1st International Bagpipe Conference - Graham Wells - The Northumbrian small-pipes: a missed opportunity? Wed, 2013-03-27 20:24


The Northumbrian small-pipes: a missed opportunity?

Dr Graham Wells
While Northumbrian small-pipes still have their largest following in their home county the instrument now has many adherents not just in the United Kingdom but throughout the world. Its first period of maximum popularity was approximately in the first third of the 19th century along with other ?drawing room? musical instrument fashionable amongst wealthy amateurs, such as the harp lute and the flageolet.? However unlike these instruments it failed to spread throughout the rest of Britain.? This paper investigates the various reasons why this should have been the case.
The paper commences with a brief survey of the instrument?s rather sparely documented origins.? It looks at its development from a simple keyless instrument to a complex one with a range of two chromatic octaves which took place over a period of just some forty years.?? It proceeds to look at the influence of the dominant maker of the period, Robert Reid. It examines whether the instrument might have been a victim of its own growing complexity. It considers whether a lack of teachers or tutors combined with? other possible reasons may have restricted its spread beyond its region of origin.? Finally it will look at whether some or all of these factors still act as a restriction on the playing of the Northumbrian small-pipes.