Marc's history of playing and pipemaking
The town where I live lies very near the Belgium border and being a lover of trad. Music, I visited with great regularity folk concerts in Belgium, At that time ( mid seventies) folk music was much more alive in Belgium than in The Netherlands. This is also where I first got in contact with traditional Irish music. In 1975 I attended a concert of the, then totally unknown, Folk band Planxty and met Irish piper, a very young, Liam O'Flynn for the first time. Showing his abilities, a brilliant performance mastering this complex enchanting instrument.
I was addicted to the pipes straight away so the quest was to find such an instrument..., what wasn't quite that simple. It gave me the opportunity to discover Ireland!! There was no internet and information about the instrument and pipe makers were hardly to find. The Na Piobairi Uilleann Association over in Dublin was still in its beginning ,the club house in Henrietta street still in renovation. Still I managed to find a music shop in the great Wexford town that could provide me with a practice set what was sent to me a year later. However the reed that was supplied with the pipes had no crow in it and therefore was totally unusable. Trying to find a solution for the failing reed got me into reed making with help from a local bassoon player, Finding Dave Haggerty’s reed making guide, and not forget the help of the wonderful Eugene Lambe and Alain Froment showing me their skills what made all the difference ! Unfortunately after all my efforts to get my (maker unknown ) practice set playing, it was of such bad quality it was unplayable. With my profession being a piano tuner, restorer, I thought it would be great to make my own instrument. My technical education proved to be of great value when building a set of pipes. I was able to make a lot of my own tools for pipe making and a wood lathe was already present in my workshop. What then started as a hobby grew out to be a full time job, I am a professional pipemaker since 1978.
To make the bags I still use prime quality leather, to me still the best material as it works as a moisture regulator and therefor better for the reeds. What makes the job interesting is the fact that you need to work with a lot of different materials and so you need to know a lot about those as well. Choosing the right materials is a job in itself.
Marc van Daal