We did a little twirl of the Sele in Hexham, Saturday morning, in a persistent drizzle, so the opportunity to duck into the Abbey was welcome. I renewed my acquaintance with the ancient piper whose carving is part of an irreverent series of nine in the fifteenth century Leschman Chantry Chapel, positioned up to the left of the high alter.
Back at the turn of the century, we (Northumbrian Music Nights) shared an EU LEADER (Liaisons Entre Actions de Développement de l’Économie Rurale) project with a lovely village situated about three hours south of Rome, called Scapoli. Scapoli is the centre of an artisanal culture involved in the making of zampogna, apparently the original bagpipe.
It seems that the distribution of bagpipes follows the spread of the Roman empire. Each culture coming under the Roman domain may have incorporated distinctive elements of the original pipe and bag for their own. Certainly the zampogna is a very primitive instrument, if very loud. But members of the Italian band Il Tratturo, who visited Allendale, were proud of their lead zampogna player who had made his own modifications to the chanter, rendering it marginally more musical.
In the YouTube video linked above, Piero Ricci, the very same piper who thrilled us in Allendale, marches around a distraught Nina at La Scala, while her mental distress is communicated by undulating ribbons and a gyrating pendulum.
It was lovely to remember those heady days, when we embarked on projects with scarcely a care in the world, except that we were embracing the cultures of the continent, and they us. Scapoli welcomed a band we’d put together, Cappy’s Drift, featuring Ray Sloan and Andy Lawrenson on Northumbrian pipes, Paul Bloomfield on guitar, and Andy Morgan on fiddle, to their annual Zampogna Festival.
I made it myself, at a later point, to that festival, through a series of misadventures, but I suspect that the real cultural exchange was felt more thoroughly in Allendale than anywhere else. It was all a lot of fun, and great times to remember.
It seems you don’t realise just how and why these memories are laid down, but looking back we can only marvel at our wide-eyed wonder and delight. Such joy experienced, and reflected back at us, as I remember the leader of the Scapoli group exclaiming at her discovery of the little piper in the far nook at the top of the Abbey.
‘I find pipers everywhere I go!’ she laughed. A bit like finding a fillip of joy then.
Leave a Reply