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Northumbrian Pipers' Society NPSCD01

This CD sets out to show the breadth of Northumbrian pipe music being played today, with some world renowned players and some less famous. It includes traditional and modern pieces, solos and ensemble playing, French and Irish music, as well as many Northumbrian favourites. Sixteen pipers and various other musicians play over 40 tunes in 19 tracks: well over an hour of music on the Northumbrian smallpipes. Each set of pipes is slightly different, and sometimes this can be clearly heard. The arrangements differ too: pipes and fiddle, pipes and harp, pipes and hurdy-gurdy, pipes and harmonica and of course guitar and keyboard. Familiar names include Kathryn Tickell, Andy May, Chris Ormston, Anthony Robb and Becky Taylor, with Stewart Hardy on fiddle. All the other pipers here are of a very high standard, although some tracks are quite unpolished.

With Northumbrian music you expect certain things: hornpipes, rants, slow airs and variations. The Omnibus has all of these in full measure: 3/2 and 4/4 hornpipes by Hill or attributed to Hill or nothing to do with Hill, rants by Pigg or Tickell or neither, plus a whole slew of slow airs, jigs, slip-jigs and marches. There are traditional variations on classics such as Holey Ha'penny and My Dearie Sits Ower Late Up. There are modern virtuoso variations on Grey Bull Hornpipe and Wark Football Team by the inimitable Kathryn Tickell. It's the unexpected which makes this collection special: a set of French bransles, an air transposed from the Irish pipes, a Swedish waltz and several stunning new slow airs by Northumbrian pipers. Listen to the sweeping beauty of Catcherside, the stately grandeur of Memories Of Wallington, or the heartfelt sadness of Whisky Is Not Enough. If you ever wondered what Northumbrian smallpipes could sound like, here's your answer.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 100 of The Living Tradition magazine.