Sir Francis Drake and Music

Some Comments and a Pretty Tune

An old engraving of a piper playing a Germanic bagpipe called an Hummelchen

Francis Drake apparently was fond of music, for there are numerous references, in contemporary English and even Spanish accounts, to musicians and instruments being aboard his ships. Mentioned are string and wind instruments, including viols ( a bowed string instrument often mistakenly said to be a predecessor of the violin, with which it shares basic features but not ancestry), trumpets, sackbuts (early trombones), recorders and hautbois (the French term for shawms, predecessors of the oboe).

The Hummelchen shown above dates back to well before Drake's time and is considered by some to have inspired the courtly little French bagpipe called the Musette de Cour, which in turn perhaps inspired the English Northumbrian Smallpipe. While there is no direct evidence that this small and refined class of bagpipe was found in Drake's England (the Northumbrian Smallpipe appears in English literature about 75 years later), it is quite likely that something of the sort was present there. It is also possible that one or another of these sorts of bagpipes, which were popular with persons of higher social status than was the case with most of the other kinds of shepherds' and peasants' pipes, would have been appealing and acceptable to Drake.

On these speculations we present here a tune, "Fortune is My Foe," from Drake's days, played on a Northumbrian Smallpipe by piper Sean Folsom especially for this web site. To hear the tune, follow the below link which will take you to our new large and comprehensive web site, The Universe of Bagpipes. You will arrive on a page dedicated to the Northumbrian Smallpipe, where you will find a RealAudio file of the tune.

While you're there, have a look around the site - it has nothing else to do directly with Drake, but you might nevertheless find it interesting.

Click here to visit our new site The Universe of Bagpipes and to listen to a tune Drake may have heard...

Author's Note: Much of the material on these pages (but not, as it happens, on this particular page) is adapted from my forthcoming book Francis Drake in Nova Albion - The Mystery Restored, in which these and neighboring thickets are explored much more deeply than on these few web pages. Thus there may be references here not fully explained, or answers missing their questions. Also lacking here is documentation, provided in the book by 782 endnotes. - Oliver Seeler

Nova Albion Research
Copyright 1996 -1999 by Oliver Seeler
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