Peggy & Ivan’s (trad/Nikki Williamson)
11. Winster Gallop/Davy Knick Knack (all trad)
12. Whittingham Green Lane/Michael Turner’s Waltz (all trad)
13. I Saw My Love Come Passing By Me (trad)
14. Lasses Pisses Brandy/Mount Your Baggage (all trad)

The Primitives is that rare thing; an honest, intimate and personal statement from a musician with something profound to say. The message is not the usual “listen to me”, but instead “listen to this”. Anthony gives absolute primacy to the instrument and the music he has so carefully chosen to reveal its unique sound. And what a fabulous voice these “primitive” pipes have – sweet, yet suffused with a raw, earthy energy. Anthony is known as someone who thinks a great deal about his music and feels it even more. This work confirms him as a master of his craft – a piper steeped in the traditions of the North East of England, possessing the confidence and respect to allow the music to speak for itself. Stewart Hardy

A Beginner's Guide to the Northumbrian Smallpipes

After 40 years of pipes tuition to groups and individuals, Anthony has produced a teaching package for beginners. Ably assisted by pipes graduate Paul Knox it is based on teaching notes prepared when he was asked to teach the pipes to 6 Iranian musicians in November 2004 and yes, there is a Farsi version of the original notes out there somewhere!

The A4 booklet is designed to support the oral teaching approach presented on the accompanying CDs 1, 2, and 3.

CD 1 – Getting Started deals with basics including putting on the pipes, fingering the chanter, controlling the bellows, the fingered scale and G arpeggio and two simple tunes, Three Blind Mice and Hexham Races. It is played on ‘standard F’ pipes.

CD 2 – The Tunes has 10 tunes (adapted where necessary) for the keyless chanter played normally then slowly to enable students to join in. Tracks 1-19 are played in standard F pipes pitch.
1) Hexham Races, 2&3) The Rowan Tree, 4&5) Whittingham Green Lane,
6&7) Flett From Flotta, 8&9) Scott Skinner’s Cradle Song,
10&11) Michael Turner’s Waltz, 12&13) Mallorca, 14&15) Leaving Lismore,
16&17) The Pipemaker’s Hornpipe, 18&19) Blowzabella.
Tracks 20-38 are played in G concert ‘school pipes’ pitch.

CD 3 – Drones & Keys covers tuning drones to G major, D major and A minor and the use of keys with examples of tunes using a 7 key chanter and those 3 key signatures.

CDs G1 and G2 contain the relevant parts of the main CDs adapted for the G concert pitch ‘school pipes’ and can be substituted for the above on request.

Tutor book and CDs

Paul and Anthony’s tutor book is a helpful beginner’s guide to learning the smallpipes. It introduces the very first steps of learning in simple, structured ways, building the steps clearly and accessibly with visual pictures and helpful reminders. I particularly like the introduction of the arpeggio (low)GBD (high)G as an introductory pattern of notes. The young pupils who I have taught on the schools pipes project found this a helpful step towards building an early tune, both in their fingering and what they could hear in the pattern of notes. The tutor book emphasises “letting the sound get into your fingers as well as your head”. The addition of a CD with tracks, backing the learning steps as well as illustrating the tunes featured in the book, supports this process of learning and hearing, enabling students to feel their way in to the sound of the pipes in both head and fingers. The second CD accompanying the book has ten tunes for the keyless chanter played normally, and at a slower speed, to enable students to follow and join in. It is helpful and supportive for beginners to have something to re-read and listen to, and play along to, especially when starting off on your own, and to feel that the pipes are a manageable octopus! The material is presented thoughtfully and in an encouraging, friendly way. It is a bit like having Paul and Anthony in the room talking you through it.
Gwennie Fraser

CD cover

A Look at 'The First Thirty'

This album looks at the 30 tunes published by the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society in ‘The First 30’ tune book which was the brainchild of Edmund and Rupert Boulting. All 30 tunes are played slowly straight through ‘as written’ followed by a more detailed look at marches and rants.

The Northumbrian tradition is unique in its rant rhythm which is subtly different to the rest of Britain. It is more economical, for example, than the Dorset or Lancashire versions and this is reflected in the music. Marches are much more relaxed in feel but still retain a pulsing polka type of lilt which has little in common with the more common ‘4 square’ military examples. In order to illustrate these differences in these two tune types the renowned fiddler Stewart Hardy studied examples from the playing of the established leading traditional players and programmed rhythm guides which keep the tempo steady and provide a insight into the ‘grooves’ required to get the feel of the tunes. The 10 examples are played with and without the guides and the guides themselves are presented in 4 minute blocks for individual practice.

Will Atkinson’s famous advice that the most important thing with this music is to get the tempo and beat right. Both he and Willie Taylor picked up their musical style from players who were links in the aural chain going back at least 200 years. With pipers such as Mary Anderson, The Halls of Hedgeley, James Byrnes, Doad
Taylor, Bill Drummond and Gordon Drummond aided and abetted by fiddlers such as Geordie Armstrong, Archie Bertram and Willy Miller along with box players like Tommy Marshall (Nancy Taylor’s grandfather), Tommy Edmondson et al. It is hoped some of this tradition is evident here. In short this CD aims to help the beginner get to grips with the bare bones of each tune and then offer guidance in phrasing with possible embellishments and decorations for players as they progress ‘beyond the dots’.

Hello Anthony, I bought the Windy Gyle “Force 6” from Paul Knox at the NSP course at Blankenheim, Germany and I like it a lot. I also got “A look at the first 30” from Paul and this CD is very helpful for me to practise smallpipes. To tell the truth, I only bought it because it is NSP music (hard to get in Germany) and I thought I will listen to it only once and then “forget it”, but I have now practised 4-5 times with this CD and it is very helpful for me, more than I expected.
It helps me:
1) to slow my too fast playing
2) it is good practise for intonation playing against another piper (I have no other NSP player to play with)
3) most of the tunes I already knew and play them by heart, but playing tunes by heart often changes the tunes, I play my own version, not bad at all, but I recognised that I changed too much, especially the rhythm of some tunes. Your comment to the rhythm of Northumbrian music is VERY useful. I was totally wrong with the rhythm of a rant, I always thought it is a slower reel.
At first I was a little confused because of the “techno-pop”sound of the rhythm guide, but it works great and it is more fun to play with the rhythm guide than with a metronome.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen / with compliments
Markus Gäbel

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