Piffaro is an early music ensemble of mostly wind instrument players whose reportorial focus is the late-medieval and Renaissance eras.
To say the collective sound is authentic and honest is hardly an exaggeration, for the group employs original instruments from early periods such as dulcians, sackbuts, shawms, recorders, bagpipes, krumhorns, lutes, Renaissance guitars, and a range of others. They also use period-based percussion and strings to add greater range and depth to the sound, while remaining faithful to the style of the period. Known until 1995 as the Philadelphia Renaissance Wind Band, the ensemble consists of six players, although that number may vary according to the instrumental requirements of a work. Typically, guest artists appear at the Philadelphia-based concerts, excerpts of which are often broadcast on NPR's Performance Today program. The name Piffaro is Italian for pipe, or, as it pertains to this group, pipe or wind instruments. Piffaro appears in numerous concerts a year, not only in Philadelphia, where it performs in about four concert series yearly, but on tour at major concert venues across the globe. The ensemble has made numerous recordings for several labels, including DG, Newport Classics, Dorian Records, and on its own Piffaro label. Piffaro was formed in Philadelphia in 1980. Members of the ensemble include co-director and founding member Joan Kimball (recorders, bagpipes, capped reeds, shawm, etc.), Robert Wiemken (dulcian, shawm, recorders, rackett, percussion, capped reeds), Grant Herreid (guitar, lute, vihuela, recorders, shawm, percussion), Greg Ingles (krumhorn, sackbut, recorder, krumhorn, percussion), Christa Patton (harp, recorder, shawm, capped reeds), and Tom Zajac (sackbut, hurdy gurdy, recorders, bagpipes, pipe and tabor, harp, percussion). Piffaro slowly built its reputation and by the early '90s was recognized among the foremost American early music ensembles. The group's first recording, Keeping the Watch, was issued by Newport Classics in 1991. Two years later it made its European debut in the Bavarian city of Regensburg. What might be described as Piffaro's first major recording, Canzoni e Danze, was released on DG's Archiv Produktion label in 1995. Major tours of Europe and appearances at popular European festivals followed from 1996-1998. In the new century Piffaro has been recording for Dorian Records and has made several releases on its own label. Among its recordings is the 2007 CD Recordari: The Art of the Renaissance Recorder.