Dastirum gu Seinnim Piob!

Well, after patiently waiting for one of the internet piping radio shows to play the track for months, I finally got lucky last week!

Crunluath, the weekly piping show on the gaelic-language BBC radio Alba, featured “I Am Proud To Play a Pipe”, played by Allan MacDonald.

The tune is essentially the title track of Allan’s new CD, “Dastirum”. Dastirum is a slightly obscure term, adopted into Scots Gaelic, but possibly Roman in origin. It roughly translates as “pride”, but in battle-cry kind of way. In that sense, the phase translated as “I Am Proud To Play a Pipe” is a strong, declamatory statement.

Allan’s path through the tune is a very different performance from one you’re likely to hear in competition. He reinterprets many of the familiar embellishments to give a very lyrical, almost extemporaneous feel to the music. In the taorluath variations he plays a timing I have not heard before, which propels the tune forward at a moment when performances often seem to languish.

This particular interpretation aside, I Am Proud To Play a Pipe is a beautiful tune, filled with unusual note patterns. I have seen it described as “probably non-christian”, due to its frequent use of the augmented 4th – an interval called the “devil’s interval”, and historically eschewed by the church. This, of course, endears to tune to me still more!

Oban – Home of the Argyllshire Gathering

The games season is in full swing in the Scottish Highlands, and that means lots of piping!

Two of the biggest competitions in the solo piping year happen at games a week apart: The Argyllshire Gathering, in Oban, took place last week, and The Northern Meeting, in Aviemore, is this Thursday and Friday.

Richard Hawke of New Zealand took the Gold Medal in Piobaireachd, a first for him. This signifies a graduation of sorts, for once a piper has won this medal, they will play only in the Senior Piobaireachd in the future. (That competition was won by the evergreen Gordon Walker, incidentally). For a limited time you can hear Richard’s winning performance of Rory MacLoude’s Lament, by listening to Radio Planet Pipe. You will also hear the second- and third-placed performances (both of Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert’s Fancy) played first by Niall Stewart, and then by Marion Horsburgh. Marion is also from New Zealand, so it was a good day for the Kiwis.

It is interesting to hear the same tune played on the same day, for the same judge, by two different people. Listening to them back to back can you tell the difference between the two?

Check out the full results on Andrew Berthoff’s Pipes|Drums, and look out for the results of the Northern Meeting soon.

New Links – Piping on the Web

Inspired by my compadre Justin (see below) I have updated my links section a little.

Check out the various links under “Listen Carefully”. These are the main piping shows I listen to online. Each one has a slightly different flavor, but you’ll hear piping of the highest quality on them all.

Orchestral Piping

The weekly BBC Radio Scotland piping show, Pipeline, was on hiatus this week. In its place was a live concert broadcast from the Celtic Connections Festival, a two-week festival of celtic music in Glasgow. The concert was titled Scotland’s Music Live, and featured various “celtic” performers, sometimes playing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

I paid particular attention to two works: Calgacus, by Eddie McGuire, and An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise, by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Both are scored for orchestra and Highland Bagpipes and the piping was supplied by Robert Wallace, of the College of Piping.

I had heard of the Orkney Wedding, but never heard the piece performed; Calgacus was completely new to me.

According to a review of the concert in The Scotsman newspaper, Robert Wallace suffered “a critical memory loss” during his part in the performance of An Orkney Wedding but, since I don’t know the music, I couldn’t tell – it sounded fine to me.

The Eddie McGuire work was inspired by the exploits of Calgacus, a kind of Caledonian Boudicca. Apparently he led the Scots in battle against Agricola and the Romans. The piping in this piece was interesting – it sounded a lot like piobaireachd, and I may have to canvass the folks on the piping boards to find out if the tune was written by McGuire, or if it is an existing tune.

In both cases, though, it was interesting to hear the bagpipes played in serious orchestral music. I will also check in with my father – Elis Pehkonen. He is a composer, and was a colleague of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies when they both taught music in my home town of Cirencester. He will probably have something interesting to say about An Orkney Wedding, and he may know Eddie McGuire. I’ll keep you posted.

All Gaelic, All the Time

I made a discovery the other day. Someone on the Bob Dunsire Forums asked a question about a tune they had heard on a piping show called Crunluath. I responded (perhaps rather too smugly) that the piping show they were enquiring about does not exist, and perhaps they were thinking of something else.

Turns out, No, they were not.

The show in question is indeed called Crunluath and is on the BBC all-Gaelic radio station – Radio nan Gaidheal. I had searched for the show on the BBC Scotland side of the BBC website and got no results. I think it’s interesting that the Gaelic and English sides of the BBC are so separate, but I suppose it’s not particularly surprising. In addition (also not surprisingly, I guess) there is no English navigation option on the Radio nan Gaidheal website. Consequently, I had to rely on the generosity of a fellow forum member giving the correct sequence of links to find the actual show. Here are the instructions for those of you who are inclined to listen:

Go to the Gaelic website of the BBC. It’s called Alba

Click on the Radio nan Gaidheal link towards the top right of the page. It also says ÈIST BEÃ’. This will open a player window with the live Radio nan Gaidheal feed – least during the daytime in Scotland.

In the center column of the player window is a list of programmes with descriptions, some in English. About halfway down is the link to the show Crunluath, with the helpful English description “Pipe Music”.

If you would like to understand the presenter, go back to the main BBC Gaelic page and click the bottom right corner link. Here the BBC (and even a cartoon Dog) will help you learn Gaelic. While you’re at it, you might want to try Finnish, Navajo and Basque also.

Wetootwaag’s Wild World

Interesting and consistently-maintained piping blogs seem to be hard to find, but here’s a cool one:

Wetootwaag’s Podcast of Bagpipe Power:When It’s about Bagpipes and Scotch, everyone wins

Actually, this is a podcast – Wetootwaag has a blog too, with possibly the strangest name ever.

In any case, Wetootwaag appears to be Jeremy Kingsbury from Bemidji, MN. Among his interests, he lists bagpipes, single malt scotch and the Ojibwe language. I can’t tell if he is Ojibwe or just a speaker, but either way his blend of interests certainly interested me. I listened to his latest podast, which includes a smallpipes version of Eye of the Tiger, and read his blog which features a scary story about the perils of over-imbibing. It’s all good stuff.

So, Wetootwaag, welcome to my Blogroll, where, appropriately, you join a pirate from Sault Ste. Marie who plays the theme from Star Wars on pipes. Perhaps you guys could meet at Grand Portage and play movie tunes across the border.