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Ian Harrison

Pipe and tabor, Voice, Cornett, Whistle, Pipes, Shawm, Tambourine

'Ian Harrison's shawm playing reached ecstatic heights of virtuosity’ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
When I was seven our headmistress took a few of us out of the classroom. She went down the row, asking whether we wanted to play the violin or the clarinet. When she got to me I confessed I didn't know, not having had any warning of the question. Impatiently she asked 'well do you want to blow or scrape?' I said 'blow', and so got clarinet lessons. I often wondered what would have happened if she had made the violin sound more attractive.

So blowing it has been ever since. Blowing various wind instruments has taken me all over the place, has introduced me to the most wonderful creative people and given me a much-needed chance to express myself. In my teens I wanted to play a bigger instrument than the clarinet so I changed to the bassoon. Then I realized that I didn't want to play so low and discovered 'early' music and my three main instruments: the cornett, shawm and bagpipes. Busking one day in Freiburg, a beautiful blonde woman stopped to listen and invited me for a coffee. This is of course the dream of all buskers. I asked her what she did for a living. She said she played the shawm. I was gobsmacked. Gesine is now my wife and together we organise two groups, the mediaeval wind band Les Haulz et les Bas, and The Early Folk Band.

I love my instruments and in recent years I have rediscovered the joy of singing and discovered the fascination of playing the tambourine. I'm overjoyed that I have the chance to do all these things in The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments.