Traditional and contemporary folk from the British Isles

Northumbrian Pipes

The Northumbrian Small Pipes have existed since at least the 17th Century, if not earlier – an instrument unique to the North East of England with its own special sound. This record traces the history of the instrument’s music.

The early tunes had to fit within the limited confines of the first instruments’ range, but, necessity being the mother of invention, this produced tunes that may have been limited in tonal range but were certainly not at all limited in melodic invention. In time the instrument developed, enabling more complex tunes with greater range to pass into the tradition.


The Northumbrian Small Pipes have, at various times, been called seductive, wild, plaintive, lyrical, exciting and sophisticated. These apparently contradictory descriptions result from the unusual versatility of the instrument as well as the differences in the tonal quality of individual sets of pipes. Thus it is possible for each performer to develop his own characteristic style of playing. This album is compiled from some of the most outstanding performances on the instrument ever recorded.
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TSCD427 webScored for a group of musicians including fiddles, flutes, mandolins and Alistair Anderson’s concertina and Northumbrian smallpipes, Steel Skies is a magnificent suite of composed tunes with roots deep in the traditional music of the British Isles. The compositions take from the tradition but expand on it creating a rich and rewardingly-subtle whole. Originally released in 1982, this wonderful album has a justly sterling reputation among those who have heard it, calling out for a re-release on CD. Alistair Anderson’s mastery of the concertina is legendary, but it is the concept and the beauty of the music here that may take your breath away.

“This is new music but with its roots deep in the traditional music of the British Isles. The traditional musician takes old tunes and polishes them like gemstones, revealing new facets of the melodies at every turn. The vitality such musicians bring to their music has always been an inspiration to me, and Steel Skies is a personal response to this.” – Alistair Anderson.

“The range and balance of Anderson’s melodies take your breath away” fROOTS

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