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Promoting the Bagpipe Revival since 1986

The Bagpipe Society

In the Bag - Ceri Rhys Matthews

Matthews is a folk musician of sorts. He plays traditional and newly created dance melodies and song airs from south and west Wales. He makes observational line rawings with pencil on paper. He draws by walking.

As a young man, he received a fine art training in painting, which has acted as a blueprint for his life and work. Gradually, the paint brush was replaced by other instruments until he settled on the pibgorn, wooden flute, pencil and footfall as a means of drawing.

In his work he seeks to celebrate the fabric of the lives of ordinary people, living and dead, by repeating their anonymous art and using it as a springboard to do absolutely anything he fancies.

Over the last 25 years he has focused this activity into a social sculpture through sound pattern memory and human choreography that attempts to create a new economy via four interconnected self-financing and self-sustaining processes.

One is a musical instrument making and tune playing activity he started in his village called Pibau Pencader, and then developed in the town of Dolgellau as Prosiect Ioan Rhagfyr . Together they synthesise social & family history, the physics and practicalities of instrument making and wood turning, village and

town social dynamics, hundreds of tunes composed by scores of people, shared memory and imagination, merry nights, now professional luthiers, children making hundreds of woodwind instruments, music festivals, and tree planting as an economy. This has fed into a social dance activity in villages around west and south Wales called Corelw, where hundreds of people are creating new dances & re imagining others. He has produced over 25 CDs for fflach:tradd records, Smithsonian Folkways, World Music Network, and independent musicians and labels. He has played music as a solo musician, with Christine Cooper, Jess Ward and the band he founded in 1995, fernhill.

What bagpipes do you play?

I play a pibgorn, played in a bag with blowpipe and one drone, in D.

They’re made by John Glennydd of Llanfihangel-ar-Arth. They play an octave which I can tune, with wax, in different modes.

Do you play any other instruments?

I play a Rudal Rose style wooden concert flute made by Dave Williams of Grimsby. I also accompany a bit on the guitar.

What led you to take up piping?

I’d imagined the instrument and knew what it would sound like before I had physically heard it. A friend told me that a pibgorn player from Aberystwyth was coming to a session in town, so I went along to hear it. Everything was confirmed. Jonathan Shorland was the player. Eventually, I bought an instrument from him and learned to play it by trying to copy him by watching as well as listening; and by doing my own thing. The instrument was stolen from my car a few years later. When I reported the theft, the policeman told me there was no possibility of them finding it and that it would be at the bottom of the Taf by now.

I suppose it’s still there, somewhere between Pontypridd and Castell Coch. I got another from Jonathan, in F, and later I got the set I now play from John Glennydd.

Which pipers do you most admire?

Allan MacDonald.

Name three, non-piping-related musical influences:

  • John Morgan, fiddler from Cwm Ogwr.
  • Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks.
  • João Gilberto, singer and guitarist

What three albums are top of your playlist right now?

Jackie Daly and Séamus Creagh

(It’s time for) Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers Florian Fricke spielt Mozart. (Sonate G-Dur & B-Dur)

If you had your life again, what instrument would you play?

I’d start earlier on the flute, and I’d learn the ney.

Name your favourite music festival.

Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy.

What are the most memorable gigs you’ve been to (involving pipes or not)?

I saw Patsy Hanley and Tommy Guihen play tunes for an hour in Hennessy’s Bar in Miltown Malbay. Nothing will come close.

What three words describe your piping style?




Bellows or mouth-blown?

Mouth, but if I could afford a set of bellows Pastoral pipes, I would be in both camps.

Cats or dogs?


Are there any bagpipes you dislike?

I’m not over-fond of Kilted ‘Welshmen’ appropriating the Gaita.

Do you prefer playing, dancing or both?

Both. And listening.

Cane or plastic reeds?

Cane or Elder.

What’s your greatest musical achievement?

I haven’t had one yet.

What’s your most embarrassing bagpiping moment?


What’s the most annoying question you get asked about the bagpipes?

It depends on the spirit in which they’re asked. They can be a prelude to an opinion, or a genuine question. If the former, they’re all annoying. If the latter, they’re all interesting questions.

What advice would you give a novice?

Go with gut feeling, ignore your head. Ignore gatekeepers. Be inspired.

I love bagpipes because…

The sound.

As told to Andy Letcher