The piece played by Paul Roberts in winning the Open Lowland/Border Pipes class at this year's competition was 'Lancashire Pipes'. Paul gave this introduction to his performance:
"It comes from a manuscript in Manchester Library which dates about 1625 and at first glance it looks like a rather strange piece of music; it's not like anything you'll hear today. It features extensive syncopation - it features repeated changes in tempo, rhythm, time signature; it contains three totally different melodies that are linked by rather strange free-form bits, and it's punctuated throuh=ghout by a series of repeated motifs and I think they are a clue to what it is becasue they sound like hunting horns and traditional hunting cries. I think it's a narrative of a fox-chase in the venerable tradition of fox-chases; there is some confirmation of that in the fact that the first horn sound you hear is the same one which is used in the well-known Irish fox chase. In the manuscript it is marked in places to be decorated though it doesnt say how to decorate it, so what I do is I add sound effects - barking of dogs, squealing and death-throes of the fox. So if I get this right, you should hear a story, the story of a hunt from the assewmbly in the morning to the triumphal return; if i dont get it right, you'll just hear a random selection of weird noises."
The manuscript which Paul refers to is anonymous and thought to date, as Paul says, to around 1625 though it may be a little later; it contains music for the bass viol, and is written in the tablature in use at that period. The music is arranged in sections, each for a different tuning for the instrument. What makes this manuscript, and what appears to be a 'companion' one compiled by Peter Leycester in Nantwich, of immense value to bagpipers is that one of the sections is for the viol tuned 'in the bagpipe manner' [essentially an open tuning, with a melody line and 'drone' accompaniments].
The viol is a fretted instrument; we are therefore left in no doubt about questions such as key signature or the use of accidentals; the notation leaves no doubt about pitches, though it may leave several doubts about rhythm and note-values, not to mention barlines, which were a convention seldom if ever employed in such notations at this time. Here, however is a transcript of the tablature into standarad notation; this transcript was first published in 'Robin with the Bagpipe - The English Bagpipe and its Music' by Pete Stewart [available at www.hornpipemusic.co.uk ] which contains all the 'bagpipe music' from the Manchester Manuscript. It is intended that transcription of the Leyecester manuscript's selection of similar 'bagpipe' music will be posted here soon.
Paul comments that: “I actually add to Lancashire Pipes an extra four parts found in the Leycester Manuscript. This material first forms an extension of the 3/2 hornpipe (part 6 in the Manchester MS); then links part 6 melodically to the opening march (parts 1-3); before finally dissolving into a sort of jazz like riffing”.
The music that Paul refers to here is a tune titled 'A Horne-pipe called the Bag-pipe Horne-pipe, Other=wise The Knave of Clubs'. A transcript is added below, again taken from 'Robin with the Bagpipe', where the music is printed for pipes in 'D'. Copies of the music printed for pipes in 'A' will be included in the June 2011 issue of Comon Stock.
In fact, in the manuscript there are three 'bagpipe' tunings; that for the 'Lancashire pipes' music is labelled 'the seventh tuning lancashire pipes', with intervals of 5th, 5th, 4th for the top four strings, the others being unused; the setting of "bagpipes" [the tune used by WIlliam Byrd, among others] is the 'eighth tuning- bagpipes", tuned in 5ths, and the 'ninth tuning - hornpipe', used for a tune called 'the horn=pipe or Beggars=Bush', has the top four strings tuned in 4ths.