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Set of bellows-blown Union bagpipes

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possibly made in Edinburgh, c. 1790

Postcard of Set of bellows-blown Union bagpipes.
© National Museums Scotland

Set of bellows-blown Union bagpipes

Chanter for a set of Union pipes, possibly of ebony, ivory mounted, possibly made in Edinburgh about 1790. The chanter, is similar to the early Uilleann pipe chanter and, according to the provenance, originally had a tuning rush set in the bore.

The Union Bagpipe was developed for chamber music and light opera performance in the early 18th century. It is a form of bellows-blown chamber bagpipe which survives today in the versatile Irish Uilleann pipe. In the early form, it was a popular and fashionable musical instrument but now it is not generally seen beyond museum collections. It had a wider melodic range than the standard bagpipe and this was achieved in the early stages by overblowing and later by adding keys to the chanter. 'Regulators', which were stopped pipes with keys and mounted with the drones, were added to the instrument in the second half of the 18th century and were used to provide chord accompaniment to the chanter. The Union Bagpipe was used for orchestral performance in the ballad opera tradition of the 18th century and later for operatic arrangements of the Ossian Cycle.

The Irish bagpipe, known today as the Uilleann pipes was developed by bagpipe makers in the late 18th and 19th centuries. It was based on the earlier Pastoral and Union Pipes which were used in the pastoral dramas and ballad operas of the 18th century. In this form, it was always a bellows-blown instrument and originally had a long or 'flat' chanter and two drones in a common stock. The tonal range could be extended for orchestral performance by cross-fingering and overblowing. In the late 18th century, keys were added to the chanter to increase the melodic range and regulators were added to the drones to provide chordal accompaniment to the chanter.

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Online ID: 000-000-580-025-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0869: The Bagpipe Collection
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  K.2003.830 (2)
Date: c.1790 (date of manufacture)
Material: Tropical hardwood, temperate hardwood, ivory and brass
Dimensions: 360 mm L
What: Chanter for a set of Union bagpipes.
Where: Scotland, Edinburgh (possibe place of manufacture)
Description: Chanter for a set of Union bagpipes made of tropical and temperate hardwoods with ivory stocks, brass and ivory mounted.
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