Galician bagpipes, Hartford Symphony team up to give audiences a ‘Rose’

Cristina Pato will play the Galician bagpipes with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra starting Thursday night.

Cristina Pato will play the Galician bagpipes with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra starting Thursday night.

In New England, the Galician bagpipes seem like an exotic instrument. But, Cristina Pato said this is not the case in her home, the Galicia region of Spain.

Cristina, who will be performing with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra this weekend, explained if there is a city of 100,000, you will find 10,000 people learning or already playing the Galician bagpipes or gaita.

If you’re born in Galicia, Cristina said the instrument is everywhere. You either play soccer or you play the Galician bagpipes.

Originally, the instrument was developed by shepherds as a way to entertain themselves while they tended their flocks, said Cristina. Like many folk instruments, in time, the bagpipes found their way into the home.

Asked what drew her to the sound of the Galician bagpipes as a musician, Cristina said she is drawn to the scales and the tuning of the instrument, which sometimes sounds off to the ears of audiences more attune to classical music. Additionally, there are not a lot of notes to work with, she explained.

The instrument also is loud, like the “sound is coming from the earth,” said Cristina. And she is drawn to its combination of drone and melody.

“It connects to people in ways they never would expect,” she said.

As a folk instrument, Cristina said the bagpipes aren’t typically found in a symphonic setting as it will be this weekend at The Bushnell.

There also isn’t a wide breadth of classical scores for the instrument, said Cristina. But the problem goes beyond just the Galician bagpipes. There always has been a wall between classical music and world music, said Cristina.

But the piece she will play with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Osvaldo Golijov’s “Rose of the Winds,” breaks down those walls, said Cristina. She said the way Golijov melds the universes of world music and symphonic music is revelatory. Not only has he incorporated bagpipes but other world instruments as well. For the Hartford dates, Kayhan Kalhor will play the kamancheh; David Krakauer will play klezmer clarinet; and Michael Ward-Bergeman will perform on the accordion.

The piece shows that folk instruments from remote parts of the world can work well with classical music traditions, said Cristina.

The piece, which was written 10 years ago, has inspired Cristina– who also plays classical piano—to pursue similar avenues by commissioning additional pieces that meld the worlds of classical music and world music.

“Once the piece starts, (audiences) will forget about the instruments and will listen and enjoy,” said Cristina.

As the last note sounds for “Rose of the Winds” sounds, Cristina said she hopes audiences recognize that it “touches so many traditions, so many emotions… It takes you on a spiritual journey from the beginning to the end,” said Cristina.

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra presents its latest installment of its Masterworks Series, “An American in Paris: World Winds” from Thursday to Sunday, June 9 to 12 at The Belding Theater at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Performances are Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Tickets start at $35; $10 for students with ID,

For more information, call (860)987-5900 or visit



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