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History, Tradition, Heritage As related to the subjects of piping, drumming and pipe bands.

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Old 06-06-2020, 08:39 AM   #11
Ian Robertson
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Default Re: Funeral music in North America

A very interesting article, thank you! Barry's discussion of the corronach brought to mind some old liner notes from Greentrax "Ceol Na Pioba" CD, where Allan MacDonald suggests a link between a short piece of ceol mor ("Hihorodo Hiharara", from the Campbell Canntaireachd ms.) and keening rituals. It's a heck of a tune strikingly played on the CD by Barnaby Brown--and it's easy to hear how MacDonald made the connection he did...
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Old 06-12-2020, 12:48 PM   #12
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Default Re: Funeral music in North America

Very nice Barry!

I do believe that the Bandmaster of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards said that he transcribed Amazing Grace from the Judy Collins album. What I don't know is where she got that tune, which varies from the hymn-tune NEW BRITAIN which is ordinarily used for Amazing Grace nowadays.

About keening, I've experienced it twice. Once was when I was playing uilleann pipes at a funeral, a sean nos air, and an elderly Irish nun began keening along.

It was eerie because at first I didn't realise somebody was singing, I just thought there was something odd-sounding about my chanter!

The other time was extremely interesting because it was, for me, a unique opportunity to see the old custom of professional keeners.

At the church, during the whole service, three elderly women stood impassively along the wall by the side door.

At the conclusion of the service some men pushed the casket on its wheeled stand towards that door, and just as the casket was about to reach the threshold the women suddenly began loud wailing and flung themselves onto the casket, blocking it from leaving the church.

There followed for a time a sort of pantomime, with the men pretending to push the casket out the door, and the wailing women grasping the casket and preventing it from going out the door.

Then just as suddenly as the women had sprung into action, they fell silent and returned to their original place along the wall, once again standing impassively, and the men calmly pushed the casket out the door to the waiting hearse.

It was a Korean funeral.
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Old 06-15-2020, 04:21 PM   #13
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Default Re: Funeral music in North America

Thank you for posting the completed article, Barry. It's a topic that has always been of interest to me; funerary rites, paying due to the dead, honoring those who served in the military, police, etc. at their funerals, and what part the bagpipe plays in it. Your article, and this thread so far, spark the following thoughts in my mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pancelticpiper View Post
Very nice Barry!

About keening, I've experienced it twice. Once was when I was playing uilleann pipes at a funeral, a sean nos air, and an elderly Irish nun began keening along.

...

The other time was extremely interesting because it was, for me, a unique opportunity to see the old custom of professional keeners.

...

Then just as suddenly as the women had sprung into action, they fell silent and returned to their original place along the wall, once again standing impassively, and the men calmly pushed the casket out the door to the waiting hearse.

It was a Korean funeral.
Some form of keening, or wailing/loudly lamenting the dead must be (or must have been) an important part of many societies' funerary rites. I am of Serbian heritage; in Serbia or in some parts of it, this custom is called "narikanje". Women are (or were) paid to wail at funerals. My grandfather, who died in the old country in 1986, was buried in his hometown of Vranje, Southern Serbia. I recall being told that his sister keened at his funeral. It would be interesting to know at what point(s) she did it, as it was a military funeral (my grandfather was a retired Army colonel).

On the subject of the music played, as you mentioned, "Amazing Grace" has become the staple tune for funerals and memorial services in North America at least. Also often heard especially at American police/firefighters' funerals is "Going Home" - neither tune being traditional Scottish. Or Irish staples like "The Minstrel Boy". One thing we should remember is that the Irish-American community has done a lot to promote piping in the USA, certainly in places like NYC and among police forces and fire departments, and this plus the American transplantation of the instrument would have an effect on the tune selection.

On the subject of "Amazing Grace", I believe I've seen up to two recordings of it on the pipes that predate the release of the famed Royal Scots Dragoon Guards single. Unfortunately I don't have a reference at hand but IIRC I saw it listed on the jacket of an LP of the Heatherbell Girls' Pipes and Drums of Nova Scotia from circa 1968 and on the jacket of an LP of some ceilidh-type recording that may have included pipes from around the same time. I personally don't mind playing AG and of course will play it upon request (or even when not requested) at an appropriate time during the funeral, but I think it's a pity for a piper to limit his/her funeral repertoire to these two tunes; there is a whole repertoire of classic and recently composed bagpipe laments that IMHO is being neglected. I can play "The Flowers of The Forest", "Lochaber No More", "Oft in the Stilly Night", "Return of the Unknown Soldier" (a modern Canadian composition), and play or have played a number of other things that could be considered appropriate at a funeral (e.g. "The Fields of Athenry", "The Lord's My Shepherd", "By Cool Siloam's Shady Rill"). In Canada, I played with a pipe band that for some time has been moribund owing to members aging out and no new ones being recruited. During my time there, the band would always play "Going Home" for the lament at the cenotaph during the Rembrance Day service. Two years ago, I suggested we learn "The Flowers of the Forest" for that year's service. The P/M assented and other members generally accepted the proposal (the band had once played it but for some reason had once been instigated by someone to change the tune played at the service). However, only a few pipers ended up practicing it to the point of being able to play it in the band; most pipers had other commitments on the day of the service, so only the P/M and I played it at the service.

A further thought that crosses my mind is, to what extent has piping at funerals been kept alive into modern times by the Scottish and Irish diaspora compared to the mother country. The example you give of piper Angus MacMillan Fraser's large funeral in 1938 New York is quite impressive. Conversely, I wonder how common it is in Scotland today for people who have no connection to the military or police to have a piper at their funeral.
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Last edited by erracht; 06-15-2020 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 06-17-2020, 08:33 AM   #14
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Cool to hear about the Serbian keening!

Do Serbians do nestinarsko? (as they call it in Bulgaria, it probably has a different name in Serbia).

I will say, having spent 40 years in the world of Irish traditional music, that The Minstrel Boy is a tune I can't remember ever hearing at an Irish funeral, except when Highland pipers are present.

I have never heard that tune played at an Irish trad session, they would sit around and roll their eyes while you played it solo.

When I do play at Irish funerals it's the uilleann pipes, and I stick to trad Irish songs if the people are Irish, and I throw in the tin pan alley pseudo-Irish songs if the people are Irish-American.

The Irish have requested Roisin Dubh and Carrickfergus and Fields Of Athenry. The Americans always request Danny Boy and Irish Eyes (both written in New York). No-one has ever requested those Highland pipe standards Minstrel Boy and Wearing Of The Green.
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Old 06-17-2020, 10:33 AM   #15
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Erracht, you mention "Return of the Unknown Soldier", or Lament for an Unknown Soldier". About 15 years ago the contemporary Governor General got it into her head that a Canadian lament should be used by the milirtary rather than the ubiquitous foreign "Flowers of the Forest". A senior Canadian military piper was ordered to write one, which he did, and it was made the official lament, much to the disgruntlement of most pipers, military of civilian. After Her Excellency's period of office was over, FotF crept back in, and now, again, is almost always played at appropriate military events. The Legion never liked to new tune, and pretty much stuck to FotF throughout.


My band sometimes plays AG with a solo piper playing the hymn book version, and the band coming in with the RSDG version for verse 2 & 3.
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Old 06-21-2020, 11:50 AM   #16
erracht
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pancelticpiper View Post
Cool to hear about the Serbian keening!

Do Serbians do nestinarsko? (as they call it in Bulgaria, it probably has a different name in Serbia).

I had never heard of this so I googled it. As I see, it is a ritual where women dance on hot coals. I've never heard of it being done in Serbia, but I wouldn't be surprised if something like this had once been done regionally, for example in some village near the Bulgarian border.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Greenpipe View Post
Erracht, you mention "Return of the Unknown Soldier", or Lament for an Unknown Soldier". About 15 years ago the contemporary Governor General got it into her head that a Canadian lament should be used by the milirtary rather than the ubiquitous foreign "Flowers of the Forest". A senior Canadian military piper was ordered to write one, which he did, and it was made the official lament, much to the disgruntlement of most pipers, military of civilian. After Her Excellency's period of office was over, FotF crept back in, and now, again, is almost always played at appropriate military events. The Legion never liked to new tune, and pretty much stuck to FotF throughout.

The tune I play is AFAIK not the lament that was commissioned by the government, but a different tune that was featured on a website called the Great Canadian Tunebook, run by Barry Taylor. The original website is now down, but you can hear the midi files that were hosted there, including "Return of the Unknown Soldier", on this website now: http://www.kunstderfuge.com/tunes/canadian.htm


BTW, in 2000 (as I recall), I did participate in a competition to write a lament for Canada's new Unknown Soldier. I think this could be what you're referring to above. I received a certificate and a CD with a recording of my lament. To be honest, it wasn't much of a tune. IIRC it had a fairly complex structure and was in 4 parts, but didn't really work as a lament. Composition is NOT my forte.
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Old 06-22-2020, 05:58 PM   #17
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I think you are correct, Erracht, about the origins of the lament for the Canadian Forces, that it was written for a competition in 2000 and was the winner. It was made the go to tune for the Forces, as I said above. I have heard it played only once in the last few years by an Air Force pipe major, but it may have been done more than that. I am in another Air Force band, but I think only the Pipe major knows it and almost never plays it.


Most of us play FotF for a military funeral, but if asked, I do Going Home, My Home, Mist Covered Mountains or Oft in the Stilly Night. I like the last very much.

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Old 06-25-2020, 09:59 AM   #18
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Default Re: Funeral music in North America

In regards to funeral services I do have a few tunes which I rely upon. Very often playing Dark Island, Mo Gille Mor, Mist Covered Mountains as the mourners assemble grave side.

There is a set, which I first heard performed by the Dublin Fire Brigade's Pipes and Drums which I reserve for memorial services for Military and First Responders which consists of Dawning Of The Day (aka Raglan Road), Minstrel Boy, and Let Erin Remember. The Dublin Fire P&D's version I first heard was for a September 11th, 2001 Memorial Service.

Closure is usually Amazing Grace, and occasionally Going Home. Although I have played going home as the casket is carried from the hearse to grave side.

As for Flowers Of The Forest. I find that an uncomfortable tune to play though I do recognize it as one in favor with Common Wealth Nations for obvious reasons.

As an aside to the primary discussion, when it was brought up about the Irish penchant for being less than polite to lowly regarded individuals. I often play a fine marching tune for politicians called Lillibullero.
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Old 06-25-2020, 12:27 PM   #19
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Default Re: Funeral music in North America

I played a funeral late this morning, outside the local Melkite Catholic Cathedral. The deceased was the mother of a family friend. The mother heard me play at her granddaughter's wedding a few years ago and told her daughter ( Bride's Mother) she wanted "that man" to play bagpipe at her funeral, so there you go. Her name was Mary and her daughter requested hymns, particularly Marian hymns, so I played the hymns I usually play: Amazing Grace, The King Of Love My Shepherd Is, HYFRYDOL, The Summons (KELVINGROVE). Suo Gan, Softly and Tenderly, Nearer My God To Thee; Here I Am, Lord; Going Home, This Is My Song(FINLANDIA), some slow airs, and O, Sanctissima, The Lourdes Hymn,and On THis Day, O Beautiful Mother.

I played outside, wearing a mask with a closeable flap for the blowstick.
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Old 07-02-2020, 11:14 AM   #20
Pip01
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Greetings to All,

First!!... Thank You Barry for all of the work that you
do... whether I can access it... or in this case... not. :)

I was first requested to play "Amazing Grace" for a
very large and public crowd... in a university theater...
some 18-odd months before the Dragoons made their
recording.

It lends itself nicely to the pipes... and had long been
a favorite... of those making requests. :) (Oft times I
was asked... if I could play it... on the pipes... and of
course... the answer was... always... "Yes." :)

As to where Judy Collins might have gotten it... it was
already quite prevalent... so not unlike all of those folks
asking me if it could be played... it was already there. :)

And... with "The Minstrel Boy"... and "The Wearing of
the Green"... I have had them both requested for funerals...
many times... and have played them... in those settings...
many times...

Thanks, again, Barry, and...

Regards to All,

Pip01





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