Ceri Shaw



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The Pibgorn - An Interview With Gafin Morgan

user image 2016-01-01
By: Ceri Shaw
Posted in: Music
AmeriCymru:  Hi Gafin and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. When did you first become interested in Welsh traditional music and in particular, the pibgorn?

Gafin: I consider myself brought up on a mix of jazz and folk. My father was a great fan of Duke Ellington and Count Basie and I can still hear those solos in my head. There was something of a Welsh folk revival going on where I lived when I was a child with lots of Twmpath dawn, Ar Log and Plethyn concerts. I think this was the establishment of my roots. From age five I learned the piano and I also learned sax and clarinet. My parents wanted me to study music but I chose healthcare.  It wasn't until I was at University that I started playing folk music and I bought my first set of bagpipes from Jonathan Shoreland. He made pibgyrn but when I saw the instrument which looked crude and simple to my eyes, I thought I would just make one myself. Which took me on a journey for some ten to fifteen years trying to work it out and making them in my attic at home and then a small workshop in the cellar! So having made pibgyrn from wood ( Patrick Rymes a great talented young musician from the band Calan plays one of my D chanters) I thought the pibgorn would be a great instrument to get people interested in Welsh folk or for sessions, so the obvious thing was to get it made in a way that I could easily distribute  as my time was limited.


AmeriCymru:  Can you describe the instrument for us?

Gafin: The pibgorn is a simple chanter with a cylindrical bore with a horn each end, one to blow into and one as an amplifier. It has a single beating reed i.e. one tongue rather than two as in a bagpipe. It can be blown with or without circular breath. Its a fun instrument and great for building up woodwind skills. It always turns a head wherever you go!

AmeriCymru: Can you tell us a little about the history of the instrument?

Gafin: It was first mentioned in Wales in the laws of Hywel Dda as one of the instruments played at the Royal Courts. This dates back to around 900 AD. The instrument is generally thought to have been played by shepherds and there are local accounts in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales of one being played by a shepherd in the last century. There were large pibgorn gatherings on Ynys Mon  but I cant imagine they played in unison in those times!

AmeriCymru: How easy/difficult/impossible is it to learn to play the pibgorn?

Gafin: Like any instrument it takes time and patience to learn. Many are deceived by its simplicity but it is a woodwind and you need to blow into it correctly. I have heard some people speak of a woodwind embouchure starting with your diaphragm and ending at the lips. There are a lot of factors between these points before considering the reed.

The pibgorn plays open fingering lime a whistle, you can cover half notes or cross finger some.

AmeriCymru: Are there any online learning resources or demonstration videos that you would recommend?

Gafin: There is a growing youtube collection of pibgorn videos available. Its nice to see the fingering styles and sound of the instrument. There is a definite need for a good 'how to' manual. All my pibgyrn come with a brief 'how to' guide and there is a fingering chart available on my website.

AmeriCymru: Your pibgyrn are made of plastic. Care to tell us a little about the design and manufacturing process?

Gafin: The design process was very complicated and really makes you appreciate how every little plastic gadget or part takes a huge amount of human effort to produce.

I converted working wood pibgorn dimensions into 3D CAD drawings and after various prototypes went for injection moulding. I still hand assemble and tune every reed. The reed body is printed in 3D. I am also able to 3D print bespoke horn colours. So you can have a brown chanter with green horns for example. I have made a pibgorn in the colours of the Welsh flag. I would like to auction this for funds for the Welsh youth movement the Urdd.

AmeriCymru: Where can readers go online to purchase one of your pibgyrn?

Gafin:   My website  www.pibgorn.co.uk has an online shop.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Gafin: I am really happy that there has been a great interest in this instrument in the US. I hope people start posting youtube videos of themselves playing it and also in writing new tunes. It would be great for pibgorn players in the US to write new music for the instrument.