About Maranella Medieval Minstrels

Maranella What's On Diary

Coming Up:

Chester Castle Open Event

English Heritage

Saturday & Sunday, 4th and 5th September 2021

11am-3pm both days


Entry via the Crown Court Carpark - The Castle Chester, CH1 2AN

Come and join us for a rare opportunity to see inside Chester Castle and the Agricola Tower
We will be bringing the story of the castle to life with our knowledgeable volunteers highlighting aspects of medieval life
For further details please go to English Heritage Website - Chester Castle

Medieval Music in the Dales

Friday 17th - Sunday 19th September, 2021

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, N. Yorkshire

See Info on their website

The setting is absolutely stunning - glorious Bolton Castle, built in 1399 by the noble Scrope family and still in the ownership of their descendants to this day.
Over the weekend, the Castle comes to life with music in every corner. It's true living history and a chance to make this magnificent setting your home for the weekend - or just for the day. Whether you want to play, dance, learn or simply sit back and soak up the wonderful sounds, this is for you

Copyright © 2021 Maranella - Last Updated on: 14 Aug 2021

Band Members


Elizabeth Armstrong

Bagpipes, recorders, harp and voice

Elizabeth is a very fine recorder player and is an awsome bagpiper!


Ged Armstrong

Citole, lute and bagpipes

Ged is a very fine guitarist who brings a wealth of experience to Maranella.


Marilyn Farrington

Voice, harp, citole, and recorders

Marilyn is a retired music teacher who has a life-long love of early music.


Peter Farrington

Voice, Percussion

Peter has a beautiful baritone voice and sings both solos and the bass line in part songs

Maranella Medieval Minstrels - Instruments

Some of our weird and wonderful instruments


Click the picture for info



Click the picture for info




8-Course Renaissance Lute

No-one really knows how the lute came to Britain but it probably came with returning crusaders. It is an arab instrument derived from the oud. Early lutes were small and had only 4 or 5 courses. Over time the number of courses increased (as did the size of the instrument). Gradually, during the renaissance period, the guitar gained in popularity and eventually the lute was totally eclipsed.

The most popular tuning for the 8-course renaissance lute is (from the lowest sounding string) D F G C F A D G



Citole by Ugo Cassalonga

A faithfull reproduction of the citole depicted in the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a collection of over 400 songs to the Virgin Mary produced for Alphonso X of Castille and Leon around 1250

Ugo Cassalonga makes authentic copies of early instruments such as our lovely citoles in his workshop on the island of Corsica



Nakers, frame drums, snare drums, tambour/tabor, timbrels, bells - medieval music just wouldn't work without lots of percussion!


Ardival Crathes Bray harp

Ardival Crathes Bray Harp

The Crathes is a small medieval gut-strung harp with 'bray pins' which, when used, give a buzzing sound to the harp which helps the sound carry a long way! Bray harps are a bit like Marmite - you either love them or hate them. The bray harp gets its name from the braying of a donkey - gives you some idea of the sound!

The bray harp is the harp of the middle ages - the sound that everyone was familiar with



Alto rebec from The Early Music Shop - info from their website:
"The EMS alto rebec is an excellent 3 string instrument based on several historic patterns. The body is carved from a single block of wood, there is no soundpost and it has a thin, nasal, penetrating tone"

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Copyright © 2018 Maranella      Last Updated on: 7th February, 2018

Maranella Repertoire

Below is a small selection of pieces from our repertoire

We are gearing up for recording our first CD so good quality sound files will be added as soon as we have them available

Sumer is Icumen In

A lovely, cheerful song that almost everyone will recognise. It is in two parts with a simple, repeating phrase in the bass and the melody over the top. Both the bass line and the melody are best sung as rounds with up to 3 entries for each - quite spectacular if you can find 6 good singers to have a go!

Chanconeta Tedescha

A lively Italian dance tune from an early fifteenth-century Tuscan manuscript which is held at the British Museum in London

Cantiga de Santa Maria no. 7

The Cantigas de Santa Maria ("Canticles of Holy Mary") are 420 poems with musical notation, written in Galician-Portuguese during the reign of Alfonso X 'The Wise' (1221-1284), king of Castile, Leon and Galicia, and often attributed to him. Each song in this collection mentions the Virgin Mary

Miri It Is

A medieval English song (about 1250) mourning the end of summer
Unfortunately only the first verse survives

Miri it is while sumer ilast
With fugheles song
Oc nu neheth windes blast
And weder strong
Ei, ei! What this nicht is long
And ich with wel michel wrong
Soregh and murne and fast

which translates from middle English to:

Merry it is while the summer lasts
With the song of birds
But now draws near the wind's blast
And strong weather
Alas, alas! how long this night is
And I, most unjustly
Sorrow and mourn and fast

Edi beo thu, Hevne Queene

A 13th Century English gymel (a sort of early English polyphony) in praise of the Virgin Mary

Ductias & Estampies

13th & 14th Centuries

Lively and playful dance tunes from England and Northern France which were popular in the 13th and 14th centuries. Ductias were sometimes sung but Estampies seem to have been purely instrumental pieces.

Ductia is a medieval Latin term used by Johannes de Grocheo (De musica, c 1300) to describe two forms: a type of light, rapid song sung by boys and girls for dances and an instrumental dance.

The Estampie has a very distinctive form with each section repeating a melody first with an 'open' ending, then with a 'closed' one; the same endings are used througout. It appears (from the scant records we have of pre-1400 instrumental pieces) to have been the most common form of instrumental music

Nobody knows for certain whether an Estampie (Istanpitta in Italian) was a dance tune or simply a musical form, but it does mean 'to stamp' which would suggest rather strongly that it was some kind of dance

Lamento di Tristano and La Rotta

Two beautiful 14th Century Italian tunes from a collection in the British Library (Add. 29987). The lament is slow and mournful and then the dance tune La Rotta (an Estampie probably) livens things up quite a bit. These two tunes always seem to be played as a set and the combination of slow air followed by lively dance really does work

Ah Robin, Gentle Robin

A very beautiful song by William Cornish (1465-1523), Master of the Kynge's Musick to Henry VIII

Many of the pieces formerly thought to have been written by the king are now known to have been composed by Cornish. He was a prolific and very talented composer. Although Cornish flourished during the start of the Renaissance musical period, his music is still very much medieval in style and form

Christmas / Yuletide Songs and Tunes

Nowel Syng We

English 13th century

Bring us in Good Ale

Yuletide drinking song believed to be from the 15th Century

Ecce Mundi Gaudium

Anglo-Norman rondellus, c1250

Green Growth the Holly (Grene Grouth the Holy)

A really beautiful yuletide song known in the time of Henry VIII. Some sources attribute the song to him but that's very doubtful

This list is just a small selection from our repertoire but might give a feel for the type of music we enjoy playing and singing

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Copyright © 2021 Maranella - Last Updated on: 14th August, 2021

Maranella Period Instruments - Recorders

Medieval and renaissance wide-bore recorders

Some of our collection

Mollenhauer Dream Bass

Renaissance wide-bore bass recorder designed by Adriana Breukink in pear wood with beautiful, turned rings in darker wood. The wide bore gives a full, rich sound which blends well

Mollenhauer Dream BassIn theory it has a full two octave range but, in practice, we find it is limited to just an octave and a half of 'listener-friendly' notes - from F below middle C to the C above

Mollenhauer Kynseker Tenor

Kynseker TenorRenaissance wide-bore tenor recorder in plum wood.  A very beautiful recorder with a distinctive, rich sound

Approx. 60cm long

Below - Moeck Renaissance Tenor with Fontanelle

Moeck Renaissance Tenor with Fontanelle

Mollenhauer Dream Alto

Mollenhauer Dream AltoTo a recorder player, if you say 'recorder' they automatically think 'alto' since that's the flute of the medieval and renaissance period (flute a bec or beaked flute) and is the instrument that people like Teleman wrote for.

Pictured is our Mollenhauer Dream in pear wood with darker wood ring.  Renaissance, wide bore and a full, rich sound.

We also have a Mollenhauer Kynseker alto which looks exactly the same as the tenor but smaller (about 45cm long) and a Moeck Renaissance Alto

Ganassi Soprano Recorder by Phillipe Bolton

This is the size of recorder that most people think of when we say 'recorder' - approx. 30cm long

Phillipe Bolton RecorderGanassi soprano made by Phillipe Bolton from France

A renaissance wide-bore Ganassi recorder with a most beautiful, singing tone - a real joy to play

Mollenhauer Kynseker Sopranino

Kynseker SopraninoSmaller than the soprano (descant) and with the lowest note F like the Alto and Bass - an octave higher than the alto
This is in plumwood and is very high and clear but not shrill

Just out of interest ...

Mollenhauer Dream Soprano Recorder

Mollenhauer Dream soprano in pear wood painted red and with gilded rings

In medieval times life wasn't nearly as drab and brown as people of our era suppose; musicians, in particular, would have been dressed in the brightest colours they could afford and instruments would have been painted and gilded to make them look expensive.  Raw, unpainted wood would have been anathema to our minstrels because it would make them look poor and therefore, by implication, not very good musicians.

The dream recorder is very loud and can cut through other instruments to make itself heard and yet still has a beautiful singing voice and a full, two-octave range.

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Copyright © 2016 Maranella - Last Updated 9th February, 2018

Bagpipes in Maranella Medieval Band

In Maranella we have English Shepherd pipes, Dudey pipes and English Border pipes by Sean Jones and Swedish sackpipa by Alban Faust

English Border Pipes in D made by Sean Jones

picture border pipes

Fabulous low D three drone English Border pipes in Bubinga wood (a type of rosewood) made by Sean Jones in his workshop at Biddulph Moor in Staffordshire

Elizabeth's low D borders have three bell-ended drones.  The sound is fantastic,really rich, full and very beautiful.  The bore is cylindricalwhich makes it quite loud although not nearly so loud as highland pipes - it's still ok to play them indoors - and, crucially, the cylindrical bore extends the range.  By overblowing it is possible to play notes in the second octave giving a total range of an octave and a half.  When Elizabeth plays these pipes in duet with Marilyn on the Swedish sackpipa they don't overpower the cylindrical bore sackpipa and the two totally different types of pipe sound really good together - a bonus we hadn't expected!

Quote from Sean's website: "In Britain the much louder highland pipes have dominated but we have our own version of the French and Flemish pipes, the border pipes.  As the name suggests it was played in the Scottish borders and is now having a bit of a renaissance.  There is little difference acoustically between the traditional French bagpipe and the border pipes ..."

English Shepherd Pipes in G made by Sean Jones

picture Shepherd pipes

Beautiful, single drone Shepherd pipes in Bubinga wood (a type of rosewood) made by Sean Jones in his workshop in Biddulph Moor, Staffordshire

Shepherd pipes are, in essence, English border pipes but with only a single drone.  Elizabeth's set, in beautiful close-grained bubinga wood, are bellows blown with a switch to make them mouth blown.  Marilyn's set, also from Sean, are in flame bubinga wood and are mouth blown.

Swedish Bagpipes (Sackpipa) made by Alban Faust

Picture Swedish sackpipa

Very beautiful Swedish bagpipes in curly grained birch wood with reindeer horn and ebony rings made by Alban Faust in his workshop in Ör, Frestersbyn in Sweden.

Swedish sackpipa are smallpipes i.e. they have a cylindrical bore making the sound much softer and quieter than the conical bore of the border and shepherd pipes.  The cylindrical bore also limits the range to just an octave plus one note.  This particular set of Swedish pipes is in D with a low D drone which can be retuned to C or E making these pipes very versatile.  With the drone stop out the drone is an E so standard Swedish E/A tunes are playable providing they don't go too high. With the drone stop in, the drone is a low D so the pipes can be played with the borders in D where, even though they are much quieter, they are not drowned out because of the totally different timbre.  With the drone tuned to a C the pipes can play tunes in C - three instruments in one !

Quote from Alban's website:

    "The Swedish bagpipes, which is distinguishable by its warm, soft sound, has got many friends throughout the whole world.    My reconstruction of the so called ”Västerdala” pipes is a mixture of the ten preserved instruments we have in the country (there not one is similar to another!). Furthermore my studies of related bagpipes from the continent have been of great benefit.     The Swedish bagpipes is a so called clarinet-instrument, as the sound is produced through a single reed which sits on a cylindrically drilled chanter. Traditionally it is a mouth blown instrument with one short drone (high tuned) which is identical to the lowest tone on the chanter (6 fingering). There is also a single reed in the drone, as in almost all drones." 

Alban Faust's Website

Dudey Pipes (Hummelchen) made by Sean Jones

Elizabeth playing Dudey pipes

People who don't like bagpipes, when they hear the Dudeys, say "aren't they lovely; I didn't know bagpipes could sound like that!"  So ... bagpipes for people who don't like bagpipes!

The Dudey is a three drone Hummelchen or 'bumblebee' pipe, the renaissance German smallpipe drawn by Praetorius.  It has a cylindrical bore unlike the border and shepherd pipes which have a conical bore, and is therefore much quieter and softer in tone - like the gentle buzzing of a bumblebee

From Sean's website: Dudey - "The dudey is drawn by Praetorius in the 17th Century.  Its closest modern relative is the Scottish smallpipe.  My Dudey is really a cross-fingering smallpipe designed to have the soft hollow tone of the samallpipes/northumbrian pipes.  The drones provide a solid "humm" underneath the chanter and don't compete with it"

Marilyn's dudey pipes are made from laburnum wood with a brown leather bag.  Like all dudeys made by Sean, they are in D and have three drones, D-A-D.  The laburnum wood darkens over time and these pipes are now a lovely deep brown; eventually the wood will go very dark brown, almost black

Elizabeth's dudey pipes, in flame bubinga wood, are absolutely stunning to look at with the red flamed wood and black leather bag - beautiful.

picture Elizabeth

Elizabeth with her Sean Jones shepherd pipes

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Copyright © 2016 Maranella - Last Updated 15 March 2016