All posts by Patrick McLaurin

My 2 Week Competition Season

Having switched studios, my daughter’s yearly dance recital did not conflict with the Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival & Highland Games in May (Albuquerque, NM) so I finally had a chance to return to a favorite games of mine, after 15 years if I’ve done my figuring correctly. At only 5 hours away this is the closest piping competition to Lubbock, TX. Two weeks later, I competed at my first indoor competition, the Austin Piping and Drumming Competition; Austin is 6 hours away. If I were not going to Yellowstone for vacation, I’d also attend the Pikes Peak Celtic Festival in Colorado Springs in another 2 weeks (about an 8 hour drive), making my competition season 4 weeks long. But, that’s it really for games that have piping competitions. There’s one in Tulsa, OK in September but I can’t find a website, hrm.

With owning many pipes, the first thing to do is pick which set of pipes to play in competition. The pipes I play most are my band pipes, my old Hendersons. The only other two currently in rotation are my Colin Kyo and Tim Gellaitry sets. It had been some time since I featured Tim’s pipe in competition and so I decided to go with them. This decision was reinforced by the glorious drone tone I’ve been getting with them. I have always loved the tone of them as one of the best and most stable using all original Kinnaird drone reeds, however I have recently switched to Chris Armstrong’s X-TREME bass drone reed and it is all sorts of fantastic. THE BEST BASS DRONE I HAVE EVER HEARD. Coupled with the tenors still using original Kinnaird, I get a most excellent, harmonic drone tone. I got many compliments from fellow competitors and judges alike on the tone of the drones. It should come as no surprise, my chanter of choice is Colin Kyo. A custom straight cut Husk was used in ABQ as their weather is similar to Lubbock’s but it started double toning on F in the humidity of Austin so about 10 minutes before I was to start my series of performances in Austin, I had to switch to a different CK chanter equipped with a Gilmour reed that’s as probably as old as my 7 year old son, luckily it played nicer with the humidity.

Below, you’ll find recordings of the pipes as played in Austin, though the chanter isn’t quite settled in for non-humid Lubbock as I’m still moving the reed and tape back to where they were prior to Austin. EJ Jones once told me it takes days to tune a bagpipe. TRUTH.

The mic is behind me so you can hear the drones clearly (understatement of the month). Most of the tunes below are competition tunes and some are ones I actually played, but not all.

Bessie McIntyre, Alick C MacGregor, Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree – I almost make it to 90 bpm by the end!

Highland Harry and Charlie’s Welcome – a bit quick into the terminal taorluaths in Highland Harry and just outright missing a few gracenotes in Charlie’s, haha. Someday I’ll get it!

Clachnacuddin Hornpipe and Rakes of Kildare – Clachnacuddin Hornpipe is an old version of The Inverness Gathering arranged by Capt. John A. MacLellan and son, Colin, and is a previous tune of the month with sheet music available in the archive.

One topic I have pondered much in recent years is tempo. I grew up listening to recordings of pipe music about as old as I was. Much of my MSR repertoire mimics the 1984 Grant’s Piping Championship album (available on iTunes if you can tolerate the random distortion from the “old” recording). While digitizing this album yesterday from my old cassette tape, I took a few tempo measurements. Iain MacFadyen played one of my MSR: Kantara to El Arish at 74 bpm, Inveraray Castle at 142 bpm, and Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree at 95 bpm. Truly an engaging performance. The slowest reel came from Hugh MacCallum’s John MacKechnie at 85 bpm, Malcolm MacRae’s at 98, Murray Henderson’s at 92, Gavin Stoddart’s at 90, and Bill Livingstone’s at 94. Other strathspey tempos were anywhere from 128-138. Marches in the low 70s. I feel that common tempos have fallen to slightly lower values at the current time. Marches are often in the mid 60s, strathspeys right around 120, and reels in the low to mid 80s. While I have enjoyed more measured performances, with great care taken in rhythm, and have tried to mimic them on occasion, I have come to the conclusion that I prefer slightly faster tempos. Marches are for marching and strathspeys & reels are dance music (and I don’t mean modern highland dancing). Strathspeys are a derivative of reels evidenced by, if nothing else, the often quoted SWMW emphasis in 4/4 time strathspeys which directly coincides with the cut time of reels: 2/2. Piping has many idioms, and I find myself favoring the THIS IS A HIGHLAND BAGPIPE AND I’M GOING TO GET YOUR BLOOD PUMPING style because MACPHERSON HOLDS THE FLOOR.

Tune of the Month – June 2017

I have not been in the music as much recently and so this is the first month I didn’t have a plan for the tune of the month (or I forgot the plan, haha). While digitizing an old cassette tape of the 1985 William Livingstone Sr. Memorial Invitational (a fantastic event requiring an MSRHJ) I ran across a hornpipe I did not recognize as it is not in the common repertoire. Of all the tune types, I know the fewest 4 part hornpipes and so I figured I could feature a 4 part hornpipe as tune of the month, perhaps the one played by Ed Neigh on this album, “The Owl’s Hoot” by Bruce Anderson. I discovered this tune could be found in Chris Hamilton’s “The Tone Czar Collection” Vol. 1 on page 78 using the Bob Pekaar Tune Encyclopedia (thank you Bob!). Luck would have it, I have that book and if you do too you’ll note this is a neat 4 part hornpipe. However, the ending phrase is a dreaded lone E gracenote from B to low A followed by a terminal birl. As you’ll note in some recordings on the blog, I have worked a lot to retrain my E gracenote in compound movements (GDE, taorluaths, etc.), but lone E gracenotes have no pattern to rewire in my brain and so the focal dystonia still manifests mightily in such instances. The same movement appears in Doctor MacInnes’ Fancy, another tune I considered since I need to sit down and learn more 4 part hornpipes. Since I’m a bit obligated to play the tune for the blog, I decided to shy away from this nice tune. I then considered my reworked version of “Doctor MacInnes’ Fancy” but thought that might be a bit heretical for such a classic tune. Another good 4 part hornpipe is on the facing page from “Doctor MacInnes’ Fancy” in Donald MacLeod’s book 3, “Clydeside”. So, there’s 3 good hornpipes you might want to seek out, but none of them are the tune of the month.

While I had Chris’ book out I was flipping pages and came across a tune I’ve heard before and liked very much. A two part hornpipe by William MacDonald, “The Champion of the Seas”.  This is a lovely tune as arranged in Chris’ book, page 68. This is an older tune and it appears in several collections as indicated by the Pekaar Encyclopedia. In fact, an older arrangement can be found for free online in Logan’s Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music as provided freely by Ceol Sean (www.ceolsean.net). The sheet music to the arrangement I play here will not be provided as I do not want to violate Chris’ copyright, you should buy his book (if you still can, I dunno). Since a slightly older arrangement is available already in Logan’s Collection (click the link above to be taken straight to the sheet music), please use that as a resource and you can mark up the differences.

The Champion of the Seas

Tunes of the Month – May 2017

Howdy Y’all,

We’ll continue April’s trend of a hornpipe composed by someone who has spent a lot of time playing in Texas, and specifically The (Scottish) Rogues, with “Hollerin’ for Haggis” by Thomas Campbell. Also included are two 4 part jigs written by Tom, “Henry Blessed the Kitchen” and “Binker’s Birthday.” If you’ve ever played in a band with Tom, you would have received the music to these three tunes in a sheet music pack and Tom has generously allowed me to publish them for all to consume. These tunes are recorded on a couple of The Rogues’ albums. I have recorded Hollerin’ for Haggis before, it can be heard below following April’s tune of the month, The Rock.

Thomas Campbell Compositions

The Rock, Hollerin’ for Haggis

Yeehaw!

Tune of the Month – April 2017

The Rock – a round hornpipe by Jimmy Mitchell (“The Rock” is a nickname that was given to Jimmy)

Growing up in Texas, I got to hear this tune from various groups Jimmy was associated with: Hamilton Pipe Band (precursor to the St. Thomas Alumni Pipe Band) and The Rogues. Hamilton featured the tune on their album “First and Ten” coupled with Hector the Hero (by James Scott Skinner). As with many other albums, these groups and their music influenced my repertoire and I’ve played The Rock for many years. Fate would have it that the first two parts became our introductory tune for the Lyon College Pipe Band medley at the World Pipe Band Championships in 2001 (2nd place in grade 3B under Willie Muirhead). I ran into Jimmy after a long hiatus at the North Texas Irish Festival where he and The Rogues are still jammin’ with Doug Frobese filling out the pipe section (Doug followed Donald MacPhee as pipe major of Hamilton). I get a request for the sheet music to The Rock regularly and so I asked Jimmy if I could share it as a tune of the month and he agreed! Yay!

In homage to its roots, I perform it here with Hector the Hero and the graduated tempo increase into The Rock. Played on my Gellaitry pipes (original Kinnaird tenors/X-TREME bass) and Colin Kyo chanter (Shepherd Bb reed that is as hard as a rock, pun intended).

Hector the Hero and The Rock

Tunes of the Month – March 2017

Howdy Ho Y’all!

Well, I’m just about done being sick since Thanksgiving. Being married to a pediatrician, having 2 kids, and teaching at a university of 35,000 students keeps one exposed and infected with every respiratory illness that goes around each year. But I’m coming back.

My original goal for Tunes of the Month was to expose people to great competition type tunes that were seldom played, e.g. Murdo MacGillivray of Eoligarry. However, I got into a really big Irish music kick (could you tell? polka polka polka) over the winter break and so I’ve been throwing that stuff at you instead. And…it continues! Sort of.

Willie’s Fling – Novice Tune of the Month – A great little 2 line strathspey you’re supposed to play like a reel. Don’t let the tempo catch you off guard, it sounds good slow also.

Muineira de Casu – Intermediate Tune of the Month – A great 3 part “jig” from Galicia that’s a hoot to play and will challenge your Scottish based idiomatic playing like no other. I’m playing the first of 2 versions provided in the file; the second version is more common in the folk bands I’ve heard play the tune.

Here’s some audio of me playing these tunes in a set together, though if you keep up with the blog recent posts have included these tunes for a little while.

Willie’s Fling, Teampall an Ghleanntain, and Muineira de Casu – the 2 tunes of the month with some other tune in between.

The pipes were going pretty well so I figured I’d challenge myself as I work to get my chops back from the long string of illnesses.

Jeannie Carruthers, The Cowal Gathering, Inveraray Castle, Susan MacLeod, Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree, and Alick C. McGregor – an MMSSRR in the style of the Former Winners March Strathspey and Reel competition at the Northern Meeting.

The Redundancy, The Clachnacuddin Hornpipe, Rakes of Kildare, and Donella Beaton – a HHJJ because why not? The Hornpipe/Jig competition is often only HJ even at the highest levels, which I declare to be lame.

You might be wondering which pipes I’m playing. Colin Kyo with full Ezeedrone reeds and an old beat up Gilmour chanter reed in an older CK chanter.

Tunes of the Month – February 2017

Novice Level: Tom Billy’s Polka, a follow up polka to January’s novice Tune of the Month. This tune is fun, no doubt, with a great melody.

Tom Billy’s – keep your arrangement simple so you don’t get tied up in technique, polkas are meant to be played quickly!

Patrick O’Connor’s & Tom Billy’s Polkas – coupled with January’s novice tune, Patrick O’Connor’s Polka.

 

Intermediate Level: The Uist Reel, which packs a punch for being only 2 parts! The tricky thing about this tune is the back and forth between birls and C# which really gives your pinkie a work out. One source of the tune is Elizabeth Ross’ Manuscript on page 180, tune number 146.

Uist Reel – simple and embellished arrangements inspired by Iain MacInnes from his album Tryst.

Tunes of the Month – January 2017

Tunes of the Month is a series designed to engage the readers of the blog to learn a new tune (or two) each month. Come learn with us and expand your piping repertoire!

Novice Level: 2 Part Tune of the Month is Patrick O’Connor’s Polka. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “polkas are cheesy.” Well, good thing you don’t play the accordion. I like to think of polkas as easy little reels. They are great tunes that are easy to play, and easy to play quickly which is what makes them so fun. Next month we’ll have another polka (Tom Billy’s) you can pair with this one; both were obtained from Jerry O’Sullivan at the Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat back in September 2016.

Patrick O’Connor’s Polka – sheet music

Patrick O’Connor’s & Tom Billy’s Polkas – Tom Billy’s will be the Novice Tune of the Month for February 2017

Intermediate Level: January’s 4 Part Tune of the Month is actually a 5 part reel. The Foxhunter’s Reel, usually played in the key of G in Irish sessions, actually goes beyond the highland bagpipe scale even if transposed up to the key of A. Most importantly, it requires a low E in the 2nd part which we simply don’t have. However, the tune is so cool it’s worthwhile to play on the pipes even with the modifications it takes to make it fit our scale.

To get some potential confusion out of the way first, this is NOT a reel version of the 9/8 jig that is so popular; Alasdair Gillies was well known for playing jig, reel, and waltz versions of that tune. But this month’s The Foxhunter’s Reel is not that tune at all. It is a completely different tune. Here it is, doesn’t it just sound like a party you want to be part of!?

If you search for the tune in the Pekaar Tune Encyclopedia, there’s only one result that is pertinent to the version heard above; all the other references are to the 9/8 jig and its many manifestations. The version found in Barry Shear’s Cape Breton Collection Of Bagpipe Music is the only relevant published version I could find. Handily enough, Barry gives you the sheet music as a snapshot of his collection on his website (scroll down to the green book for the pdf of the sheet music). Apparently this tune survives in the Cape Breton tradition as evidenced by its inclusion in Barry’s book.

I did not come across Barry’s version until compiling this blog entry having first heard the tune in a facebook video played by a couple fiddlers playing it together on one fiddle, one bowing the other fingering (anyone have a link to this band/video? It is super cool). Barry’s version is different than mine by how it adapts the tune to fit the highland bagpipe scale. Try arranging the tune yourself! The stripped down score can be found on thesession.org in ABC format. Transpose up from G major to A major, ignore all the transient G sharps and just play our usual G naturals instead, and then adapt the rest!

The Foxhunter’s Reel – Patrick McLaurin’s version

 

Community Contributed Recordings: None yet!

Tunes of the Month – December 2016

Here are December 2016’s Tunes of the Month, a 2 part jig intended for novice level players and a 4 part hornpipe intended for intermediate level players.

Novice Level: Kenmure’s on and awa’ = 2 parts of 6/8 March or Jig

Kenmure’s on and awa’ is a 6/8 March that can be found in older collections in addition to Jim McGillivray’s pipetunes.ca. I first heard it in Jig form off of Brian McNeill‘s fiddle on Ed Miller‘s Lyrics of Gold album, an album dedicated to songs of Robert Burns. Ed’s voice is unsurpassed, just like Brian’s fiddle. For how simple it is, it has an excellent melody.

Sheet Music: Kenmure’s on and awa’

Intermediate Level: The Inverness Gathering = 4 parts of 2/4 March, Hornpipe, or Quickstep

I mean, who hasn’t played, or at least heard, The Inverness Gathering? It’s a classic; literally, no composer is ever listed. While it is usually scored as a 2/4 March, David Glen’s version is scored as a 4/4 March (dates somewhere between 1876 – 1900, the publication dates of his Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music). Henderson’s Tutor for the Highland Bagpipe and Collection of Pipe Music, the second edition published between 1918 and 1932, presents a similar setting with a little twist in the 4th part. Page 15 of Scots Guards Volume I has a modern, 2/4 March version of Henderson’s setting. However, I find these settings lacking. Specifically, they succumb to the monotonous ending of every other 2/4 March that ends with a C doubling, low A, birl combination in the 8th bar, and in this case the 7th bar just being what it needs to be to make the C doubling in the 8th bar sound appropriate.

However, we can thank PM W. Norris in 1951 for publishing The Glendaruel Collection which provides a, I daresay, better setting. Better in that the 8th bar starts with an E doubling instead of Glen’s C doubling, all else being the same in the 8th bar. This requires a different 7th bar which is more fluid and musical, i.e. less finger twisty and less technical sounding. Judges might look at you weird, but I would personally play this setting, perhaps with Henderson’s 4th part twist added for flavor. Alasdair Gillies played his own setting with the E doubling ending on the first track of his Lochbroom album. I’ve transcribed his setting for you below.

However, I’m not inclined to actually play the tune as a 2/4 March as listed in these collections. Those familiar with Coin MacLellan’s World’s Greatest Pipers album will recognize what is listed as the Clachnacuddin Hornpipe as just a hornpipe version of The Inverness Gathering. Colin tells me it is an arrangement played by his father John MacLellan, dating back to the mid-20th century. Googling “Clachnacuddin” reveals a connection to Inverness so there’s an obvious connection intended. Hornpipes are also in 2/4 time so it’s not the hardest transition from a 2/4 March, you play it faster and round it out a bit (and much more!). The astute listener will note that Colin’s hornpipe version also utilizes the E doubling ending with the more fluid 7th and 8th bars akin to my preferred Glendaruel version. One can find another hornpipe-like version that has the E doubling ending in James Bett’s A Collection of Pipe Music published in 1899. Colin’s version is very much an average between the Bett and Glendaruel versions, though I am certainly not claiming that was the process for deriving the setting. It certainly stands on its own!

Colin MacLellan has graciously allowed me to share my transcription of his setting of the tune here. Thank you Colin!

Colin MacLellan’s setting sheet music (and the Tune of the Month): Clachnacuddin Hornpipe

Clachnacuddin Hornpipe – 1950 Henderson drones, X-TREME tenors, Rocket bass, Murray Henderson straight cut reed, Prototype chanter, Colin’s setting, Fingers that haven’t played in 3 weeks due to illness.

Clachnacuddin Hornpipe – Same as above but different prototype chanter and different Murray Henderson reed (how consistent), last two notes in the 4th bar of the 4th part a wee bit different

Alasdair Gillies’ setting: The Inverness Gathering

Tune of the Month – November 2016

I love new tunes. The Tune of the Month for November 2016 is Murdo MacGill(i)vray of Eoligarry (I’m told pronounced Yoligarry). This is a 4 part reel that’s pretty easy overall, with a beefy 3rd part that incorporates 2 low A taorluaths and 1 bubbly note from C to B. For Grade IV players, I’ve got a 2 part reel for you: Kate Dalrymple.

Why don’t you learn either of these two tunes with me this month and once you get it down, record it and I can post it to the blog (either with attribution or anonymously)? You can be sure I’ll be posting my progress. I would like to see other people take on the challenge of learning a new tune each month along with me. I think, too often, we get bogged down in perfecting 1 tune for competition, that we forget to get better by playing other tunes. I find my playing gets better the more different music I try to play, not more of the same. Part of this probably has to do with not getting bored with the same old thing over and over again. And, if you don’t finish it within the month, that’s cool; keep at it or not, and I can always add your rendition at a later date. No critique will be made of any recording, it’s just to share. I can link to YouTube videos as well.

Murdo MacGillivray of Eoligarry can be found in Donald MacLeod’s book 3, which you should buy if you haven’t already, or can buy it from Jim McGillivray’s pipetunes.ca. Here’s a link with all the details of where the tune can be found.

Here’s an “instructional” video of the tune on practice chanter:

Kate Dalrymple is a great little 2 part reel that reinforces common reel basics. Here’s my sheet music, although there are many variations available:

Kate Dalrymple -pdf of sheet music

Here’s an “instructional” video of the tune on practice chanter:

Submit your recordings to me via email. Just take my website, patrickmclaurin.com, and stick a @yahoo before the .com.

Happy Piping!

My Progress (I’m only going to critique myself, ABC notation has a scale of GABcdefga and anything in {} are grace notes):

Murdo MacGillivray of Eoligarry 2016-11-06 – need to hold the C note in the “{g}c{d}A{e}A” phrase at the end of lines, need to clean up “A{d}c” movements and watch for crossing noises.


Murdo MacGillivray of Eoligarry – 2016-11-08 – 7:16 and 10.5 MB of me fine tuning the tune; trying to hold the 2nd low A in “A<{d}A” in the 1st and 3rd bars of the 1st and 2nd parts; trying to hold high As in the 2nd part; trying to hold F and E in the 4th part; still trying to hold the Cs at the end of lines; need to not come off the end of the line so quick; bubbly note a bit mushy; grip in the 2nd part a bit labored


Jeannie Carruthers, Susan MacLeod, Murdo MacGillivray of Eoligarry – 2016-11-21 – Need to omit the pickup into Eoligarry and break right into it.


Kate Dalrymple – Patrick


Kate Dalrymple – David Glen – don’t let those taorluaths sneak up on you, haha!


Kate Dalrymple – JR Glen – this version is AWESOME, I think there’s a typo in the music = the 1st ending of the 2nd part should be “d2 fd” instead of “d2 fe”, it sticks out in the recording something awful.

Contributed Recordings:

None so far!