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Guide The Highland Bagpipe: Music, History, Tradition (Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series)

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There is, too, a considerable quantity of doggerel, probably composed by pipers themselves, which helps them to recall the opening of a pibroch. Gaelic song is still a living, uninterrupted oral tradition and songs which are hundreds of years old can still be recorded in the Gaelic-speaking areas of Scotland. Notes may have been altered, texts forgotten, new ones grafted on, but the fundamental musical patterns of phrasing and rhythm are least likely to have changed.

In this case one is justified in using evidence found in one tradition that is living, unbroken and purely oral to help evaluate another which has been subjected to the kind of debilitating pressures described earlier and which has relied for more than a century to an unknown extent on what may well be misleading transcriptions. Ross entry in Example 1 of the original paper. He was at that time piper to MacLean of Coll and trained in the tradition of the Rankin school of pipers mentioned in A.

The cow was a noted one and greatly admired by the widow, as her only one apparently. It got lost in the common moss one day, and ultimately the whole neighbourhood turned out to look for it, likely in compassion for the owner, the piper among the rest; but its finding defied them, after their best efforts, nor was the skeleton of it found till over a year afterwards, by a mere accident. The whole circumstance therefore afforded the piper a good theme to begin, which he did as if the widow herself was the author, thus: Pibrochs were not usually composed for lost cattle, but to provide ceremonial music for the Gaelic aristocracy in the form of Salutes and Laments or to foster clan spirit with Gatherings and Marches.

The first three extracts come from the middle of a song which refers to cattle rustling.

Celtic battle music - The King of The Highlands

Semibar lines indicate stressed notes and all the variants have been transposed so that they can easily be compared which each other and with the pipe melody. In normal speech it would be the first. The late Alasdair Boyd — who was himself a piper — gives a version which he heard and possibly once played. But he was doubtful of the accuracy with which he had recalled it. It is a simple and lovely rendering which, as in all her performances, expresses with great subtlety the delicate interrelationship of language, rhythm and melody in Gaelic song, while highlighting the resulting problems of setting sounds on paper.

The fact that the first phrase is more like the pibroch ground than any of the other quoted versions merely underlines the fact that for generations members of her family have been famous Uist pipers. As with the earlier examples and, in fact, all songs that are not sung for dancing, the accents do not follow in rigidly timed succession.


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The singer takes time between phrases without destroying the gently onward flow of the melody. This similarity should suggest to pipers a logical pattern of metrical accents. Of all the eight settings quoted, that of Thomason appears to be the most logical. He alone suggested that the pipe melody begins with an anacrusis just as the song does.

Pipers could well revert to his setting if they have access to it — for it is unfortunately out of print35 — providing that they take their cue from the renderings of traditional singers and do not make the pulse a rigid one. The modern performances quoted in Example 1. Similarly, the presence of the long A note 8 , which was discussed at length, tends to disrupt the melodic flow unnecessarily. There is an obvious danger that the melody played in strict time might bore the listener because of the extreme economy of melodic material.

The song has an A B A B structure, the first line of which contains all the basic material of the pibroch. Economy in this case involves repetition and the ground demands careful shaping by the player if interest is to be maintained, and it may well be that his desire to sustain interest tends to lead to rhythmic distortion. Repetition possibly had an important function in pibroch music, especially in those martial pibrochs that can be identified as Gatherings [Cruinneachadh].

They often consist of easily identified clan signals which, it is presumed, were continually sounded while marshalling men and encouraging them on the battlefields. In view of the repetitive content of pibrochs it must be no accident that many of the associated songs now survive as lullabies and dandling songs. It is only when one sits solemnly indoors at piping competitions and similar occasions to listen to this music, perhaps performed imperfectly and certainly divorced from its original setting, that repetition might sound wearisome.

This paper has attempted to illustrate some of the problems of transmitting pipe music both as it once was and as it is performed in this age. Implied in the argument is a criticism of present-day performance and understanding of pibroch music as well as a criticism of some of the more recent publications of the repertoire. It seems likely that the devotees of pibroch will continue to perform this music — albeit in different social settings from the original one.

Most of them believe that through their performances they are preserving an authentic musical tradition. Their audiences have not always been convinced by their efforts and, judging by the lively and occasionally acrimonious arguments that dominated the correspondence columns of the O ban Times and other publications at various periods during the last 70 years, neither have some pipers.

It is thanks to him and our reed makers, Thomas Johnston, Ronald McShannon, Andrew Frater, Duncan Watson and Jorj Botuha, that my goal of playing pibroch on a critical reproduction of a period instrument has been achieved. We are indebted to the Sinclair family in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for allowing us to measure the Iain Dall chanter and giving permission for a fragment of wood to be removed for microscopic analysis. An account of our methodology and the challenges encountered during reproduction will be published jointly elsewhere, aimed at historical instrument makers.

Popular scorn for the Highland bagpipe is to some extent the result of a scale that grates on the modern Western ear. In an advertisement in the Piping Times announced: A pipe chanter that other musicians will love.

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Pitch and tonality to work with the professionals. The Highland Bagpipe 26 result that young players no longer find the intonation of tracks 5, 6, 10, and 12 on the accompanying CD attractive. Specifically, the fourth D is too sharp. In Alexander Ellis drew a parallel between Highland bagpipe intonation and the scale of Zalzal, a ninth-century Persian theorist, and this view was developed by Alan Thrasher in C is sharp and the omission of a key signature is conventional in Highland bagpipe notation.

Preservation of the old European system? Its well-worn fingerholes, the absence of any modifications and a meticulous repair at an early date indicate that its sound was prized by a succession of owners. Its unique importance, however, rests on the reputation of Iain Dall as one of the finest composers in Highland history. Among the most venerated bagpipe compositions in currency today, more works are attributed to him than to any other individual.

Iain Dall certainly played a significant role, carrying pibroch to the summit of nobility that still towers, spiritually and physically, over the subsequent landscape of Highland bagpipe music. Tuning, IX Intonation, pp. Edinburgh, , p. The Highland Bagpipe 28 pitch of pibroch in its golden age might investigate other surviving chanters, none has such a fine musical pedigree. John Roy emigrated to Nova Scotia in , leaving one daughter behind.

The following report is based on information collected from her son, Iain Buidhe Taillear, at Strath in Gairloch in the s: As a young man he went to the Reay Country, the native land of his great-grandfather Rorie, and there received tuition on the little pipes, which are often used for dance music. He lived in the latter part of his career in Gairloch at Slatadale, where he married and had numerous family, for whose advancement he emigrated to America with all his children except one daughter. She had previously married, but her father was so anxious that she should emigrate with the rest of the family, that she had to hide herself the night before the family left Gairloch in order to avoid being compelled to accompany them.

John Mackay was a splendid piper; when he went to America, Sir Hector said he would never care to hear pipe music again. After meeting the Squire in , the editor of The Celtic Magazine wrote this enthusiastic report: Dixon, Gairloch in North-west Ross-shire Edinburgh, , p. At this time, John, who is now in his 86th year, was 12 years of age, and even now he remembers almost every prominent stone and tree in the parish, to say nothing of the lakes, rivers, mountains, and valleys. His father continued to play the national instrument all his life, and died a very old man.

His elder brother, Angus, also played marches, reels, and strathspeys, but piobaireachd not being appreciated in the land of his adoption, he practiced that higher class of music but little, and was not, therefore, up to the family standard of excellence in that department. He died a few years ago, when nearly one hundred years of age. John himself also learned to play; but at the age of eighteen he finally gave it up, so that now not one of this celebrated family keeps up the name and reputation of the family.

The chanter enters the written record in , in a reply from Judge Patterson of New Glasgow to a friend and piping enthusiast, Judge Calder of Caribou, British Columbia. Judge Calder promptly communicated his discovery to the Piobaireachd Society: This summer, while on a visit to my birthplace in Cape Breton, I made a pilgrimage to see the MacKays and to view and examine this sacred relic, the photograph of which I now forward in the earnest hope that it may not be entirely without interest to the Society and its friends.

Iain Dall, the friend and pupil of Patrick Og MacCrimmon, and one of the most talented figures in the history Highland music, is stated by Osgood Mackenzie to have been born in The news that his chanter is in existence and well cared for is of the deepest interest. I think it was either or John MacLellan was history, I knew exactly who and what he was speaking of.


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I asked John if he would consider removing the chanter from the case so that I could have a closer look at it, and this he did. It obviously had suffered some mishaps over the years and it was bound in a few places with some wire. The thing that struck me most of all was that the area around the High A hole was flat, not round as per the rest of the chanter. Mind you, that made it very comfortable to play and provided a great thumb rest. So, I brought out my silver-soled Robertson chanter that had been presented to me 20 years or so earlier, and used one of the reeds I play in that chanter.

John was just thrilled!! The intonation sounded just fine to me. It did not feel cumbersome and perhaps the spacing of the holes was unfamiliar but not upsetting or difficult to finger. The support of the family made our two days of work, recording observations on paper and video camera, a pure delight.

The chanter has a most graceful shape and the wood turning is of the highest order. It led a heavy working life and is completely broken in two at the sound holes. The Iain Dall Chanter Illustration 2. The broken foot was repaired with a metal collar, inset and fixed onto the chanter with very short nails; this repair is thought to pre-date its Atlantic crossing in as it shows considerable age and great care, suggesting that the chanter was valued as a professional instrument at the time. Due to subsequent wood contraction and a crack in the metal collar, the foot section is now loose.

This fragment was sent to Jodrell Laboratories, Kew, where three planes of section were examined. More likely, however, is that it was bought for Iain Dall by Sir Alexander MacKenzie, the laird who paid for his education in Skye, sometime before his death in Its uneconomical use of timber suggests a date of manufacture earlier than , when a Highland chanter with an ivory sole was painted by Joseph MacDonald — a design which allows the wooden column to be turned from a smaller billet.

This might suggest that the Iain Dall chanter was turned at an early stage in the exploitation of lignum vitae, when supply was abundant. It certainly pre-dates the fashion for a horn or ivory sole, which had became a defining characteristic of Highland chanters by the end of the eighteenth century. Luisinus, De morbo gallico , p. National Museums of Scotland, The Black Chanter of Clan Chattan shows no softening of the holes, but also no signs of usage, and we conclude that it cracked before it was finished.

He formed the opinion that its deep softening, fitting the hand like a glove, was highly desirable. MacPherson, aged 83, also noted with delight the closer spacing of the low A hole. With advancing years, the aspect of pibroch which had caused him most bother was an elusive low G in movements like hiharin and darid, because the little finger no longer stretched to seal the hole as reliably as it had previously. The only tradition concerning seventeenth-century Highland pipe manufacture of which I am aware suggests that the Iain Dall chanter was made in Gaelic Scotland, rather than Glasgow or Edinburgh.

A famous dynasty of bagpipe makers is believed to have lived at Moleigh, a little south of Oban, in the seventeenth century. The size of the reed seat indicates that this chanter possessed a reed of significantly longer staple and bulkier tying than any historical or modern Highland reed known to the investigation team. The reed seat also has a strange insert, possibly made of horn or some kind of putty, which might suggest that it was once larger still Illustration 2.

The Piobaireachd Society, , pp. The high A hole is unusual in having been made at a slight angle towards the foot. It is slightly funnel-shaped, with a smaller diameter inside. Remarkably, no one ever touched this hole to cure a flat high A. However, no trace of any tuning substance was detected. On the right-hand side, between the D and E holes, is a double wear mark Illustration 2. This would mean that the chanter was played right-hand-high, opposite to convention today. Photos a and d of Illustration 2. If intended for a right-hand-high player, then these hole positions slope in sympathy with a good hand posture, avoiding tension from an angled wrist.

There is no evidence of pinching on the high A hole, which would be expected if the chanter had been overblown to sound notes in the second octave. As Major Cairns recalled, the surface around this hole is completely flat Illustration 2. Decades of wear caused by the hiharin finger might explain why the low A hole has been so crudely scalloped with a knife Illustration 2.

If it had been worn on one side, this would make it difficult to cover if played with the other hand high. This modification appears to be of a later date, given its relative lack of surface wear. Vital to this investigation, the finger-holes show no sign of alteration or undercutting: Fine-tuning was therefore only conducted by scraping the reed, by applying a substance into the finger-holes, or by inserting a rush as pipers do in Ireland.

The observation which poses ongoing challenges to the reproduction team is the size of the throat. This has a cylindrical section These frequencies for A all lie between those of church organs built at Hampton Court in Hz and in Durham in the s Hz. A dramatic rise in the pitch of pipe bands since the s drove the median pitch in solo piping up to Hz in the s, but there are signs that this trend has now peaked and that pitch is returning to the range of preceding centuries, owing to the renewed freshness of a mellower sound and possibly a greater historical sensitivity.

The Iain Dall Chanter 37 Crucial to the question of intonation is fingering, which has an effect that varies from reed to reed. Alternatives for D are found in the two earliest Highland fingering documents: Given his training on the baroque violin with Nicolo Pasquali in Edinburgh, and his acute perceptions regarding pibroch tonality, one might have expected him to comment if this interval was ambiguous, between major and minor. Joseph was an accomplished fiddler in the Gaelic tradition before going to Edinburgh; might Pasquali have criticized his Gaelic intonation?

The only distinction Joseph draws with the scale of baroque music is that none of the notes in Gaelic piping is inflected by a semitone: The few [flats, sharps and naturals] that might be playd woud be an entire Deviation from the genuine and Original Style of this Musick.

The Highland Bagpipe (Ashgate Popular and Folk Music)

A tolerance of about 5 cents should be built in to each figure to avoid a false sense of accuracy. This result is preliminary because we are not entirely satisfied that the reed and reproduction chanter are perfectly coupled; the residual preconceptions of modern reed design are not easily shed, and there is little evidence from the past to guide us.

The figures for John MacDonald are calculated from: Figures 12 and The average is from: The Iain Dall Chanter 39 Understanding Highland Bagpipe Intonation The interaction of cultural and physical factors giving rise to the intonation ideals of an individual or a tradition is a complex and capricious subject. Alexander Ellis published a response from David Glen,the celebrated bagpipe maker and music publisher, indicating that purity with the drones was sought after in the s: Our opinion is that if a chaunter was made perfect in any [other] scale it would not go well with the drones.

Pure intervals are perceived in some indigenous cultures as insipid or infertile, and the actual measurements in Table 2. It is also important to recognise that there are many more pure intervals than the human ear is comfortable categorizing.

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Those closest to the actual measurements in Table 2. The Highland Bagpipe 40 The quality of purity and difficulty of tuning depends on the extent to which all the harmonics interlock — not just the lowest pair — and on their relative amplitude. The loudest are chanter harmonics 2—5 and drone harmonics 1—18, and the easiest intervals to tune are marked in bold. There are many more consonances within an octave; these are simply those closest to actual measurements of Highland bagpipe intonation.

Impure intervals may arise from pure tuning procedures and the difference between natural harmonics. Harp, fiddle and trump traditions are relevant to this discussion because they too enjoyed great popularity in the Highlands. As can be seen from Table 2. Since the s there has been a decisive shift in fashion regarding the intonation of D, abandoning a more dissonant, colourful quality in favour of purity with the drones — the criterion by which F always seems to have been tuned. The near extinction of this fourth in Scotland contrasts with the positive cultivation of colourful thirds, fourths, sixths and sevenths in Norway, and of colourful thirds and sevenths in Cape Breton.

The following recordings demonstrate the persistence of a range of colourful fourths and sevenths throughout the twentieth century, and the fame of the artists within their respective cultures helps us to perceive the old intonation of the Highland bagpipe in a more sympathetic context: This track is included as evidence that the intonation ideal for C was never as flat as a neutral third, as proposed by Ellis in and Thrasher in John Lorne Campbell ed.

The Folklore Society, , p. For biographical details, see: In his intonation, measurements for which are given in Figure 2. His record was only beaten by Donald MacPherson, who can probably be credited with establishing the modern preference for a pure fourth. In these reels, his minor seventh is noticeably sharp, a quality widespread in the tradition and thought to be influenced by the intonation of Highland pipers. In this recording, his fourth is also variably sharp of pure, but this is unusual. He is the last champion piper to customarily play a colourful fourth; this intonation is now extinct at a professional level.

The Highland bagpipe : music, history, tradition

The College of Piping, Etnisk Musikklubb EM29 released Like many young Norwegian players, he has devoted considerable energy to keeping the intonation dialect of his local region alive. In a review of intonation studies in Norway, Hans-Hinrich Thedens reports two incidents that demonstrate the clash of cultures such a change precipitates. The classically trained violinist comments: Maurset corrected me when I played the halling for him from my notation. First I played F — that was wrong — then F, also wrong! When I placed my finger between the two he was satisfied. The second incident concerns the langeleik, which like a dulcimer has several drone strings sounding against one melody string: When Ola Brenno — from Valdres played for tourists in one of the new mountain hotels of the area he was approached by one of the listeners who introduced himself as an organist by profession.

He offered his help and then pried the frets of the langeleik loose and reglued them according to the major scale. He found it only worked for waltzes and schottisches. Etnisk Musikklubb EM33 released The Iain Dall Chanter 43 interference with the drone harmonics. This is equally true of fiddlers, and in their definitive study of Cape Breton fiddle music, David Greenberg and Kate Dunlay suggest a connection with the Highland bagpipe: Some Cape Breton fiddlers make occasional use of notes which are sharp or flat of standard pitch.

Some of the time they are true quarter-tones, but more frequently they are closer to one adjacent standard pitch than another. This practice may be due in part to the influence of the Highland bagpipe scale; oral history indicates that formerly the pipes were commonly played for dancing in Cape Breton, and that fiddlers and pipers freely exchanged tunes. A number of musicians played both instruments.

Some fingers are also more accustomed to adjusting their placement than others. The Scottish harp revival has so far overlooked traditional Gaelic intonation. In the shadow of imperialist attitudes to the Highland bagpipe, this is unsurprising: If the untunefulness of the scale in its present form were removed, so also would the irritation which it causes musical people. DunGreen Music, , p. This provides an intrinsic polarity of tension and release that could accentuate the beauty of many traditional melodies. The possibility that it is historical rests on the fact that it is easier than Meantone as no tempering is required, and its proximity to the intonation of the Iain Dall chanter.

The Iain Dall Chanter 45 Conclusions A family emigrating to Canada in would only have carried bare essentials, and it is remarkable that this chanter survived the hazards of house-moving over nine generations. This adds weight to the messages it carries from a remote past to musicians, bagpipe makers and musicologists today: This reduces the risk of an air leak, which can break the spell of pibroch, and allows the chanter to be held more lightly. Would it do them or the tradition any good to reinstate historical intonation?

Should it be encouraged in our competitions? This was the path chosen in Norway: To be able to use it properly is now considered an accomplishment. The Highland Bagpipe 46 have grown up with traditional music, or it competes with other styles in their musical consciousness. The questions now are: Shears The past few decades have seen an increased interest in the study of the origins, music and performance style of the Great Highland Bagpipe. Despite the importance of the bagpipes to the Scottish Highlander, there has been little available research into the makers, material and methods of bagpipe manufacture in Scotland and even less in those diverse areas settled predominantly by Scottish Gaels such as Australia, New Zealand and North America.

The purpose of this chapter is therefore to present information and photographs of a selection of Highland bagpipes found in Nova Scotia and, by doing so, add to emerging academic areas such as the folklife and diverse cultural geography of the Scottish Gael. In addition to the home-made bagpipes noted below are a number of instruments or parts of instruments which are believed to date to late seventeenth-, eighteenthand early nineteenth-century Scotland. The Iain Dall pipe chanter, which was brought to Nova Scotia in by the famous MacKay family of Gairloch, is believed to date to about and may be the oldest example of a non-indigenous woodwind instrument in existence in North America.

This is regrettable since, as Jules David Prown, a strong proponent of preserving and studying artefacts and material culture, points out: They provide an opportunity by which we encounter the past at first hand; we have direct sensory experience of surviving historical events. There are no books on the subject and apparently few sources of information.

Old sets of bagpipes are few and far between … [and] are by nature fragile and perishable. Both of these instruments were made by George Sherar, an immigrant to Sydney, Australia from Scotland. John Donald, , p. Magnus Orr Publishing, Centre — immigrated to Australia in with his family and, with his father, John, set up a bagpipe-making business in Victoria. Between and his early death in James Centre was reputed to have made 50 sets of bagpipes.

Anderson made at least three sets in the s and Martin made several sets of bagpipes during the years — Included in this study are four unique examples of bagpipes brought from Scotland to Nova Scotia during the immigration period. These instruments were selected because of their unique characteristics and represent only a small sampling of what has survived. Also included are several examples of local bagpipe manufacture in the province during the period — Primary sources and much of the material for this chapter are from personal examination of the instruments and interviews which included discussion of associated family lore.

Some of these bagpipes are in remarkably good shape considering their age and frequent usage. They also illustrate various configurations such as two- and three-droned instruments. A few of these bagpipes have a significant amount of related folklore, including the dates when the instruments were brought from Scotland to Nova Scotia and genealogical information related to the original and subsequent owners.

What follows is an examination of bagpipe-making with particular emphasis on, but not restricted to, pipe-making in Nova Scotia. Early Bagpipe-making in Scotland In Scotland bagpipes were usually made on a lathe. The early turning lathes consisted of two types: New South Wales University Press, , p.

Mercer, Tools of the Nation Maker: The Historical Society of Bucks County, , pp. At first, local woods such as holly, laburnum and boxwood were used in the manufacture of bagpipes. Stylistic features such as the bells or terminals at the end of the drones, once almost pear-shaped, developed into a smaller, slightly square profile sometime in the late s. Mounting serves a practical as well as decorative purpose as mounts are placed at strategic locations on the wood to help prevent it from splitting.

The popularity of the bagpipe as a dance instrument,16 coupled with the demand from British army for instruments, expanded markets and centralized bagpipemaking in growing urban centres such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Forfar. The increase in the number of pipers in the army,17 aided in part by the continued recruitment of men for service in existing Highland regiments and the establishment of fencible battalions for home defence — , was accompanied by a significant increase in demand for new instruments.

The recruitment of pipers employed by wealthy patrons on estates18 also enlarged the market for bagpipes, a demand which over time was filled by full-time makers. John Donald, pp. For further information on bagpipe makers, see Campbell, Highland Bagpipe Makers. Geographically it consists of a mainland portion, which is a large peninsula jutting out into the North Atlantic, and an archipelago of large and small islands known collectively as Cape Breton. In a permanent causeway was built joining Cape Breton to the mainland.

The Scottish settlements were eventually abandoned a few years later after being sacked by French soldiers and Scottish immigration ceased until almost two hundred Highlanders in search of a better life landed at Pictou, Nova Scotia on the ship Hector in September Their arrival heralded the beginning of largescale Scottish immigration to Nova Scotia. Over the next 75 years approximately 50, Scottish settlers, mostly Gaelic-speaking Highlanders, settled in northeastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.

Recent research has identified the names of almost eighty immigrant pipers to Nova Scotia during this period — The Scottish Gaels who immigrated to Nova Scotia brought with them a rich and varied tradition of music, song and dance. While several aspects of Nova Scotia Gaelic culture, including collections of Gaelic songs, stories and some instrumental music, have already been the subject of considerable research, much less attention has been paid to the study of specific musical instruments or their manufacture.

This is unfortunate, since in the nineteenth century Nova Scotia boasted several musical instrument-makers including pipe-makers, piano and reed organ manufacturers and violin-makers, as well as musical instruments from several immigrant groups. Until recently there have been few attempts to collect examples of the handiwork of these many artisans for display, research and study. Many of the early immigrants were pipers and, in addition to bringing Scottishmade bagpipes to Nova Scotia, they and their descendants constructed bagpipes for small localized markets using local materials.

By examining surviving examples of local pipe-making in Nova Scotia, it would appear that, except for a few stylistic changes, the art of making bagpipes remained relatively unchanged for most of the nineteenth century. The bagpipe is recognized as the national instrument of Scotland. It, and the love of its music, was omnipresent among the numerous Gaels who settled Nova Scotia. Gesner, a noted local scientist and inventor wrote: Angus MacIsaac was the first settler at the Lake. In , he and his family left Moidart for America. He took up much wood land at the Lake, enough to give each of his six sons a farm.

The Highland bagpipe : music, history, tradition (Book, ) [omyhukocow.tk]

His grandchildren now live on these farms and are doing very well. He loved pipe music and he remembered many of the tunes he used to hear from the pipers on board the vessels. He used to make [practice] chanters from ash sticks in which he would put an oaten reed, and he would play merrily on this instrument.

Alexander wanted a bagpipe, but one could not be procured in the land and it would cost too much money to seek it in Scotland. He got wood and an auger, a sheepskin and cobblers thread and he made a pipe and learned to play it. I might say that that was the first bagpipe I ever heard. And of course he attended weddings, setting old folks adancing — thinking themselves young again! The network for training new pipers in nineteenth-century Nova Scotia consisted of extended family members or older musicians in the community. During the second half of the nineteenth century the number of pipers and chanter players23 among the second, third and forth generation Gaels in Nova Scotia numbered in the hundreds.

MacTalla was the longest running Gaelic newspaper in the world. I am indebted to Effie Rankin of Mabou for the English translation. Woo d, Ho rn and Bo ne 53 instruments, and created a demand for new ones and repairs to existing bagpipes. Research shows that Nova Scotia not only has fine examples of locally made instruments, but also some excellent, and possibly unique, examples of Scottishmade bagpipes. Immigrant Bagpipes in Nova Scotia At one time there was a much more varied arrangement of drones than at present.

Several immigrant bagpipes which were brought to Nova Scotia represent all four drone arrangements. The surviving examples of early bagpipes in Scotland are not uniform and it is not until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century that standardization started to creep into the rather small bagpipe-making industry. The Highland Society of Scotland banned two-droned bagpipes from its pibroch competitions in Edinburgh in and these changes, if strictly enforced, would have no doubt restricted the number of competing pipers from the west coast of Scotland — although if a competitor was serious enough about competing, he could perhaps have borrowed a three-droned set.

Tuckwell Press, , p. The edition of the Compleat Theory is known to be a flawed printing of the original c. The storm, which lasted for two days and was followed by a heavy thick fog, blew them far off their course where they managed to find shelter on a small deserted island. The party was not prepared for such an event and since it was late in the autumn, many had given up hopes of getting off the island alive.

Death stared them in the face; and everyone, but Rory MacNeil, gave up all hopes of getting out of that place alive. He said to his despairing companions: He set up the pipes and played some tune or dirge which signified that the player was in distress. The sounds of the pibroch were heard and understood by the people on the mainland. A rescuing party went in the direction from which the music was coming, and took the half perished sufferers from their uncomfortable quarters. The number of surviving instruments in Nova Scotia is small when compared to the number of immigrant pipers who came to the province.

There are several reasons for this. Since bagpipes were expensive to purchase, one instrument would be used by several family members and, over time, become worn out and eventually discarded. Add to these factors a marked increase in population which strained many rural resources. This resulted in a substantial outward migration to the United States and Western Canada by descendants of immigrant pipers, who usually took the family instruments with them. One such case was the family of Robert MacIntyre.

Robert MacIntyre was descended from the celebrated family of pipers in Rannoch who hereditarily served Menzies of Weem. Mackenzie Roth, , p. While it would be foolhardy to try and identify an exact date of manufacture, the family lore surrounding the examples discussed below can elucidate what we know of their arrival in Nova Scotia.

This provides a fixed date in time in conjunction with several samples of rather unique instruments. The Scottish examples described below include a variety of drone configurations, both two- and three-droned. This bagpipe consists of a single drone, chanter and blowpipe and originally belonged to the aforementioned family of MacIntyres from Rannoch.

A second single-droned bagpipe was owned by another MacIntyre family in Cape Breton and used as a beginner set, but whether the instrument consisted as an original single drone or if the bagpipe was merely the remnants of an older set is uncertain. This bagpipe, as well as a two-droned relic from the Battle of Waterloo, was destroyed in separate house fires in Cape Breton in the late twentieth century. According to local folklore, both instruments were brought to Cape Breton from South Uist around — Reverend Colin MacRae restored the bagpipe to playing condition in and later wrote a brief description the bagpipe and a bit of its history.

The genealogical information in his typed description leaves out a generation of MacIntyre pipers. A bagpipe which consists of only two tenor drones has several advantages over its three-droned counterpart. It can be played on either the right or left shoulder and, with one less drone to worry about, it might stay in tune longer.

In addition, a two-droned instrument would require less materials and time to make, which would have reduced the overall cost of manufacture. Most pipers today play with the pipe bag under the left arm, but this was not always the case. In the nineteenth century there was much less regimentation as to which arm held the pipe bag or which hand was uppermost on the chanter.

When the transition from the right shoulder to the left occurred is impossible to say with any certainty. After examining some older three-droned bagpipes in Nova Scotia, it would appear that at least one set was deliberately made with a significantly larger outside tenor drone stock to accommodate moving the position of the bass drone depending on which shoulder the pipe was to be held see Illustration 3. This book contains several photographs collected in Nova Scotia which depict both right- and left-shouldered pipers and a variety of hand positions.

The MacDougall bagpipe see Illustration 3. The chanter is original to the set and the blow pipe is a crude replacement made from a North American hardwood. There are no markings on the bagpipe to indicate who made it; a common characteristic for instruments of this age. Another two-droned set, tenors only, surfaced recently at an auction in the neighbouring province of Prince Edward Island. In the case of both two-droned sets a bass drone, made by another maker in a much different style, was added presumably at a later date.

The Irish war-pipe is said to have consisted of two drones, possibly a bass and tenor,34 and a similarly configured bagpipe may have been brought to Cape Breton. Lachlan MacLean was 18 years old at the Battle of Culloden in and family lore says that he immigrated to Cape Breton as an old man and died when he was years old. Lachlan MacLean had two sons who were pipers and when the family left Barra for Cape Breton on the ship Ann in , they stopped for a short time at Tobermory, Isle of Mull, before beginning the transatlantic crossing to North America.

Peter drowned in in Cape Breton and the pipes were passed on to his younger brother, Roderick MacLean. A charcoal etching of Roderick MacLean Illustration 3. He is certainly too youthful-looking to be a son of a man born in The whereabouts of this bagpipe are presently unknown. Some examples are in reasonably good condition but most are severely cracked and unplayable in their present state. The area around Lake Ainslie, Inverness County, attracted numerous settlers from the west coast of Scotland in the early part of the nineteenth century.

Protestant Gaels settled on the east side of the lake, while Catholic Gaels occupied the west side. A similarly configured bagpipe, bass and tenor, surfaced a few years ago but since it is not a complete set, it is impossible to positively identify the bagpipe as originally having only two drones. There was a local tradition that the bagpipe, which consists of three drones, had been played at the Battle of Waterloo,40 and there is a chance that Archibald MacKinnon may have been a piper during the Napoleonic Wars.

The MacKinnon bagpipe is distinguished by a plain metal ring on each of the drone tops, as shown in Illustration 3. One tenor drone top and three of the four tuning pins have been shortened or broken off, as seen in Illustration 3. The Casket Printing and Publishing Co. During the wedding reception he was handed a set of bagpipes, and within a few bars of his first tune he suffered a brain haemorrhage and died. Unfortunately one of the tenor drones is missing from this set. Another three-droned bagpipe which may possibly have its origins in the late eighteenth century was discovered a few years ago in Pictou County.

Campbell, Highland Bagpipe Makers, pp. There are several possibilities for its origin, but the most plausible is that it is a relic of the American Revolutionary War. It was found in an area settled by veterans of the 84th Royal Highland Emigrants. In addition to the bagpipe, the pipe box also contained a rosewood fife, which suggests a military provenance. The bagpipe itself, shown in Illustration 3. It is fully mounted in horn and the form of the projecting mounts seems to straddle the small button mount style and the later appearance of the wider projecting mounts.


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  4. The mounts are pressure-fitted and, in the case of the chanter sole, the end of the chanter is bevelled to receive the sole from one direction only. Cameron, Pictonians in Arms New Brunswick, , pp. This very old profession was indispensable to pioneer society. Many nineteenth-century wood-turners made a profitable sideline of making and repairing bagpipes by offering a comparatively inexpensive alternative to importing new instruments from Scotland.

    Between the years and , almost twenty individuals in Nova Scotia made bagpipes. Over the past 25 years, research on piping in Nova Scotia has uncovered several examples of home-made bagpipes from Pictou County, Inverness County and Cape Breton County. The bagpipes made in Nova Scotia represent a functional device as well as a form of folk art. These instruments, fashioned from wood and decorated with fittings of horn, brass and bone, were both aesthetically pleasing and useful. In Nova Scotia the most common hardwoods used in bagpipe manufacture were apple-wood and sometimes ash or pearwood; usually stained black.

    Occasionally, if the maker lived close to a shipbuilding centre, some tropical woods, such as lignum vitae, were available. In the nineteenth century Nova Scotia was known for its expertise in wooden shipbuilding and there were several craftsmen who had the necessary skills to make a set of bagpipes. He worked at the local shipyard in Fourchu, Cape Breton and constructed several sets of bagpipes over his lifetime.

    One of these instruments was made from lignum vitae and was reputed to have had a soft mellow tone, ideal for playing indoors. Many of the instruments made in Nova Scotia were turned on a lathe, usually powered by a foot treadle, and in some instances the various parts of the bagpipe were carved by hand. The conical shape of the pipe chanter was achieved by using an old three-sided French bayonet as a reamer.

    The local pipe-maker used whatever material was available for mounts, including cattle horn, bone, brass, sea ivory from walruses and whales or ivory from billiard balls. Bagpipe-makers in Nova Scotia would undoubtedly copy sets brought from Scotland and this might explain why Nova Scotia bagpipes reflect the style and size of an earlier period. Woo d, Ho rn and Bo ne 63 The most notable feature of the surviving home-made instruments are the number and size of the drones.

    One of the most successful pipe-makers in Nova Scotia, Duncan Gillis of Grand Mira, made only two-droned sets at first, adding a bass drone when requested to do so. Duncan Gillis was born in Margaree, Inverness County, around the middle of the nineteenth century and his family later relocated to the Gaelic settlement at Grand Mira to be closer to relatives. It is not known when he began making bagpipes or who he was apprenticed to as a turner.

    An advertisement in the Pictou News of claimed that Gillis was the only manufacturer of bagpipes in America, which might indicate that he was in business for a few years at least by this time. Unfortunately, no record books have survived to indicate just how many sets of bagpipes Gillis made. This particular immigrant bagpipe was reputedly played at the Battle of Waterloo in ; not an uncommon claim for many old sets of bagpipes in Nova Scotia. However, the instrument appears to have been made earlier — possibly during the s. A set of Duncan Gillis bagpipes is on display at the College of Piping Museum in Glasgow, Scotland and several years ago a set of Gillis pipes surfaced at a yard sale in Ontario.

    Duncan Gillis proved so successful in his pipe-making endeavours that he was celebrated in a Gaelic song composed by the Margaree Bard, Malcolm Gillis, a portion of which follows: Sea-cape Music, , p. Blessings on his skilful hand Noted for every task, And on his intellect which produced Much artistic beauty: Often did the sound of the pipes stimulate The disposition of these noble men, The Children of the Gael from the heaths My beloved ones, valiant heroes].

    From all available evidence, Robert Ross was the first person in Nova Scotia, and possibly North America, to make full sets of Highland bagpipes, pre-dating Duncan Gillis by over half a century. Surviving documents indicate that he served a period of six months in the 75th Regiment and was discharged in , six years before the Battle of Waterloo.

    The 75th Regiment was known as the 75th Stirlingshire Regiment, which was raised as a Highland unit in It is perhaps no coincidence that is the same year in which the 75th Highlanders were redesignated as the 75th Foot and deprived of its Highland dress. Changes to the regiment may have eliminated the position of company piper as well. According to family tradition, Robert Ross applied for a land grant in Pictou County but due to a delay in processing his request, several adult members of his family decided to move to West Bay, Richmond County, to take advantage of the recent land availability in Cape Breton.

    Ross eventually received his land grant and continued to live in Bay View, Pictou County, until his death in Woo d, Ho rn and Bo ne Illustration 3. The overall shape of this bagpipe, with button mounts and chalice-shaped drone bells, is reminiscent of the pipes played by Neil MacLean, former piper to the Highland Society of London, as seen in his portrait of In the first two decades of the twentieth century interest in piping began to wane in the rural areas and, as more and more people started to relocate to larger centres, the need for locally made instruments declined.

    The development of the significant coal deposits and a new steel plant in Sydney, Cape Breton, provided much-needed employment. The lure of steady wages and a more modern lifestyle lured two pipe-makers to Boston from Nova Scotia in the late s. John MacDonald was a piper and pipe-maker from Pictou County. His father and grandfather were both pipers and he eventually set up a shop making and repairing bagpipes and violins on Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, Ronald MacLean is reputed to have made a single set of bagpipes before he left Cape Breton for Boston around He was a skilled wood-carver and spent most of his life in the Boston area where his skills were much in demand.

    More disposable income and the availability of imported bagpipes made it easier, and indeed preferable, to rely on Scotland for the production of new instruments. In Scotland tropical woods, with their superior tonal qualities, had virtually displaced local timber in the manufacture of bagpipes.

    The number of firms involved in pipe-making had increased significantly to accommodate the growing civilian pipe band movement which had spread throughout the world and these firms soon dominated the market. In the case of the th Battalion Cape Breton Highlanders, bagpipes were purchased by various charitable organizations, civic groups and wealthy patrons, and these included Henderson and Glen bagpipes. Many pipers in the 25th Battalion brought their own pipes with them when they enlisted, although there was no official 25th pipe band at the beginning of the war.

    Woo d, Ho rn and Bo ne 69 twentieth century but, by the end of the First World War, the heyday of the local pipe-maker was quickly coming to a close. Conclusion Highland immigration to Nova Scotia from to coincided with changes in Scotland to the instrument and its manufacture. These changes were prompted by the banning of two-droned bagpipes from competition, the increasing prominence of tropical woods for musical instrument-making and the emergence of a small number of professional bagpipe makers.

    And revivalist research which reassesses Highland piping's cultural position relative to other Scottish piping traditions, such as that of the Lowlands and Borders, today effectively challenges the notion of the Highland bagpipe as Scotland's 'national' instrument. The Highland Bagpipe provides an unprecedented insight into the current state of Scottish piping studies. The contributors — from Scotland, England, Canada and the United States — discuss the bagpipe in oral and written history, anthropology, ethnography, musicology, material culture and modal aesthetics.

    The book will appeal to ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, as well as those interested in international bagpipe studies and traditions. But Scottish bagpipe music and tradition - particularly, but not exclusively, the Highland bagpipe - has enjoyed an unprecedented Ashgate Publishing Bolero Ozon.