Northumberland has a strong tradition of pipe-playing dating back centuries. As piping in the region has developed so have the instruments themselves. Over the centuries local pipe makers have developed two styles of pipes unique to the region:
"The Northumbrian smallpipes consist of a bag which is inflated by bellows under one arm (rather than by blowing into it, like the Scottish bagpipes). The bellows are used to provide dry air which the small sensitive reeds require. The music is light, lilting and melodic."
In this short musical clip we hear Northumbrian Piper Joe Hutton playing three melodies composed by Archie Dagg. Begining with the Slow Air 'Swindon', this is followed with 'Joe Hutton's March' and finally we hear the 'Foxglove Hornpipe'. The tunes were recorded at the Bay Hotel Cullercoats on 8th April 1979. Other selections taken from this concert can be found in the FARNE archive.
The Northumbrian half-long pipes or Border pipes, as they are commonly known, produce a stronger, more robust sound than the smallpipes. A recent discovery has been the find of written music for the half-long pipes, published in 1733, some 60 years before the oldest known Scottish bagpipe music.
In this musical example we hear Paul Roberts playing Border pipes, accompanied by Dave Wright on fiddle, playing the tune 'Rusty Gulley'. The melody is taken from a fiddle manuscript written by William Vickers in the late 18thC. Digitised images of all the tunes in the manuscript can be found in the FARNE archive.