A transcription of the talk given at the 2017 Collogue by Paul Martin

paul martin plays slovak gajdy

‘AS YOU CAN SEE, I’VE BROUGHT A FEW SETS OF BAGPIPES WITH US TODAY; it’s going to be a little bit of a bagpipe journey, both geographically and through time. When I was asked what I was going to do today I wasn’t quite sure so I said ‘medieval and folk tunes on single and double reed pipes’ – that kind of takes in everything that I do, so we’ll see where that goes.
I’ve got three single-reed bagpipes; as we go through I’ll have a little bit of chat about where they come from, how I came across them and a little bit about my own bagpipe journey.
Double-reed pipes; for the sake of getting them all in my box I’ve brought a ‘Frankenstein’ set, which is basically an A and a G border pipe, so I just swap the chanters round. This is a single-drone, mouth-blown bagpipe. We’ll have a few tunes on that as well, and look at the differences between what you might call the English one and the Scottish one.
I have a medieval bagpipe here as well. As you’ll discover this is a bagpipe in high D; it holds it’s own against three drums in a banquet so it might be overkill in this space
Paul then explained that none of the pipes he was about to play had been out of the box that day- ‘They’re pretty stable though; the majority use synthetic reeds’. The pipes he played first he explained, had two single reeds in the chanter stock. He then played a set of tunes.
‘This is the gajdy, in the Slovak language. It’s the same root as a lot of Slovak bagpipes. I’m not sure whether it’s connected with the Spanish ‘gaita’ – it seems a bit too close for there not to be some recent connection.
So in Slovakia I think I’m right in saying there’s about seven types of bagpipe, depending on the regions and a lot of them have cross-overs with borders of Hungary and to the north, Poland. I was lucky enough to go to a couple of festivals out there, one in the most northern village in Slovakia, just over the border from Poland and they have the same cultural traditions on both sides of the border. They play a particular kind of bagpipe – which I haven’t got with me. This one comes from the other end of Slovakia, from the Hungarian side. The Hungarian version has a tiny ‘flea-hole’ at the top which when opened will raise the pitch of any note by a semi-tone; I was using that in the tune I played to produce the minor third in the tune I just played. The Slovakians, I’m told, blocked up that hole with beeswax.‘
Paul then played a tune taken from a collection of a 17th century Hungarian noble-woman.

We then moved on to ‘quite a contrast in sound and construction’ though not before a brief discussion, prompted by a question from the floor, about fingering on the single reed chanter; Paul said his basic approach was ‘covered’ though he applied it rather loosely; he went on to mention that some Slovak players might use a wooden peg or beeswax to stop off the melody chanter with the same effect as the Northumbrian chanter. <

Paul then played an early English tune on the medieval bagpipe in high D, made by Jim Parr. A very different sound, using a double-reed, played with open fingering.

‘Back then to single-reeds and another Slovakian gajdy, this time from the west of Slovakia; the set of tunes Paul played included a trumpet tune (from John Kirkpatrick’s Teach Yourself Melodeon book) and Shepherd’s Hey’, just because it ‘they seemed to go quite well on the gajdy’. There then followed an amusing discussion on the possible explanations for the horn-shaped additions to the drone and chanter, including the storing of ‘an ounce of baccy’.’

Then we were back with double reeds, the A chanter (made by Nigel Richard). The drone is ordinarily in G, but has a tuning thimble which can be turned round to give a drone in A. Paul played ‘The Lads of Alnwick ‘ and ‘The Lass and Money Are All My Own’, followed by a story about dressing up as reivers and riding from Durham into Scotland, concluding with a tune that Paul wrote to commemorated the final stages of the trip.

He then installed the G chanter and played ‘Cuckold Come Out of the Amrey’ followed by a Polish tune from the 16th century and one of his own.

Paul then told the story of the final set of pipes he would play, that a Bulgarian neighbour had had made for him in return for Paul helping him move house. This was a kaba gaida from the Bulgarian Black Sea area, with single reeds made of elder. - A magnificent sound to end his presentation

Paul playing the Nitra Gajdy

Paul playing the high D medieaval pipes