In the Bag - Anne Marie Summers.
Anne Marie Summers started playing professionally with Steve Tyler in 1993 as ‘The Endtimes Duo’ playing mostly folk and Playford tunes on recorder and cittern. This progressed into a bagpipe and hurdy gurdy combo, going by the name Misericordia which specialised in music from the 12th to the 15th Century. The duo, with the addition of with Julian Sutton on melodeon, became The Wendigo which focused on French and Breton music. She has been in a number of other groups, including Magpiety (vocal harmonies, bagpipes and songs of the North East), Fleurs Des Lys (Medieval pipes and fiddle, gurdy and vocals), Rheged (with Peni Edika and Stephan Belesi, exploring Welsh music) and, of course, Zephyrus, Jon Swayne’s pipe polyphony ensemble. Today Anne Marie works as a community musician running choirs, playing music for an with children with special needs, has taught herself the ukulele and plays in a trad jazz ensemble called The Hot Club Collective.
What bagpipes do you play?
Jon Swayne D and G, Julian Goodacre Great pipes, Richard Evans Border pipes
What led you to take up piping?
Seeing La Chavannee in York in 1994 and soon after Moebius at the Chantry museum in Morpeth. Also Steve had just made himself a hurdy gurdy and my recorder was looking a bit feeble in comparison.
Which pipers do you most admire?
I’m not very in the loop anymore with who’s who so it’s the old boys like Eric Montbel I remember fondly. I love to hear someone who is effortlessly fluent and relaxed and who present in the music they are playing, I don’t care how technically clever they are.
Name three, non-piping-related musical influences:
Trad Jazz, really early and rackety. Early music, in particular 13th and 14th C. Vocal harmonies. Stevie Wishart and Vivienne Ellis were always very inspiring. The Smiths ( Morrissy is a bit of a knob though)
What three albums are top of your playlist right now?
Topette, Buena Vista Social Club, Amy Winehouse Back to Black
If you had your life again, what instrument would you play?
Piano. We had one in the house when I was a kid, what a wasted opportunity!
Name your favourite music festival.
Embraud (Fête des Chavans), definitely, pure joy, though I haven’t been for about 20 years!
What three words describe your piping style?
I really have no idea, you’ll have to ask someone who’s heard me. What I would LIKE to be is fluent, musically empathetic and sensitive but the only thing I can say for sure is ‘in tune’, ha ha
Bellows or mouth-blown?
Bellows. I used to be a mouth blower but it’s too much like hard work and you look ridiculous in photographs.
Cats or dogs?
Dogs, totally. Cats are evil, everyone knows that.
Do you prefer playing, dancing or both?
I love to play for dances but best of all is dancing with a really, really good dance partner, I regularly used to fall in love that way. Likewise playing with someone who you really musically gel with. I hate playing solo, I just don’t see the point.
Cane or plastic reeds?
Cane sounds so much better but it’s hopeless if you need to stay in tune with an accordion or something and so much hassle. So it’s plastic all the way for me.
What’s your greatest musical achievement?
Winning the St Chartier duo competition was pretty cool. That was in 1997, it’s been downhill ever since.
What’s your most embarrassing bagpiping moment?
Oh God, where to start? The best you can hope for as a performer is to avoid public humiliation when possible. Ok, well, accidentally belting Steve in the ear with my drone whilst playing at the funeral of a friend ranks fairly high. We had just led the mourners from the church to the grave and I was trying to swing round in a subtle and unobtrusive way for the coffin to pass by. Anyone who plays a medieval style pipe with a long drone with a wide bell will know that any movement at the front is amplified ten-fold at the back - the Charlie Chaplin with a ladder effect. I felt wood collide with flesh and heard a whimper but we had to keep playing as dozens of people were still filing past. Then I started giggling and the more I tried to stop the worse it got. Jesus!
What’s the most annoying question you get asked about the bagpipes?
Have you heard of Katherine Tickell?
What advice would you give a novice?
Spend proper money on a reliable set of pipes that work properly.
I love bagpipes because…
I don’t know, but I do.
As told to Andy Letcher
From Chanter Autumn 2019.