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

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Old 12-28-2014, 03:40 PM   #1
Rochester
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Default half-size GHBs and piobaireachd

I'm wondering whether anyone might know whether it would have been common (or at least not terribly uncommon) to play piobaireachd pieces on half-size GHBs in Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries.

I know from Hugh Cheape's work and that of others that half-size GHBs existed, but I'm unclear whether the common musical repertoire for them would have differed from that of full-size pipes.

I'd be grateful if anyone could shed some light.

Thanks,
Morgan
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Old 12-29-2014, 07:02 AM   #2
Rochester
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Default Re: half-size & chamber pipes and piobaireachd

I'd like to expand my query to chamber (aka miniature) Highland pipes as well -- does anyone know whether it would have been common to play piobaireachd pieces on them during the 18th and 19th centuries?

Thanks,
Morgan


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rochester View Post
I'm wondering whether anyone might know whether it would have been common (or at least not terribly uncommon) to play piobaireachd pieces on half-size GHBs in Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries.

I know from Hugh Cheape's work and that of others that half-size GHBs existed, but I'm unclear whether the common musical repertoire for them would have differed from that of full-size pipes.

I'd be grateful if anyone could shed some light.

Thanks,
Morgan
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Old 12-29-2014, 12:12 PM   #3
K Sanger
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Default Re: half-size GHBs and piobaireachd

Being pedantic, (who me?) as the 'great' in the term Great Highland Pipe was historically equated with 'Large' and anything smaller was therefore not large it was no longer a GHP. Which is probably why the term reel pipes came into use.

The earliest firm evidence of people looking for something smaller comes from the papers of the Dundee pipemaker Cameron when in March 1845 he received a request from the depot of the 71st stating that the adjutant wondered if he could make a set of smaller pipes for a young lad they had. To quote 'I think he plays on the left arm and he is about 4 ft 10 inch in height'.

In that situation then the 'lad' was no doubt playing on his smaller pipe the same repertoire as the normal sized pipers. Your question was however specifically aimed at whether piobaireachd was ever played on anything other than the GHB and the answer must be yes. For example up until they were discouraged circa 1822 two drone pipes were used at the early piping competitions and so would have been GHB minus a bit.

Perhaps though the real elephant in the room are the bellows pipes. Taking the 1816 competition records as an example the piper who turned up with bellows pipes was not allowed to compete, not apparently because he could not play 'piobaireachd' but because his pipes were not mouthblown.

Strictly speaking you can and they probably did play piobaireachd on any suitable instrument with a chanter and the evidence for made practice chanters goes back at least to the 1740's. The advent of Competitions probably severely reduced a considerable variety of piping options.

Keith
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Old 12-29-2014, 12:34 PM   #4
Rochester
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Default Re: half-size pipes and piobaireachd

Keith, thank you very much for your informative message. I'm especially drawn to your statement that "they probably did play piobaireachd on any suitable instrument with a chanter." That makes logical sense to me.

I'm reading your (with Roderick Cannon) edition of Donald MacDonald's Ancient and Martial Music of Caledonia at present, in conjunction with MacDonald's fascinating preface. In the latter text, MacDonald notes both a martial role for the pipes and what seem to be more domestic and peaceful instances ("It has animated her warriors in battle, and welcomed them back, after their toils, to the homes of their love, and the hills of their nativity."). I suppose for the purposes of the latter, and given what you've just told me in your reply, smaller-than-GHB pipes would have served quite well for piobaireachd as well as other genres of pipe music.

Morgan
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Old 12-30-2014, 12:25 PM   #5
Randy Erickson
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Default Re: half-size GHBs and piobaireachd

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Originally Posted by K Sanger View Post
...Your question was however specifically aimed at whether piobaireachd was ever played on anything other than the GHB and the answer must be yes....

Strictly speaking you can and they probably did play piobaireachd on any suitable instrument with a chanter...
Heard a quite stirring rendition of Lament for Mary MacLeod on a harmonica on Pipeline some years ago.
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Old 12-31-2014, 03:07 PM   #6
Rob MacDonald
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Default Re: half-size GHBs and piobaireachd

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Originally Posted by Randy Erickson View Post
Heard a quite stirring rendition of Lament for Mary MacLeod on a harmonica on Pipeline some years ago.
....and I'm sure that the CD in Joshua Dixon's book has a track of "Maol Donn/ MacCrimmon's Sweetheart" played on a jaw harp.

Forgive my eccentric memory (it's Hogmanay, I'm into the Malt and I'm NOT getting out of my chair to scrabble through my bookshelf) but wasn't / isn't there a school of thought that Ceol Mhor is much older than the current instrument, and therefore the Big Music owes part of its evolution to the clarsach and (possibly) the triple-pipe? - not to mention 'singing' the urlar against a drone

I've also heard it played on the fiddle, and I play it on the union-pipe - if for no other reason than that it's the only drone instrument I can play at odd times without bringing down the wrath of the house on my head!

At some level it's 'just' music - and good music will work on more than one instrument.
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Last edited by Rob MacDonald; 12-31-2014 at 03:10 PM.
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Old 12-31-2014, 03:45 PM   #7
bob864
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Default Re: half-size GHBs and piobaireachd

David Johnson's book, Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century puts Ceol Mor firmly on fiddle in that time, with some tunes recorded on fiddle MS that are not playable on pipe. He suggests it might be that some tunes went straight from harp to fiddle (i.e., that ceol mor was still played on harp in the 18th c.).

If one presumes this is correct, and that ceol mor was played on fiddle, harp, and pipe all in about the same time frame, and given the presumption that ceol mor was also sung, then there is little reason to believe it would not have been played on any other instrument. In the early 19th c. Macdonald published ceol mor arranged for piano (with bass).
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Old 01-01-2015, 03:23 AM   #8
K Sanger
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Default Re: half-size GHBs and piobaireachd

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Originally Posted by bob864 View Post
David Johnson's book, Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century puts Ceol Mor firmly on fiddle in that time, with some tunes recorded on fiddle MS that are not playable on pipe. He suggests it might be that some tunes went straight from harp to fiddle (i.e., that ceol mor was still played on harp in the 18th c.).

If one presumes this is correct, and that ceol mor was played on fiddle, harp, and pipe all in about the same time frame, and given the presumption that ceol mor was also sung, then there is little reason to believe it would not have been played on any other instrument. In the early 19th c. Macdonald published ceol mor arranged for piano (with bass).
David Johnson's work probably unintentionally on his part, has become the basis for the claims for 'pibroch' being harp music which has moved onto both the pipes and fiddle. What he actually said in his 'Scottish Fiddle Music' (1984) was 'Some of these pieces were probably extended by short sets of variations; but there are no firm indications that 17th century fiddling ran to a ceol mor or big music- a repertory of long pieces designed for sustained listening and virtuoso performance. Such sophisticated matters seem to have been left to the bagpipes and harp'. (page 4).

Unfortunately although in his earlier book 'Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in the Eighteenth Century' he stuck to an area in which he was familiar, for his later works when straying into the realm of Gaeldom, he relied in large measure on the work of Francis Collinson, never a good idea. The whole terminology 'Fiddle Pibroch' (which taken literally means pipe music played on fiddle, hence pipe music first), comes from the recording of 18th C Scottish Violin Music by Johnson and his ensemble released in 1989 and given the snappy title of 'Fiddle Pibroch and other Fancies'.

The justification for that title mainly being that they included MacIntosh's Lament from Patrick MacDonald's 1784 work, which in his liner notes Johnson in any case places as a pipe tune well before the fiddle comes into play. Although the argument that the pipes 'took' what is called piobaireachd from the harp mainly dates back to Collinson's work and tends to get quoted as fact, his arguments do not stand the test of time. Indeed some of his claims in his first book were his miss-reading of his 'evidence' even then.

I dislike plugging my own work preferring it to stand or fall on its own merits but for a discussion of the actual factual background to the early harp and its overlap with the pipes there is a discussion at www.wirestrungharp.com/music/lost_chords.html

My more recent discussion of the question of the fiddle replacing the harp called 'Home is where the Harp is' can be found in 'West Highland Notes & Queries', the journal of the Society of West Highland & Island Historical Research Series 3. No 26, (October 2014).

Incidentally, among the many 'balls' I currently have in the air at any one time is a long standing study about to come to fruition of Ranald MacDonald of the Morar family. He was certainly a piper but those later claims that he also played harp and fiddle are wrong and fall into the same sort of 'myth box' as the MacCrimmon 'Cremona' story first conjured by the Minister MacLeod.

Happy New Year to all.

Keith

Last edited by K Sanger; 01-01-2015 at 03:29 AM. Reason: Grammer
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Old 01-07-2015, 05:06 PM   #9
Glenurquhart
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Default Re: half-size GHBs and piobaireachd

Quote:
Originally Posted by K Sanger View Post
Being pedantic, (who me?) as the 'great' in the term Great Highland Pipe was historically equated with 'Large' and anything smaller was therefore not large it was no longer a GHP. Which is probably why the term reel pipes came into use.

The earliest firm evidence of people looking for something smaller comes from the papers of the Dundee pipemaker Cameron when in March 1845 he received a request from the depot of the 71st stating that the adjutant wondered if he could make a set of smaller pipes for a young lad they had. To quote 'I think he plays on the left arm and he is about 4 ft 10 inch in height'.

In that situation then the 'lad' was no doubt playing on his smaller pipe the same repertoire as the normal sized pipers. Your question was however specifically aimed at whether piobaireachd was ever played on anything other than the GHB and the answer must be yes. For example up until they were discouraged circa 1822 two drone pipes were used at the early piping competitions and so would have been GHB minus a bit.

Perhaps though the real elephant in the room are the bellows pipes. Taking the 1816 competition records as an example the piper who turned up with bellows pipes was not allowed to compete, not apparently because he could not play 'piobaireachd' but because his pipes were not mouthblown.

Strictly speaking you can and they probably did play piobaireachd on any suitable instrument with a chanter and the evidence for made practice chanters goes back at least to the 1740's. The advent of Competitions probably severely reduced a considerable variety of piping options.

Keith
Adding to the confusion, quite a few bellows-blown "Lowland" bagpipes were converted with separate stocks as a mouthblown ersatz for a "GHB" in the nineteenth century. The NMS collection exhibited at the Piping Centre in Glasgow has sets of this kind, including the famous "Waterloo drones", and a pipe from the Fraser collection. The pipes depicted in Hugh Cheape's book on p. 18 are also such a set. I have a pipe nearly identical to the Fraser, from the late 1700's, fitted in the mid-1800's with randomly mixed reelpipe stocks and a full-size Highland chanter with inserts in the holes for a reduced volume.
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Old 01-08-2015, 06:36 AM   #10
K Sanger
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Default Re: half-size GHBs and piobaireachd

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Originally Posted by Glenurquhart View Post
Adding to the confusion, quite a few bellows-blown "Lowland" bagpipes were converted with separate stocks as a mouthblown ersatz for a "GHB" in the nineteenth century. The NMS collection exhibited at the Piping Centre in Glasgow has sets of this kind, including the famous "Waterloo drones", and a pipe from the Fraser collection. The pipes depicted in Hugh Cheape's book on p. 18 are also such a set. I have a pipe nearly identical to the Fraser, from the late 1700's, fitted in the mid-1800's with randomly mixed reelpipe stocks and a full-size Highland chanter with inserts in the holes for a reduced volume.
I suppose that this was probably due to the effect of the HSL competitions with their valuable prizes, (not just a prize pipe but also 40 merks for 1st), increasing the numbers of people wanting to play 'highland pipes' at a time when lots of lowland pipes were falling out of fashion and becoming available for adaptation at a modest cost compared to buying a brand new set.

Keith
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