The Bagpipe Society

A gaiteiro in California

If you happen to be in Mendocino, California during the first week of August, and you head east into the giant redwoods, you will arrive at a bacchanalian music festival known as Lark Camp. Here musicians of many interests convene for a week of dancing, bagpiping, fluting, fiddling and all manner of sonic mayhem. Among many piping classes (Irish, Scots, Bulgarian, French) a highlight is the gathering of Galician Gaita aficionados who have been meeting here for the last fifteen or so years. There are now fifteen or so pipers and half a dozen percussionists who regularly attend. There is a Galician dance class as well, and even a finale concert with pipes, drums, and a brass band performing daring arrangements of Galician music by the brass instructor Gregg Moore. To get a flavour of these events there’s a YouTube clip here:

In 2001, through a series of coincidences I met Gaiteiro and professor of gaita, Alexandre Cadarso (Cano) and was able to bring him to California to guide a few struggling aficionados in our quest for gaita wisdom. Cano has been back seven times over the intervening years to shepherd us along and he is a grand teacher. He has been playing the gaita since 1977, learning from mestre Bartolo, Manuel Miramonte, and later studying at the Conservatory of Compostela and the Conservatory of Traditional Music at Lalin, Galicia. He was a gaiteiro and chorister in the renowned A.F. Cantigas y Agarimos and later played with groups Durindaina, Brincadeira, and A Requinta da Amaia. He has also written several books and his latest one, Cantigos da Taberna, has just been published.

Cano has done yeoman’s work in herding an anarchistic bunch of bagpipe loving party animals into a semblance of order and giving us a growing understanding of Galician music and culture. In 2013 and 2016 we held a three day gaita intensive after Lark camp in Berkeley, California where we explored more of Galician culture. During this time Cano guided those interested and able in learning to play the requinto. This is a small flute which is typically played in the Galician region of Ulla alongside the gaitas, and the instrument has been enjoying a resurgence of popularity in the home country. Flute maker Casey Burns supplied a number of excellent instruments for folks to try out and the results were encouraging – and at times quite musical. After the 2013 camp we did a concert at a popular local music venue, Freight and Salvage, in Berkeley, and had quite a blowout. See the second half of the concert here:

So if anyone fancies a vacation in California, with gaitas, contact Lark Camp Mendocino on the internet. We’ll be happy to have you.