The Wind in the Reeds: The Northumbrian Smallpipes

By Alistair Anderson, Jim Hall, Anthony Robb, Carole Robb, Colin Ross

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“The Wind in the Reeds: The Northumbrian Smallpipes”

Five Northumbrian pipers:

Alistair Anderson ~ small pipes & concertina
Jim Hall ~ small pipes & piano
Anthony Robb ~ small pipes
Carole Rob ~ small pipes & flute
Colin Ross ~ small pipes, fiddle & viola

& collectively once known as “The Cut and Dry Band”.

“The Wind in the Reeds: The Northumbrian Smallpipes” ~ sleeve notes

TSCD529, Topic Records Ltd., 2001

THE NORTHUMBRIAN SMALL PIPES have existed since at least the 17th century, if not earlier — an instrument unique to the North East of England with its own special sound. This record traces the history of the instrument’s music. The early tunes had to fit within the limited confines of the first instruments’ range but, necessity being the mother of invention, this produced tunes that may have been limited in tonal range but were certainly not at all limited in melodic invention. In time the instrument developed enabling moe complex tunes with gerater range to pass into the tradition. This recording features the whole range of sound and repertoire from solos to full band arrangements from some of the finest players.

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In this unrivalled compilation the piper Colin Ross, of the High Level Ranters and The Cut & Dry Band, assembles a sound-library of piping styles and Northeastern melodies by both current players and past masters such as Tom Clough, Joe Hutton and the incomparable Billy Pigg.

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Notes from Colin Ross (partial):

“Since the 1970s, when the original recording of The Cut and Dry Band were released, there has been a continuing surge of interest in the music and the playing of the Northumbrian small pipes. the two LPs, ‘Cut and Dry Dolly’ and ‘Cut and Dry #2’, (released on Topic in 1976 and 1980 respectively) played their part in this and can be regarded as seminal in respect of this interest. A new generation of pipers is taking a greater interest in the playing of these older, classic, tunes as heard on these recordings and it is appropriate to make them available now in CD form. This is, therefore, a compilation from the original LPs to satisfy the demand by the new generation to hear this material.

The notes to the original recordings refer to the music of the one octave small pipe chanter with the three accompanying drones that was common throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the tunes were adapted from the Border pipe repertoire, and some from the playing of the flute and fiddle, but all had the limitation of the one octave - - -

- - - The second album, simply called ‘Cut and Dry #2’, was recorded in 1980, five years later than the first, and showed not only the development of the tunes played but also in the pipes themselves. The chanters were all keyed to give a range similar to the fiddle, and an extra drone was added to give extra harmony to the various musical keys in which the pipes could be played. The original pitch of the chanter had been raised from F natural to G and even down to C, and chantesr in these different pitches were feaured on the later recording. - - -

These recordings of 1975 and 1980 were made at a time when piping was just beginning to become popular with new instruments being made that were of a standard pirch so that it was possible to have groups of pipers playing together, which is so much a feature of today’s piping. The Pipers Society continues to flourish - - - and there are a number of piping courses in the UK and other parts of the world. The tunes played on this recording have become the main part of the piping repertoire, showing that it is as relevant today as it was then.“

The Northumbrian Pipers’ Society

Cuckold Came Out Of The Amrey - not so far entered in the Tunes base - is generally or at any rate often played with variations following the first two parts. IMO, it is one of the more rousing of these tunes-with-variations pieces in the Northumbrian piping repertoire.

Oh Dear What Can The Matter Be, played on Northumbrian pipes with the customary variations (composed I believe by the earlier c20 piper Tom Clough), can be far more more inspiring to listen to than the title alone might suggest. If the piper is up to it, anyway.

“The Wind in the Reeds: The Northumbrian Smallpipes” ~ LP origins

Alistair Anderson, Anthony and Carole Robb, Colin Ross, Jim Hall
Topic Records TSCD529 (CD, UK, 2001)

Tracks 1-11 are from the Topic LP “Cut and Dry Dolly” (12TS278, 1976);
Tracks 12-23 are from the Topic LP “Cut and Dry #2” (12TS413, 1980)

Mainly Norfolk: English Folk and Other Good Music

LP: “Cut and Dry Dolly: Northumberland Small Pipes”

Alistair Anderson, Jim Hall, Anthony Robb, Carole Robb, Colin Ross
Topic Records 12T278 (LP, UK, 1976)

Tracks 1-11 are from this LP…

LPs: “Cut & Dry 1 & 2” ~ those tracks absent from this CD

“Cut and Dry Dolly: Northumberland Small Pipes”

_1. ) (A-1) “Sunderland Lasses” / “The Lads of Alnwick”

_9. ) (B-2) “John Fenwick’s A Flower Among Them All”

14. ) (B-7) “My Laddie Sits O’er Late Up” / “Shew’s The Way To Wallington” / “Drops Of Brandy”

“Cut and Dry #2”

_9. ) (B-2) “Dr. Whittaker’s” / “Nancy”

14. ) (B-7) “Bonny Woodside” / “Coffee Bridge”

These missing tracks can be found on this CD:
“The Northumberland Small Pipes” (TSCD487, 1996)

Re: The Wind in the Reeds: The Northumbrian Smallpipes

This is a must-have for these who like listening to Nothumbrian smallpipes.
I also didn’t know until very recently that “Oh Dear, What can the Matter Be?” has Northumbrian roots, and had just thought it was a childrens’ song. The variations are great on this album though.

Re: The Wind in the Reeds: The Northumbrian Smallpipes

To your last comment, that tune is also played as a jig in Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle traditions. I remember being very surprised when I first heard it.

Re: The Wind in the Reeds: The Northumbrian Smallpipes

That’s very cool, @Daniel Parker. Is it still called “Oh Dear, What can the Matter Be?” or does it go by a different name?
I’d say on this album, it has more of a waltz style.