Boxwood Festival and Serendipity in Waipu

Vagabond Tim
Strangely enough as a wandering Canadian in New Zealand I somehow ran into a music festival featuring a couple Canadians playing some of my favorite instruments, namely the fiddle and bagpipes.

Since 1995 Boxwood has conducted festivals and classes around the world. Focusing on classical, baroque, and folk music they teach improvisational and learn by ear methods to beginners as well as those who already have a working knowledge of music.

Featured at the concert were David Greenberg on violin/fiddle and Chris Norman on flute/pipes.

David spent some time explaining the differences between a baroque fiddle and a modern fiddle, namely that the baroque is less tightly strung and responds with a deeper and richer sound to a more delicate touch which allows for a greater speed and more full accompaniment when played in a small group. Later in music history as larger orchestras became the norm a sharper and more defined sound was required, which led to today’s variant.

Chris was showing off something called the uilleann pipes or smallpipes, these are essentially smaller indoor bagpipes driven not by the players lungs but by a small bellows attached to the elbow and hip. They differ somewhat from the larger great pipes in that they range over two octaves and have a sweeter and less voluminous tone, allowing them to play alongside a single unamplified instrument.

After a rousing set of Eastern Canadian favorites that, like most Eastern Canadians, have fairly deep Irish and Scottish roots they invited their ‘students’ from the previous week at Boxwood to join them onstage. The collective sound of a dozen or more instruments playing together mere feet from where I sat was intoxicating and beautiful although not entirely perfect in execution. Everyone was quickly swept into the tempo of the music. Soon afterward we adjourned for cookies, coffee, and conversation at the rear of the hall. One of the unmistakably great things about a small venue in a small town is the informality and general ease with which they gather.

Just another reason why I am so glad to have spent an extended amount of time in Waipu, a town found on few maps that I will never forget no matter how many places I end up.


A quick snapshot of the poster that attracted my attention to this most serendipitous of events


Chris was the more vocal of the two, and fairly hilarious. Introducing the smallpipes as the worlds safest instrument. They include a safety belt and airbag after all


David is clearly in love with the sound his violin makes. During most of the performance he seemed as lost in enjoying it as the audience was

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