Piobaireachd? Pibroch? What is that? – A primer on the Big Music

In the “About this page” comments at the top of my homepage, you will read that I claim to be able to spell piobaireachd.

This may be laudable (grandiose, even), but what (you may ask) is piobaireachd, and why are you so proud to be able to spell it?

Piobaireachd is sometimes referred to as “the classical music of the bagpipe”. It is a unique style of pipe music, but is not widely known outside the community of pipers themselves.

Piobaireachd is actually a Scots Gaelic word that literally means piping. It is pronounced “peebroch”, with the stress on the first syllable. In fact, the second syllable is nearly swallowed, so “Pee-brch” is more like how it sounds. Because of this it is often written in phonetic form, as Pibroch. For reasons I don’t completely understand, written Scots Gaelic contains a large number of apparently redundant vowels and consonants, so although the word written Piobaireachd looks long and unpronouncable, it’s easier to say than to spell.

OK, so now you can spell it, and you know why the word looks so weird. But what is Piobaireachd? Pibroch? Pibrock? Whatever?

To find the answer to these questions (and more) read on…