On Saturday 14th September 2019 a significant musical event occurred.   As part of the International Pipe and Tabor Festival organised by the Taborers Society, a consort of tabor pipes played in the historic Holy Trinity church in Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s burial place) – possibly the first time such a consort had been heard in England since Tudor times.

Five hundred years ago, tabor pipes were more commonly heard in auspicious venues such as courts, but during the next couple of centuries they went out of fashion, being replaced by recorder consorts and string ensembles etc.  The existence of such consorts is evident because in the wreck of the Mary Rose (sunk in 1545) were found three tabor pipes of different sizes, and in his book “De Organographia” of 1618, Praetorius gives an illustration of a whole range of tabor pipes.

Today, the most common use for tabor pipe is for morris dancing – the pipe playing the tune and the tabor (a drum with two skins, played with one hand) the rhythm.    Usually the pipe is quite high pitched to carry well outdoors – most often high d.  Tabor pipes, however, are readily available in most pitches down to an octave below this – the most common ones being g and D.  The performance in Stratford was made possible because Tim Cranmore at Malvern Minstrelsy, a noted recorder maker, had made a copy of the low G pipe illustrated in the Pratorius book.  The illustration is scaled, so we know how big the pipes depicted actually were.

The performance at Stratford consisted of two pieces of music published by Praetorius – La Volta and La Bourree.  The performers were Gez Pegram playing a high d pipe, Terry Carter and Michel Bellon playing g pipes and tabor, Bill Tuck playing a D pipe and tabor, and Gillian Guest playing the low bass G pipe.

As a result of the performance, a collection of music for tabor pipe consort is now being compiled and will be available through the Taborers Society.

For more information about the pipe and tabor, see the website of The Taborers Society  www.pipeandtabor.org.

– Gillian Guest

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