The Barrie Orme Tapes of the Simon Fraser Playing Style

Robin Andrew’s excellent series on George Moss calls to mind another 20th century piper, Dr. Barrie Orme, whose playing style also lay outside the mainstream and seems to represent a survival of earlier practice. It predates the “Army” or Piobaireachd Society playing style. Orme’s recorded piping was played for an old Hebridean piper, who said “That’s real music—that’s how Lachie Ban MacCormick used to play.” His settings are admired for their musicality and his playing features a regular and rythmic variation style featuring some unusual ornamentation.

Orme was a student of Hugh Fraser in Australia. Hugh’s father was Simon Fraser, whose father Hugh Archibald Fraser, a reputed student of Ian Dall MacCrimmon and Neil MacLeod of Gesto, emigrated to Australia in 1828. Simon Fraser maintained a prolific correspondence with the Oban Times in the early 20th century, stating his strong opinions on pibroch performance style, and creating an unfortunate impression with his equally forthrightly stated religious views. This, and his status as a “colonial” at a far remove from the center of piping, led to ridicule and obscurity. In her contribution to The Highland Bagpipe: Music, History, Tradition (ed. Joshua Dickson), historian Bridget MacKenzie provides a detailed reassessment of Simon Fraser, the father of Orme’s teacher Hugh Fraser. Barrie Orme became the de facto conservator of the Simon Fraser playing style, and preserved it in a number of recordings and books. The music was deposited in the National Library of Scotland in 1951, and the tapes were given to the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburg, in 1961. Unfortunately, Orme felt the need to apply extensive copyright protections to the material, and it has been difficult to access.

In the liner notes by Bridget Mackenzie from one of the three CD’s currently available featuring Orme’s renditions of pibroch in Simon Fraser’s style, she says that Orme

made a 3-hour video film of himself demonstrating how to play the different movements used in the old style, movements no longer current today, and showing how these were employed in the different compositions. He then made a DVD out of this, a shorter performance of the movements, without the tunes. He also made 6 CDs of the tunes he learned from Hugh Fraser,

Simon’s son, which last were drawn on for the three CDs currently available.

In Joshua Dickson’s The Highland Bagpipe: Music, History, Tradition, Bridget Mackenzie says

In 2004, when he was satisfied that Simon Fraser would not be further ridiculed, Dr. Orme lifted his copyright restrictions on the material in [The School of Scottish Studies] Edinburgh.

So the tapes of the technique instruction were apparently there and unencumbered. Orme died in 2007.

In June of last year on the Bob Dunsire forums, Kieth Sanger said the Orme material was in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh being catalogued by Roddy Cannon before he died. He wasn’t sure if they were clear on copyright status and it is not clear if this includes the tapes given to the School of Scottish Studies.

While PDF’s of his 1985 book, Piobaireachd of Simon Fraser, and his Piobaireachd Exercises are available on this site, it would be invaluable to have the instructional film/video of Orme demonstrating his style of playing ornaments, etc.

I would like to ask if anyone has knowledge of the current whereabouts of the video and audio tapes made by Barrie Orme to illustrate the Simon Fraser playing style documented in his books. Once positively located, confirmation of the copyright status of these materials should then be made. If they can be obtained and posted on this site, another valuable source of alternative pibroch performance may finally become available to those interested.


“Simon Fraser Reconsidered,” The Highland Bagpipe: Music, History, Tradition, Ed.: Joshua Dickson. (Ashgate, 2009, p. 145-165.

Barrie Orme—Piobaireachd (Old Settings) vols 1, 2 and 3 


2 thoughts on “The Barrie Orme Tapes of the Simon Fraser Playing Style

  1. The video of Barrie demonstrating the piobaireachd exercises on the practice chanter is now freely available online from

    I’m not sure about a three hour video as mentioned in the article, but I believe Barrie only ever produced this one hour video.

    I was taught by Barrie (and subsequent students after his death) and would be more than happy to provide further details of the Fraser style or the video.

  2. I am not sure how this correlates with what you have said but between my memory and a check of the National Library of Scotland catalog this is what seems to be there. Although Roddy certainly looked at the Orme material after I had checked it over I am not sure he actually got as far as making a catalog. One item which there was certainly a copyright issue with was a book published by a local community in Australia which he tracked down and got their permission to copy.
    Regarding the NLS, they have what is described as ‘Photocopy of Piobaireachd Book by S Fraser’ Presented by Archy Kenneth in 1981. Acc 7927.
    What I saw was Acc 11613, Presented by B Orme in 1988 and added to in Oct 1999, Nov 1999, Dec 1999 and Sept 2000.
    As I remember it was still in the packaging although the ends were open. There were also some recordings, vague memory of some tapes and cd’s. The copyright problem was that most of the material was photocopies which the NLS thought would mean that the copyright would still sit with whoever had the originals.

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