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Elder reeds prior to the 20th century

Posted: Sat Jan 16, 2016 11:54 am
by SeamusRua
Hello all,
I was wondering if anyone knew, historically, about when cane became available in Ireland and replaced elder as the material of choice for reeds(for both double and single reeds). Would the classic makers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries have reeded their instruments with elder or would cane have been beginning to become available at that time? I realize this is a rather hard question to answer given the rarity of 200 year old reeds to examine, but any thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated. I'm simply curious.

Re: Elder reeds prior to the 20th century

Posted: Thu Jan 28, 2016 7:30 am
by outofthebox8
Good question. I can only state my hypothesis - that the 'Irish' union pipes were developed in the early 1700s by instrument makers who were already using spanish cane for other woodwind instruments of the oboe type. I would go so far as to suggest that the development of the Irish chanter was dependent on access to and knowledge of spanish cane. This is an example of practical knowledge acquired in the construction of other instruments, being taken and applied to bagpipes.

We may imagine this scene, one evening around 1700 in a house somewhere in Dublin -

- 'After dinner Miss Fitzgerald performed songs from the opera with great aplomb. Then Monsieur Lefroy of Paris played some lively jigs upon a bagpipe of novel construction, to the amusement of all.'

Re: Elder reeds prior to the 20th century

Posted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 11:39 am
by SeamusRua
Maybe the pipe makers would have had cane available to them since they mostly worked in centers of commerce, but the pipers in the countryside making their own reeds would have had to use elder.

Re: Elder reeds prior to the 20th century

Posted: Mon Apr 04, 2016 5:07 am
by billh
SeamusRua wrote:Maybe the pipe makers would have had cane available to them since they mostly worked in centers of commerce, but the pipers in the countryside making their own reeds would have had to use elder.
That seems quite likely. I also suspect that the elder reed tradition may have been passed down from the larger bagpipe tradition (possibly Continental), whereas the chanter reeds owed more to the art music tradition. It seems plausible to me that some early makers may have supplied elder drone quills out of preference, despite familiarity with and availability of cane. But it may be impossible to determine this.