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Beer Tent The general discussion forum, and the place to start a new "beer-tent-like" Piping Related discussion...

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Old 04-07-2019, 08:02 AM   #1
Barry Shears
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: capebretonpiper.comHalifax, Nova Scotia
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Default Bagpipes and Gaelic

I was thinking the other day about bagpipes and their affiliation with the Gaelic language, ie: tune titles in Gaelic, piobaireachd, Gaelic songs played on the bagpipes, etc. So I have a question I would like to pose. I wonder how many people have been inspired to learn a bit of the language after becoming interested in piping? How many pipers have gone on to become fluent speakers or studied enough to carry on a basic conversation or even feel comfortable pronouncing the Gaelic titles of tunes?
Just wondering,
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Old 04-07-2019, 08:39 AM   #2
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Default Re: bagpipes and Gaelic

Given that both are a lifetime's work, it's a lot to take on! After many years of lugging around Hugo's Teach Yourself Gaelic in Three Months (hah!) I have finally cracked the books open and gotten down to making a serious attempt at it. The trouble is, to get anything useful out of it you have to make a serious effort; osmosis won't give you much of value here.

Of course Gaelic tradition is a massive strand of piping culture, and any serious piper should at least have engaged with it to some extent: understand what puirt are, the relationship between vocal melody and instrumental music, and so on. But there are also the people who try to argue that one cannot be a piper without the Gaelic, which is just gate-keeping nonsense. There are of course massive chunks of piping culture which are Scots culture, not Gaelic - not least pipe bands, where apart from the Glasgow Police it's rare to hear music constructed by people who know what they're listening to.
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Old 04-08-2019, 04:48 AM   #3
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Default Re: bagpipes and Gaelic

Not quite Scots Gaelic, but I've been doing the Irish language course on Duolingo for quite a while now. I'm beginning to be able to follow some conversations
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Old 04-08-2019, 05:15 AM   #4
Adam Sanderson
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Default Re: bagpipes and Gaelic

I started with the Gaelic in 1970 at the old Aberdeen Academy. I was only 10 and played no instrument, but the amount of Gaelic music and song we studied must have had some influence on me.

During my years living in London I attended the Gaelic evening sessions at the City Lit in Covent Garden, (round about the mid 80's). I probably met more Gaelic speaking pipers there than I did while living in Scotland, although the standard of both piping and Gaelic wasn't that high, (and I include myself in both those categories) .

That said, my first piping music book was the Seaforth's Collection, and a large amount of the tunes in there are of Lowland origin, (same goes for Scots Guards Vol 1), so a knowledge of Gaelic is not necessary to be a piper, IMHO, but it can give some insight into certain piping idioms.
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Old 04-08-2019, 11:02 AM   #5
Dan Bell
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Default Re: bagpipes and Gaelic

I have not, but I've always wished I had the time to do so.
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Old 04-09-2019, 09:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

I need to get some basic pronunciation down before the wagging fingers become brickbats. The artists I play on the air deserve far better than I've had time to muster. Baby steps for me.
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Old 04-10-2019, 06:48 AM   #7
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Default Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

I took a Scots Gaelic course at university so at least I have some basics.

One thing the teacher drilled into us was: all day, whenever you look at anything, think of what it would be in the Gaelic. 40 years on I still do that regularly, so often stumped due to lack of vocabulary, thinking "I have no idea what the word for that is..."

But it keeps the words in my head, and gets me to look up things I don't know.

What sort of amazes me is how many pipers don't know anything about it, don't know how to pronounce anything. How can you be around piping for decades and not pick up any Gaelic?
proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte

Last edited by pancelticpiper; 04-10-2019 at 06:50 AM.
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Old 04-11-2019, 06:03 AM   #8
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Default Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

Tha beagan gaidhlig agam. I studied Gaelic in adult ed classes for two years with the late Dr. Ken Nilsen, who afterwards went on to be the head of Celtic languages at St.FX in Antigonish. Oddly enough my studdying gaelic, bagpipes and Scottish Countryy Dancing all started at the same time.
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Old 04-11-2019, 07:45 AM   #9
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Default Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

Quickly learn irish with this video.

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Old 04-11-2019, 08:24 AM   #10
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Default Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

My great grandfather, who passed on when I was about 8 years old, was a native speaker and his children (incl. my grandfather) spoke a little Gaelic. As such, I got an early exposure to it at family gatherings but it gradually disappeared from those.

Upon reaching my late 20s (also when I started piping) and realizing what our family was losing, I enrolled in adult education courses and summer camps at the Gaelic College for a few years. While all of this has given me some familiarity with spelling and basic greetings, other commitments have kept me from becoming more able with the language.

It is hard to say how much this has helped my piping. Being able to pronounce and understand the tune titles is OK but doesn't really affect my playing. If anything, hearing Gaelic singing at milling frolics etc. has likely helped more (even if I didn't understand all the words). There are some rhythms that I just don't grasp from the dots but they suddenly make sense when I hear them sung.

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