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Bagpipes and Gaelic

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  • Bagpipes and Gaelic

    Hello,
    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,
    thanks,
    Barry

  • #2
    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.
    http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
    -- Formerly known as CalumII

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    • #3
      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
      Who Dares Bins

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      • #4
        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.
        Callander Pipe Band FB page Please click and "like". Thanks
        Lowland and Borders Piper's Society

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        • #5
          Re: bagpipes and Gaelic

          I have not, but I've always wished I had the time to do so.

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          • #6
            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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            • #7
              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?
              Last edited by pancelticpiper; 04-10-2019, 04:50 AM.
              proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; Son of the Revolution and Civil War; first European settlers on the Guyandotte

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              • #8
                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.
                Slainte Leibh/ Slan Leat, Bob Cameron

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                • #9
                  Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

                  Quickly learn irish with this video.

                  https://vimeo.com/796181

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                  • #10
                    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.

                    Best regards,
                    Kevin

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                    • #11
                      Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

                      Bha mi ag ionnsachadh Gidhlig airson coig bliadhna agus tha mo clann bheagean ann an GME. Tha seo a' fgail gu bheil ag ionnsachadh deatamachd!!!

                      It definitely helps with certain idioms, the ones Barry has listed above. It helps you to add colour/light/shade and rhythm to the music.

                      OK, so its not 'required', and most of the music, most people play is not directly connected to Gaelic being mostly regimental tunes. But, it makes for an interesting siding to pass down and helps the language to thrive.

                      On a side note it has had a positive effect on other interests such as hill walking regarding hill names / place names. But also flags up the loss of so many local names and terms which I find to be uabhasach bochd.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

                        Thanks for the feed back, very much appreciated . I suppose I am lucky (or unlucky) to have a had a Gaelic speaking grand mother. She didn't teach the language to her children since she was punished for speaking it in the school yard as a young girl, and the prejudice against the language carried through the generations. Still Gaelic could be heard on then lips of several older residents of the coal Mining town of Glace Bay, Cape Breton when I was growing up, and I used to take my parents to milling frolics around the island in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I discovered later that many of the well known bagpipes tunes (with English titles) , also had Gaelic words (usually Port a Beul). I listened to as much of this as I could to develop rhythm within the tunes especially dance music. The port a beul sung in Cape Breton is different rhythmically speaking and is not normally sung as " chopped" as the Scottish versions I hear today in many cases . I suppose this may be from over emphasizing the "Scotch snap" in song versions. The rounder style of singing is certainly reflected in the older style of bagpipe performance. When you include piobaireachd there is probably no other instrument which relies so much on the spoken (sung) word or vocable. Puirt a beul are not normally considered songs, more so as simple rhymes, and their context is usually humorous, satirical, sexual and very local and I have found identical words words can be sung to different melodies, or regional variants . I have found , in Cape Breton at least, the common threads are rhythms designed for step dance music.
                        A few thoughts
                        Barry

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                        • #13
                          Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

                          I noticed not too long ago that The National Piping Centre was offering Gaelic Classes locally. I sent a comment to them that it would be great to have classes on-line, but there was no feedback from The Centre.

                          I would think that there would be some interest, but perhaps not enough.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

                            If you are interested in learning online, the place to go is Sabhal Mr Ostaig - their ab initio course has three starts per year and is a solid, academic but practical introduction to the language. It is famous for being hard work, but productive.
                            http://www.callingthetune.co.uk
                            -- Formerly known as CalumII

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                            • #15
                              Re: Bagpipes and Gaelic

                              I took courses through Ulpan a few years ago and that was very helpful, Atlantic Gaelic Academy is also good. The latter is now under the umbrella of the Gaelic College in Cape Breton.
                              Barry

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