This short musical extract is taken from a unique reel-to-reel tape recording on which Northumbrian smallpipe maker and musician Jack Armstrong describes the care, maintenance and technique for playing the Northumbrian smallpipes. The recording was made by Jack Armstrong, to be sent to America to accompany a set of pipes made by Jack. The considered delivery and careful description makes this recording an invaluable introduction to the pipes. As well as descriptive spoken word passages, the tape also features a number of musical examples played by Jack Armstrong (pipes), Tom Mathews (pipes) and Betty Mathews (harp). On this recording we hear Tom Mathews and Jack Armstrong playing 'Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms'.
Northumbrian piper Jack Armstrong was a contemporary and friend of Billy Pigg. He was born at Wideopen, just north of Newcastle, in 1904. His self-taught style, influenced by his father's playing, led him in very different directions to Billy. At one time there were basically two schools of piping - the Tom Clough school, followed by Billy Pigg, was very clever and fast; in contrast Jack Armstrong favoured the playing of slow airs using an instrument with rich resonant tones, using tremendous control and perfect intonation. Both Jack and his father worked as colliers at Dinnington Colliery, but a few years after the First World War Jack managed to get out of the pit and get a job as a chauffeur. Jack married in 1926 and lived at Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales, where he took up the pipes in the following year. American folk singer Burl Ives used reeds made by Jack Armstrong in a set of Northumbrian pipes he occasionally used to accompany himself when singing. Through this connection Jack was invited to Hollywood where he recorded an LP on Sunset Strip with Burl singing, for which Leonard Bernstein wrote the music. In 1948 he became official piper to the Duke of Northumberland. A post which he held for many years, until he was succeeded by Tom Mathews. He recorded extensively in the 1950s, both solo and with his dance band, The Barnstormers and made many broadcasts for the BBC. He also taught himself to make pipes and passed on much of this knowledge to the next generation of pipemakers. Jack Armstrong died in 1978.
This recording was taken from a cassette copy of the reel-to-reel original recorded by Jack Armstrong himself.