Here are some photos from Cheltenham Folk Festival 2009
The instruments used in Hérétique are perhaps not the most well known so here is some information about them
Maison Pajot Jeune, Jenzat, Allier, France, 1884.
A curious heap of 19th Century French firewood, the table is spruce of a very wide grain that violin makers would probably sneer at. The ribs are alternating strips of blonde maple and maple that's been dyed up to look a bit like rosewood. The decorative inlays are comprised of offcuts of ebony, mother of pearl and bits of unfortunate elephants. (Nowadays bone or various plastics are used instead as the Central French Elephant is sadly protected by a CITES treaty.) The red ink is made by crushing hundreds of tiny beetles
in a pestle and mortar and then dissolving them in alcohol, and the period figures on the keybox were cut out of a fashion magazine and stuck on before the varnish went on.
It works by having a crank that is turned by the player attached to an axle on which is mounted a big wooden wheel. The strings pass over the wheel which acts like a violin bow. Being circular, the tone produced is continuous and so much akin to the sound of bagpipes. The melody strings pass through a key box - Pressing the keys pushes pegs against the strings and so modifies the pitch. The irritating buzzing sound is caused by a loose bridge designed to pivot on one foot and drum rapidly up and down on a little bit of dead elephant set into the table of the instrument. This is by
far the best thing about the instrument, I'm sorry to say.
This particular Hurdy Gurdy was made ostensibly by a chap called Jean Baptiste Pajot. Gilbert Nigout got his hands on it in 1902 and defaced the labels, making very sure that his own name was writ large. Either he had a hand in making it (often Jenzat Hurdy gurdies were worked on by other makers in order to fulfill orders on time) or he just didn't like his cousin Jean very much.
This instrument had a hard life as the many cracks, splits, dents and repairs will testify. In fact, at over 120 years old, it's had getting on for 2 hard lives. It contains more than it's fair share of superglue and an inordinate amount of genuine Victorian dust. They just don't make them like this any more. In fact, I know several people who make them much better than this.
It's tuned to D. (Nearly.)
CF Martin, Nazareth, PA, USA, 1955.
A curious heap of mid 20th Century American Firewood, the table is a fine piece of Adirondack spruce that unaccountably appears to have previously been used to make a school desk. The back and sides are Mahogany of a grade that you can't seem to get these days - it doesn't grow on trees, you know. Decoration is limited to the bindings which are made out of bits of an unfortunate tortoise who evidently didn't run fast enough, and the rosette which is augmented with the most delicate of purfling, most of which has now fallen out.
This instrument had a hard life as the many cracks, splits, dents and repairs will testify. It has been split through the heel of the neck, through the table in several places, and through each rib along the entire length. The back would be ok if it wasn't so badly scratched. At some stage in it's life it has had leather glued to the top and was sprayed silver. It contains more than it's fair share of superglue, plastic wood and cascamite and an inordinate amount of mid 20thC silver spray paint.
Willie Nelson has a similar guitar. This one is much worse. In perfect condition it'd be worth quite a lot of money, but you could say the same about my kidneys.
It's tuned to a chord of C maj9th. Or thereabouts.
Murray uses three different accordions from the famous Italian manufacturer Pigini. The main instrument is called a Preludio P36/3 but of course Murray's version is far from a stardard 'off the peg' example. Working alongside Pigini Murray has had his accordion tailored to his exact specification.
Featuring a 34 key right hand keyboard the accordion has three 'voices' or reed banks. Using custom built reed blocks and the finest hand made reeds, the three reed banks are unusually all at the same pitch. One bank has been selected for its particularly sharp and vibrant sound. A second reed, tuned to exactly the same pitch has a much more mellow sound. The third reed is again a vibrant reed but this time it is tuned 4 cents sharp for a very subtle and mild 'swing' or tremelo effect. By the use of registers each reed can be selected individually or combined to create a wealth of colour.
The left hand is a 96 bass standard bass accordion. Normally only two registers are available to the player but Murray's has been fitted with 5 registers, giving a range of colours from high light sounds, through rich low full bodied tones, up to the full master sound for maximum punch and sound Not only that however Murray's accordion has a custom left hand with the Dominant 7th row of chords replaced with only open 5ths, allowing a much more creative sound.
The final customisations are with the way the sound leaves the accordion. The normal right hand grill has been replaced with a much more open grill to let as much sound out as possible. The left hand has also been altered, the normal left hand side plate replaced with a solid sheet of wood, and special scroll shaped holes cut on the fron tof the left hand. This lets the sound out forwards to perfectly balance with the right hand!
The next accordion used is the Pigini Super Bayan Sirius. Considered the finest classical accordion on the market the Super Bayan is the absolute pinnacle of accordion development. Murray's example is a much sought after vintage example, serial number '79', endorsed by the legendary accordionist Mogens Ellegaard. A 'C' system button model this is a full size free- bass convertor accordion. Not only is the left hand a normal 120 bass standard keyboard but at the flick of a switch it converts to a 'C' system free-bass system, giving individual notes. This accordion now has a range virtually the same as a concert grand piano, in fact with one note higher in the right hand!
The reeds in a Super Bayan are the finest ever made, with these vintage examples among the greatest. A full 4 voice double octave right hand, with a double cassotto chamber, gives a wealth of timbre, and combined with the flexibility of the free-bass system this accordion is a joy to behold.
The final accordion is an exceptionally rare model. Originally designed as a student accordion this instrument is a compact 3 row free bass only model. With a single voice on each hand this accordion has a very unusual and individual sound. The right hand grill is made from a single sheet of metal, without any holes for the sound, resulting in a very mellow, muted sound. Remove the grill and you get a bright and vivacious tone.
To give these the full name they are John Swayne English border half-long bagpipes. Pitched in the key of G they have marked differences to the English border bagpipe which more commonly plays in A. The Swayne pipe has a range of chromatic options available by cross-fingering. The most notable possibilities are the options to sharpen the seventh, to flatten the sixth, flatten the third and a possible sharpened forth or flattened fifth! This makes it incredibly versatile and able to play in a variety of keys not normally available. The range of the pipes is an octave and 3 notes!
The reed is made out a plastic yoghurt pot! This results in a sweet sound, quieter than many cane reed pipes. Being made of plastic the reed tends to be a lot more reliable in extremes of temperature as well.
The chanter and all wooden parts are made from apple wood. There is a single bass drone, however a further tenor drone is common on many sets.