Monthly Archives: June 2012

My tunes and REELS, Hende’s and Gellaitry’s

I decided I didn’t play enough of tunes that I composed on the blog so I sought to rectify that the other day. I forgot I really don’t know any of my tunes that well, so they kinda sucked. But, here they are anyway, page turn intermissions and all! Played on them Hende pipes, Kyo chanter, Husk reed, Rocket tenors, Canning polycarb bass, old school L&M bag, and sorta shaggy carpet between my toes. “Father of Piping, Brian Barrow”, one tune, don’t let the comma confuse you, was written on the passing of a friend’s father. Calista is my daughter and that waltz was written to commemorate her birth, Calista and Clark’s Playtime is really the first part (sort of) of another tune (Moving Cloud) that I thought was original at the time and that I ended up writing a 2nd part for (oblivious of the fact it already had like 3 other parts). Rascal (the cat) was the family pet after the dogs died when I was a kid. Man, you can really hear those tenors ring at the beginning.

Father of Piping, Brian Barrow and Calista McLaurin and Calista and Clark’s Playtime and Rascal’s Runabout

City of Lubbock Pipe Band was the name of the band here in Lubbock until I decided it might confuse people into thinking we were actually a part of the City, so we switched the name to Llano Estacado and District Pipe Band which is cool on so many levels. Like, it spells LEAD PB, Pb being the letters designated for the chemical element lead. Needless to say, there is a lead pipe in our logo. Barbara is my mother. These tunes sound A LOT like other 9/8 marches. Given my confusion with the Moving Cloud, you can imagine I’m very paranoid about just writing something down I heard 6 months ago and thinking it was mine. Being able to learn by ear has a catch-22.

City of Lubbock Pipe Band and Barbara McLaurin

And then I got tired of butchering my own tunes so I butchered some Irish reels I learned a while back. But before you go, you can find the sheet music to my tunes on my main website.

King of Laois, Congress reel, and Connaughtmans Rambles

Those are really supposed to be C naturals in the Congress, but whatever. Which lets us segue into the more recent recordings of just me playing reels on the Gellaitry’s, Kinnaird drone reeds, Colin Kyo chanter, and the reed that has been in the MacPherson’s CK chanter up until tonight. The reason for the switch is because you’ve probably noticed a flat D and F on my recent recording of the MacPherson’s and that’s because that’s my band chanter with band reed (sort of) and I didn’t want to fiddle with it. Anywho, my solo CK is carved just a little (ssshhhh, don’t tell Murray) ;o) and so it would be more accepting of this Gilmour reed with the flat D and F. Enough talk, more play.

Lady Doll Sinclair, In and Out the Harbor, Bonnie Isle of Whalsay, and Hen Wife’s Daughter

Sorry that didn’t stay in tune for long. I was looking for something to put in between the two monumental old reels Lady Doll Sinclair and Hen Wife’s Daughter (of Spirit of Scotland misattribution fame) and Neil Clark, this dude that lives in Scotland, played with Strathclyde Police, and teaches Skype lessons recommended In and Out the Harbor so I headed over to the Pekaar index and lo and behold, it’s in a book I own, Allan MacDonald’s book of the first hundred. It fit pretty well, but I also pulled the Bonnie Isle of Whalsay out too as a pretty neat tune. I was thinking my grips were a little tight in Bonnie but it wasn’t until the next set that I realized the tape to replace all tapes (3M 471) leaves a residue and my D finger was sticking! DUN DUN DUN. Back to my old friend auto pin-striping tape, doh. Oh well. Here are the 3 4-parted competition type reels I’ve learned in the past year or so.

Bessie McIntyre, Miss Proud, and Lochiel’s Away to France

I’ve been talking to a friend Tripp about possible underplayed 4-part reels and one by Allan while I was trolling through his book caught my attention so here ’tis in all its sight read mediocrity, twice through no less.

Archie Kenneth (Allan MacDonald)

Then I was like, hey, there’s a version of the Congress that’s like what is on the Piper’s Controversy album, which isn’t like the version I learned from an Irish fiddler player (well, a fiddler of Irish tunes shall we say) so I recorded them back to back, the one from earlier in this post followed by one sorta like the one in Allan’s book but intermingled with parts from the album.

Congress x 2!

Well, then I decided I needed to play some band tunes outside of band practice and appeal to a more beginner audience. So here’s my band’s 2/4 street march set. All those lagging E grace notes, yep, that’s focal dystonia for ya! It’s getting a lot better, but sad to say the High Road is my worst tune. Yikes!

High Road to Gareloch, Brown Haired Maiden, 42nd Highlanders, and High Road to Gairloch

I have no idea how to spell Gair/Gareloch.

Just needed to play my MacPherson’s!

Simon McKerrell recently gave a recital at the King’s Hall at Newcastle University in England. It was recorded and he has subsequently released the tracks from the recital and they are available through iTunes and other digital media outlets like Amazon (google is your friend). It is not being released on any physical media like a CD. The liner notes are available on Simon’s website. The site also states that Simon was playing a set of 2011 Doug MacPherson drones with Ezeedrone tenor reeds and a cane bass. Now, using Ezeedrone tenor reeds is an incredibly common practice regardless of the pipe one is playing. I bring this up because the only audio I knew of for the longest time of MacPherson’s pipes was a YouTube video of Scott Hannah playing. Having enquired of Scott what setup he was using (via FB) he obliged with the info that he was playing Ezeedrone tenors and a Kinnaird bass. That YouTube video is here:

Obviously he is getting a very good sound. He told me to set the Ezeedrone tenors by mouth, that is sucking air through them at the same time and ensuring they sound the same note. He also mentioned efficiency which is always key.

Back to Simon McKerrell’s live album, I was on the fence about buying it because it was a live album, and not the Glenfiddich or whatever. But, once I saw he was playing a VERY modern set of pipes and that I happened to own a set of, I was totally curious what kind of sound he was getting out of them. My other concern of some pipe albums is the lack of drone volume in the recordings. Many do a fine job but I always worry I’m buying an album of a bombard with a couple of bumblebees in the background. Well, never fear, the reputation for MacPherson drones to be robust goes untarnished. The recording is very well done, and while there is clapping at the end of each set, I haven’t found any distracting noises during the tunes. It is so good, in fact, that I’ve listened to it about 4 times now and I haven’t even owned it 24 hours yet. Obviously an iPhone and headphones help one listen while performing other tasks, but you get the idea. I might also be so bold to comment on the playing and tune selection. While there are only 8 tracks they are all very good. Simon is also an uilleann piper and I think it shows some in his playing, which is very musical. Simon’s playing is very grace note filled, not that he’s playing any more than anyone else, but they seem to take up more space, connecting melody notes together, giving a very unified form of expression. For example, doublings are quite open in comparison to some of his peers, taps are all big and punchy, and his most excellent birl seems to last the whole A in some of his shorter reels. Simon is also not shy about substituting non-standard notes into several melodies, not for show, but they always uniquely add to the melody which is refreshing. Buy the album!

Now that I’ve bored you to death, what does this all have to do with Patrick? If you read my last post I had replaced the Naill spec Rocket tenors in my Henderson’s with Canning’s, Ezeedrone’s suave younger brother. I figured, ah, close enough. So I left the Kinnaird bass (I use a low-pitch one) in the MacPherson’s but swapped out the tenors for Canning’s. But, I have to make a valid comparison. So, here’s all Kinnaird’s:

Deer Forest – all Kinnaird

Then swap the Canning tenors in:

Deer Forest – Canning tenors swapped in

The first line of the tune from each of the above recordings spliced together:

1st line Deer Forest, first all Kinnaird’s then Canning tenors swapped in

and finally the low As from the beginning of each spliced together:

All Kinnaird then Canning tenors swapped in, low A only

I tried to keep all the variables constant, so that’s about as close a comparison as you’re going to get. The mic is about chanter level but behind and to my left, tenor side. I think I’ll stick with all Kinnaird, but part of that is I think I want the Canning tenors in the Henderson’s! Also, the MacPherson’s are the band pipe so I’m also looking for the most robust sound. But, that didn’t stop me from playing a few more tunes with the Canning tenors still in. The first is a set I’m playing with a band mate, with the Good Drying by Roderick MacDonald added onto the end. The second tune, Mason’s Apron, was in a medley I constructed for the band, and as such I had simplified it some, specifically, removed the hornpipe shakes and just replaced them with ‘slow’ slurs, you might call them. In that vein, I did the same to the Good Drying, which is full of shakes. Well, at least until I got to the 4th part where my brain got confused as to whether the next note was a C necessitating preparation for the the slow slur (no troublesome E grace note) or D necessitating a doubling (requiring the E grace note), the result being that some of the slow slurs on C turned back into hornpipe shakes on C. Oops. My bad, also, on the chokes.

Wee Michael’s March (John McCusker), Mason’s Apron, Good Drying (Roderick MacDonald)

Lastly, I left a couple of 2/4 Marches out of the last post, and I figured you haven’t heard a recording yet of my kids coming home, knocking on the door, and yelling “candy” at me before mom shoes them away so here’s one more.

Rossshire Volunteers (John Connon) and Cowal Gathering (PM John McLellan)

Just needed to play the solo competition tunes.

Title says it all, and the recordings will make it obvious why, lots of mistakes and sloppy fingering. Played ’em straight through, they’re presented in order. Took out the Naill spec Rockets and put the Canning tenors in so I’m all Canning in the 1950’s Henderson’s (polycarbonate bass <- I love this reed, thanks again Gord!). Husk reed and the loveliest Colin Kyo chanter I’ve had my hands on. Of my 3 blackwood (2 obtained aftermarket, as it were, this one being one of those 2) it is simply brilliant. When I die, I’ll be sad to let this chanter go. L&M bag and a Gibson split stock water trap. Things sharpened up a bit at first but then flattened out just wee bit for the last couple sets. That’s all I got, here are the recordings.

1-Arthur Bignold of Lochrosque, Highland Harry, Bessie McIntyre, PM George Allan, Eileen MacDonald

2-Scotland the Brave, Wings, Lord Lovat’s Lament, Murdo’s Wedding, Rowan Tree

3-Alan MacPherson of Mosspark, Troy’s Wedding, Clumsy Lover, Glasgow Police Pipers

4-Miss Proud, Locheil’s Away to France, Charlie’s Welcome, Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree, Rejected Suitor

5-Ewe with the Crooked Horn, Inverary Castle, Dora MacLeod, Shepherd’s Crook, Susan MacLeod

6-Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban, Major Manson’s Farewell to Clachantrushal (had a little oopsie at the end of the last tune so I had to cut it here and rerecord it below, Kantara…)

7-74th’s Farewell to Edinburgh, Kantara to el Arish

Okay, so they weren’t all competition tunes.

Spirit of Scotland Booboo and more D. MacLeod tunes

Start this week with yet another booboo from a grade 1 band, haha. Not really, they just got a tune name wrong. I’ve been listening to a lot of Battlefield Band lately. They’ve got some great songs accompanied by pipe tunes. Their “Home is Where the Van is” and “Happy Daze” albums are excellent. Karine Polwart lends her most awesome voice on Happy Daze and it is really a great album. Check it out. She’s on several Ed Miller albums too, who also employs EJ Jones a lot for smallpipe accompaniment. Okay, I’m starting to link like a Wikipedia article. One instrumental pipe set on Happy Daze ends with Nighean Cailleachd Nan Cearc, which apparently means the Hen Wife’s Daughter. Well, I immediately recognized this as the final tune of the Spirit of Scotland’s 2008 medley. But, the last tune in their medley is always listed as The Grey Old Lady of Raasay, and I always thought that was the strangest version of that tune, as in, doesn’t sound like it at all. Go figure, they got the tune title wrong. So, the Hen Wife’s Daughter it is. See for yourself. I’ve included a version along with Spirit of Scotland’s on my sheet music page on my main website. I personally prefer the GDE ending of the original all on low A, instead of G on C and DE on low A as SOS plays it.

Enough of that, I wanted to give some exposure to some Donald MacLeod 6/8 marches I never hear played and then I just kept flipping through the book and played some other tunes.

Primrose Hill and Benside (both by Donald MacLeod, second one is a keeper)

Susan MacLeod and Neil Angus MacDonald (both by Donald MacLeod, I knew Susan just with different timings a la Scots Guards as opposed to his 4th book which contains Primrose Hill, Neil Angus MacDonald was the tune on the page facing Susan)

Archie MacPhail (I figured while I was playing reels I never had before, I’d play this one too, by Adam Scott, South Uist)

Last, and certainly least, as far as worth listening to goes, my band’s medley:

Battle of Waterloo (Donald MacLeod), A Dram Before You Go, Glasgow Police Pipers (Donald MacLeod, sort of), Deer Forest, Firth of Lorn (Donald MacLeod), Sleepy Maggie, and Dancing Feet (George S. McLennan)

A bit down on practice these days and my right hand is not doing a very good job of getting back down to the chanter so there are some false Es as my right hand takes its time.