2016 Piobaireachd Society Presentations

For those of you interested in hearing the 1-hour presentation I gave in Scotland last month, the Piobaireachd Society has graciously allowed us to connect to the YouTube video of the talk.

Simon Chadwick’s brilliant presentation and performance is also available:

I suspect, however, that the most important and effective presentation of the day was by Colin MacLellan, whose proposals set the stage for new and exciting changes in the years ahead.

All three talks were given on 19 March 2016 in the Birnam Hotel. The Piobaireachd Society also has its own channel.  You may wish to subscribe to it here.


9 thoughts on “2016 Piobaireachd Society Presentations

  1. This is so great! Im kind of isolated from piobaireachd players and scholars here in Sweden. And very thankfull for this site, and also to listen to this lecture from PS.
    / Henrik

  2. A wonderful presentation Dr Hester! My only regret is that Geoff Hore is no longer among us to hear your speech.

    One point you raised which is indicative of the current state of piobaireachd performance was your remark about YouTube,com being now a primary source for guidance for beginners as to the playing of a particular tune (‘some guy in his garage’ haha!). Would this not begin to operate in a Darwinian process of ‘hit’ selection where downloads breeds further downloads (through YouTube prioritisation) thereby creating the paneer and illusion of authority – which may not be warranted? (16284 hits can’t be wrong!!!)

    Could not a similar process have been in place with the competition system?

    As an aside, when I examine the indications of playing tempos in the older records I get a distinct impression that tempos slowed with the publication of William Ross’ collection (1869). I will do some more detailed analysis and put pen to paper on this matter at a later date.

    Once again, congratulations and thank you for your efforts!

  3. Another area which appears to have received little attention is a cryptic remark in Joseph MacDonald:

    “In their Fantasia’s or Voluntary Pieces they don’t observe the Ground so strictly” (MS p 38-9). On the interpretation of ‘Fantasia’ Roderick Cannon quotes from the OED ‘a kind of air, wherein the composer… has all the freedom and liberty allowed him… that can reasonably be desired’ (1724).

    This would seem to open the door, at least a chink, to endless possibilities. For example I am now using this very broad principle to arrange for myself a reduced version of the grand ‘Lament for the Harp Tree’ which I hope captures the beautify of this remarkable tune but in a greatly reduced performance time.

  4. Very enthusiastic and well-supported presentation, David. Much food for thought.

    Your response to the question from Rab about where things went off the rails was intriguing. Many of the descendants of the highland and island oral traditions died in the trenches or in the next decade after. Possibly causing a lack of support for alternative interpretations that quickly narrowed the focus of styles.

    MacLellan’s historical summary of the piobaireachd eras ignores the later Victorian and Edwardian composers. Roderick Campbell’s lament for his brother is worthy of being heard, especially in light of him being such a tragic figure. A. R. MacLeod also had some work worth exploring, and Watt’s Lament for Nurse Edith Cavell can be expressed for great pathos. These more romantic melodies seem to be forsaken, and the Donald MacLeod compositions regarded as starting the “modern” era. Amusing to remember Seamus MacNeill’s lack of regard for any piobaireachds written after toilets were invented.

    1. @ Rooklidge

      A very important, nay, crucial point is raised as to ‘when things went off the rails….’

      On April Fool’s Day 1905 the following notice was published (for several weeks) in the Oban Times (which was the leading outlet for piping news and commentary at that time):

      “To Pipers. Caution. The Piobaireachd Society’s Revised Setting of Six Piobaireachd. This is the only Edition authorised by The Piobaireachd Society, and from which the competitors will be judged. Published only by Logan & Coy. Inverness. Price 3/2. Post Free.” (‘The Highland Pipe and Scottish Society’, Donaldson 2000, p290)

      The whole chapter is worth reading as background for this issue.

      Fixed that for Mr Wallace.

  5. Dr. Hester
    I enjoyed your presentation especially the drawing of Moses to ensure that how to play piobaireachd is not written in stone. However I remember reading an article in the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association [EUSPBA] magazine The Voice. The author James Hamilton was regaling the reader with the story of the life of his uncle George Moss. Moss taught him to play his fosgailtes in an open style, as a piper in one of the regiments he was playing the Glen is Mine and was playing the fosgailte in an open style which Moss told him was the traditional way it was played. The senior P/M came over and told him “its not played that way any more and to get with the program.” Do you think that the PS sets the standard of play for continuity reasons in order to avoid marking the tune one way and having the competitor respond “that’s the way I learned it. in the traditional way.”
    Keep up the good work on this great site.!!!

  6. @ Mike Kinney

    A very good point, but perhaps should read:
    “There might be a continuous line of teachers from the 18th century, but there is not a continuous line of TRADITIONAL Gaelic Culture.”

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