One Northumbrian musician, Billy Pigg, deserves further study. Billy Pigg played the pipes for the love of it, not for fame or fortune, and that seems to be what made him such a great success. His fiery speed and innovative style has greatly shaped the nature of Northumbrian piping today. The recent publication of Billy Pigg: The Border Minstrel, gives us an excellent opportunity to learn about the personality behind the greatest influence on Northumbrian piping.
The research for this book started some 30 years ago, and was passed on from person to person over the years. Julia Say has done an excellent job of sorting through the mass of materials collected, and has compiled it into an enjoyable work. This book has something for everyone from the history buff to the musician looking for new repertoire. The book includes a biography, a series of personal recollections about Mr. Pigg, analysis of his technique and playing style, and a collection of tunes. The section featuring memories of his friends is fascinating, filled with nuggets about Billy Pigg’s personality and sense of humor.
The collection of tunes is a goldmine, containing 38 Billy Pigg originals, and his versions of several traditional tunes as well. The tunes are beautiful, memorable, and evocative of Pigg’s spirit. Northumbrian pipers will especially enjoy this collection, but most musicians will be able to find a number they can play. Despite its small range and lack of chromatic notes, several of the tunes are playable on great highland bagpipes, and a fiddler would have no trouble with any of them. This would be a great collection for any musician to while away the hours with great pleasure on a snowy day.
(World Music Network, 1998)
(Northumbrian Piper’s Society, 1998)