Dastirum gu sein im Piob – I Am Proud to Play a Pipe!

This is my theme song (like Ally McBeal – remember that?) and “Dastirum”, or pride, is the title of a new CD by veteran piper Allan MacDonald. This is piobaireachd with a difference. After years of playing by the book (literally, in this case) MacDonald decided something was missing from his performances of ceol mor. He has taken his approach back to basics and produced a CD of piobaireachd quite different from anything I have heard before.

This is not a stilted attempt to “modernize” the form, by adding swirly synthesizers or heavenly choirs in the background. Rather, MacDonald appears to have lived with the music (and sung it) until more natural phrasing emerges. (It probably didn’t hurt that he has also been hanging out with Barnaby Brown, the guy who rapelled down a sea cliff to pipe in a cave, and on whose label, Siubhal, the CD is being released.)

I have been able to listen to two tracks from Dastirum – The Lament for the Young Laird of Dungallon, and The Lament for Alasdair Dearg MacDonnel of Glengarry. Both begin with Allan singing part of the ground, after which he strikes in and plays the whole tune on the pipes. The interpretations of the tunes on Dastirum are being hailed as a watershed in ceol mor. Bill Livingstone, Pipe Major of the 78th Fraser Highlanders, and prodigious piobaireachd player of recent years, said he wished he hadn’t heard MacDonald’s playing:

I can’t play the tunes any other way afterwards, and I want to win the prizes

It’s a telling comment, and exposes the way piobaireachd has been interpreted through the prism of competition these past 100 years.

I can’t wait to hear the whole CD and, of course, Allan’s take on I Am Proud to Play a Pipe, which is naturally included in this collection.

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