Bill Pook 


 Mike Billington 

 Poetry & Lyrics 








 · ·  Bagpipes 
 · ·  Hurdy Gurdy 
 · ·  Folk Shawms and Hornpipes 
 · ·  Ghatam 
 · ·  Indian Harmonium 
 · ·  Recorders and Flutes 
 · ·  Appalachian Dulcimer 
 · ·  Bowed Psaltery 
 · ·  Shawm, Rauschpfeife and Curtal 
 · ·  Exotica 



Recorders and Flutes

With the rise in popularity of the transverse flute, the recorder experienced something of a demise; this coincided with the latter days of the orchestras of Handel and Bach. The recorder, once called the flute, had then to find another name as the transverse instrument took over the name. The recorder then became known as the flute a bec, a reference to the beak like mouthpiece, before settling on the name it currently uses today. Arnold Dolmetsh was instrumental in reviving the recorder's popularity in the 1920s and his workshops in Haslemere, Surrey have been responsible for some of the finest recorders in recent times.

It is thought that the recorder dates from possibly as early as the thirteenth century. In the renaissance period the instrument experienced something of a heyday with Henry VIII introducing to England the fashionable French and Italian practice of the consort; a series of instruments (recorders, violins, flutes etc) playing in harmony using instruments of differing sizes. Furthermore, there is evidence for consorts of recorders being used by the waits of London, Exeter, Norwich, Chester and Norwich in the sixteenth century. These instruments would have been bought in a set of soprano, alto, tenor and bass from the maker at the same time to make for consistency in tuning. They would also have had a wider bore to ensure fullness of sound especially on the lower notes.

The baroque recorders have narrower bores which result in a greater range of notes, essential for the solo passages in the sonatas and concertos of Handel, Bach, Vivaldi, Albinoni, Telemann etc.

Mike's soprano and alto renaissance recorders (in stained sycamore) are by Peter Kobliczek of Germany and his bass is by Hopf of Germany. Mike's baroque recorders are of the Rottenburg ebony range by Moeck of Germany (soprano, alto and tenor) with the bass by Adler. The sopranino pictured is a plastic model by Aulos.


The kaval is a chromatic end-blown flute traditionally played throughout Azerbaijan, Turkey, Hungary, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, southern Serbia (кавал), Ukraine, Moldova, northern Greece (καβάλι or τζαμάρα), Romania (caval), and Armenia. The kaval is primarily associated with mountain shepherds throughout the Balkans and Anatolia.

The kaval that is most common in Bulgaria is the one in the middle (D) register. The kaval in lower (C) register is also not uncommon for this country.
The Bulgarian kaval, once made of a single piece of wood, is now constructed of three separate sections (of cornel, plum or boxwood), with a total length of 60 to 90 cm. Bone rings cover the joints, to prevent the wood from cracking. Metal decoration is also found. The finger-holes are located in the central section, while the lower (shorter) section has four additional holes called dushnitsi or dyavolski dupki (‘devil’s holes’); these are not covered in performance. The kaval can be made in various tunings, D being the most common.

Mike's kaval in D was made in 2014 by the Bulgarian instrument maker Radoslav Paskalev. The instrument is made from African blackwood which is tonally one of the best woods for making woodwinds. The instrument also has metal rings.

Here is a quote from Radoslav's website explaining the properties of the woods he uses. "African blackwood is a worldwide best and proven timber for making any high end woodwind instruments such as Irish flutes, clarinets, Highland pipes, oboes, piccolos etc. The quality of this timber is far better than the usual Dryan (Cornus mas, European dogwood), which most of the kavals in Bulgaria are made from. African blackwood is known for its unique qualities, great strength and durability. It has average specific gravity of about 1.2, high natural oil content and it is extremely dense.The high content of natural oils makes this timber practically water proof."

Originally from Plovdiv, Radoslav now makes kavals and djura gaida in his workshop in Chesapeake, Virginia, USA.

Here is a youtube clip showing Radoslav making a kaval.

Dvoyanka, duduk and Sopilka

There are many types of fipple flutes throughout Europe, many being virtually identical in construction and sound. The sound of the fipple flute is made when a stream of air strikes a sharp edge as with the recorder and tin whistle.

(left to right) Bulgarian dvoyanka, Bulgarian duduk, small Bulgarian duduk, three Russian sopilkas.

Bulgarian dvoyanka

The Bulgarian dvoyanka is a double flute made of a single piece of wood, with six sound holes on one side. It is most frequently made of ash, plum, pear, cornel or boxwood. The tune is played on the right pipe, while the left pipe provides a flat tone (or drone) as accompaniment. The playing structure on the right pipe is similar to that of the music played on the kaval. The dvoyanka has traditionally been an instrument favored by shepherds. Line-dances and lively melodies are frequently played on it. It is a known fact that shepherds directed their flocks by their playing, since sheep remember and recognize a melody in time. A shepherd could "teach" his flock to start from the pen towards the pasture at one melody, and to return to the village in the evening at another. The instrument bears similarities to the dvojnica, an instrument typical of the regions of Central and Western Serbia and Serbian regions across the river Drina, which is made and played somewhat differently. The dvoyanka is a double pipe (gaida), which has a form of a rectangular prism or which is more rarely is composed form two parallel cylindrical tubes. It has a length from 30 to 40 cm. All of the two tubes begin with a bill formed nozzle in which the tone is produced with an ordinary blowing. When playing on a duduk the two tubes are sounded together. My dvoyanka is made of oak and was made by Plamen Petrakiev of Plovdiv and I bought it in Koprivishtitsa in 2015.

Bulgarian Duduk

The name "duduk" sometimes refers to a double reed instrument, but there is a different instrument of the same name played in northwestern Bulgaria as in the picture. This is a blocked-end flute resembling the Serbian frula, known also as kaval or kavalče in a part of Macedonia. My duduk is made of cherry wood and was made by Plamen Petrakiev of Plovdiv. href="">
The smaller duduk is also of cherry and was made by Emil Pavolov. I bought them both in Koprivishtitsa in 2015.

Russian/Ukrainian sopilka

Sopilka Ukrainian: Cопiлка, Russian: is a name applied to a variety of woodwind instruments of the flute family used by Ukrainian folk instrumentalists. Sopilka most commonly refers to a fife made of a variety of materials (but traditionally out of wood) and has six to ten finger holes. The term is also used to describe a related set of folk instruments similar to the recorder, incorporating a fipple and having a constricted end. Sopilkas are used by a variety of Ukrainian folkloric ensembles recreating the traditional music of the various sub-ethnicities in western Ukraine, most notably that of the Hutsuls of the Carpathian Mountains. Often employing several sopilkas in concert, a skilled performer can mimic a variety of sounds found in nature, including bird-calls and insects.

My sopilka (fourth from left) was bought many years ago at Sidmouth folk festival from a Russian group who were performing there. The maker and material are unknown. The other two belong to the Kalina Ensemble.