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Glastonbury Tor

Mysteries at the Tor

The Glastonbury Connection...

What is a Tor?

The Glastonbury Tor is a hill near Glastonbury in the English county of Somerset, topped by the roofless St Michael's Tower. The Tor is mentioned in Celtic mythology, particularly in myths linked to King Arthur, and has several other enduring mythological and spiritual associations.

Tor is an English word referring to "a bare rock mass surmounted and surrounded by blocks and boulders", deriving from the Old English: torr. Neolithic flint tools recovered from the top of the Tor show that the site has been visited, perhaps with a lasting occupation, since prehistory. Source

What is a "Glastonbury Pipe?"

This reed instrument is based on a stone figure found in Glastonbury, England, an ancient Iron Age lake village. The area was also a place of worship of Druids and an object of pilgrimages in the Middle Ages. The Glastonbury pipe is based on the alto cornamuse and like the alto cornamuse is in the key of F. It was designed primarily for folk music with its large flared resonator giving the pipe a full rounded sound.
The particular Glastonbury Pipe I am playing is actually lower and is in Bb not F. It has an admittedly peculiar sound but I think in the right context it can be quite haunting.


Interesting side note: I had interest in the Armenian duduk and the sound of the Glastonbury Pipe is very similar.

Why to do I have one?

Ever since I told my mother that we moved to South Glastonbury, Connecticut she was delighted and--being an admirer of early Baroque/Renaissance music--kept talking about the Glastonbury Pipe. Suddenly at a family picnic this summer (2021) she gave me one as a gift!

Rich playing the Glasonbury Pipe
YouTube Demo

Of course when I tried playing it on the spot, I thought the ducks from the area might flock to me and attack me because the only sound I could produce was a horrible squawking! Fortunately, it just took a bit of practice to get a decent sound so I dedicate this piece to my mother!

About the Music and Arrangement
The tune starts off with the strange haunting sound of the Glastonbury Pipe. A bodhrán and recorders then join. It's an ancient medieval sounding ensemble and the reverb implies it could be in a large ancient church.

The next section kicks it up a notch, sounding a bit like a progressive rock band with a fife in the lead! (The fife is the Roland D-50)

Finally, a real fife rounds out the piece and is joined briefly by the Glastonbury Pipe, harp and bodhran. History has gone full circle as it returns once more to an ancient medieval style.