Wednesday, August 27, 2008

As good as it gets?

Here is Field Marshal Montgomery winning the Grade 1 MSR section at the Worlds Pipe Band Championship 2008.

The tunes - "Highland Wedding", "Blair Drummond" and "Pretty Marion".

Mind-boggling .....

Click here to listen.

Old Angus

Monday, August 25, 2008

Yet more insights into our tunes.

Kate Dalrymple.
A traditional tune with words added by William Watt ( circa 1792). Very popular as a dance tune with folk groups and pipers alike. The words tell the tale of a less than pretty lady, doomed to spinsterhood, with nothing going for her at all until she falls heir to a friend’s estate. Then the wooers start coming thick and fast. A typical bit of Scots humour.

The Bonnie Lass O’ Fyvie.
A popular folk song which (tongue in cheek) tells the tale of Ned, a Captain of the Irish Dragoons, who dies of a broken heart after falling in love with and soon after having to leave, lovely Peggy from the Aberdeenshire village of Fyvie.

Castle Dangerous
"Castle Dangerous" is a novel by Sir Walter Scott, written in 1832. The castle believed to have inspired the novel is Douglas Castle in the Galloway area of south-west Scotland. In 1307, during the Wars of Scottish Independence the castle was captured and garrisoned by the English under Lord Clifford. Sir James Douglas, companion of Robert the Bruce successfully recaptured his family seat by storming the castle on Palm Sunday, while the garrison were at chapel. He had the garrison killed and thrown into a cellar, before the structure was burned. The event has become known as "Douglas's Larder". Grim days, to be sure.

The Hiking Song.
This song was made popular by Callum Kennedy in the 1960’s, and has remained a favourite. It has never been published as a pipe tune however, and our version is simply a transcription taken directly from Callum’s voice.

Will Ye No’ Come Back Again/We’re No’ Awa’ Tae Bide Awa’.
These two tunes are often played together, but they are truly uneasy bedfellows. The first expresses a nostalgic longing for the return of Bonnie Prince Charlie from exile after the ill-fated Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, and the other is a cheery drinking song from the streets of Glasgow. Their adaptation to the pipes has given the repertoire a couple of well know tunes whose titles (if not their content) seem to fit nicely into the category of “rounding off the programme” with the happy idea that the players and the audience would be happy to meet again sometime.

Old Angus

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How young can you start learning to play pipes ?

This is a photo of the incredible G.S. McLennan when he was ten years old. He had already won the Amateur National Championship for Marches, Strathspeys and Reels. At the age of twelve he won the London Highland Amateur Championship for Piobaireachd, Marches, Strathspeys and Reels.

He became Pipe Major of the 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders at the age of 21 years, making him the youngest ever pipe major in the British Army. He won over 2000 piping awards during his career, was a brilliant composer, and also was a reputable bagpipe maker.

Sadly he died at the age of 45 due to complications of a lung complaint he contracted in the trenches of World War 1.

So it can safely be said that you are never too young to learn - provided your fingers can fit on a practice chanter !!

Old Angus

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Worlds Pipe Band Championship Results.

The championship was held in Glasgow Green yesterday (Saturday 16th August).

The first three bands were:

1. Simon Fraser University (Canada)
2. Field Marshall Montgomery (Ireland)
3. Shotts and Dykehead (Scotland).

Old Angus

Friday, August 15, 2008

More insights into our tunes.


I first heard this tune at a contest in Bathgate in the 1970’s, played by the Dysart and Dundonald Pipe Band. I wrote it out for our own band and it proved popular with our members. Some years later the tune was published as “Unknown Retreat” , but we have elected to stay with our original choice of name ll

Cullen Bay.

The 5/4 Time Signature is enough to make this composition stand out from the pack, but it is also a lovely expressive melody. We play only the first two parts of this four-parter, because long ago it was part of a contest medley with time constraints, and the tradition has stuck !!!

Cullen Bay is a beautiful area north of Grampian, between Buckie and Banff. The composer is Ian Duncan – a drummer believe it or not !!! It is worth mentioning that there is another tune by this name, composed in 1959 – a 2/4 march by Pipe Major James Robertson of The Gordon Highlanders, and named after the very same area.

Barren Rocks of Aden.

Composed by J. McKellar. This tune has four parts but the last two parts are seldom played nowadays. However, it would be hard to imagine a piper of any worth anywhere in the world who doesn’t have the first two measures in his repertoire. It does remind us that once upon a time the British Army was firmly ensconced in that hot and rocky Red Sea port.

Flower of Scotland.

Little did the popular folk duo “The Corries” realise when they penned and recorded this song that they would release such a flood of Scottish nationalistic feeling. Some people have even suggested it should be the Scottish National Anthem. Certainly it has become the popular choice of Scottish Soccer and Rugby fans at international matches. The words invoke the spirit of the Battle of Bannockburn (1314 ad) when the Scots, under Robert the Bruce, soundly thrashed “Proud Edward’s army” and firmly established Scottish independence.

Old Angus

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jeremy Levett's lost brother

Here is Jeremy's long lost brother, Ranga Levett.
Keep your eye out at band practice, or a band event.
See if you can spot him!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Scotch Tablet

To Old Angus, master of knowledge.

I am wondering where did Scotch tablet originate from and what's your favourite recipe of Scottish tablet. I bet this is easy to work out.

Who is asking (Peter Levett). What’s your favourite Scottish food?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pipe Band at the Olympic Opening Ceremony

It was lovely to hear a pipe band at that incredible opening ceremony in Beijing, although I felt it would have been good to let us have even a brief glimpse of them.

They played several times with three brackets of marches. It shows the Chinese have impeccable musical taste .......

Old Angus

Friday, August 8, 2008

Found on the web

An English doctor was being shown around a Scottish hospital. 
At the  end of an extensive tour of the operating rooms, medical, 
surgical,  and pediatric units, he was shown into a ward with a 
number of  patients who showed no obvious signs of injury. He
 went to examine the first man he saw, and the man proclaimed: 
"Fair fa' yer honest sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin' race! 
Aboon them a' ye tak your place, painch tripe or thairm: Weel are 
ye worthy o' a grace as lang's my arm..."  

The doctor, somewhat taken aback, went to the next patient, who 
immediately launched into: 
"Some hae meat, and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But 
we haemeat and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit."  

And the next patient: "Wee sleekit cow'rin tim'rous beastie, O what a 
panic'sin thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty, wi 
bickering brattle I wad be laith to run and chase thee, wi murdering 

"Well," said the Englishman to his Scottish colleague, "I see you  
saved the psychiatric ward for last." "No, no, no," the Scottish 
doctor corrected him,  "this is the Serious  Burns Unit." 

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A few insights into our tunes.

Dream Angus.
A popular traditional lullaby from the Scottish Highlands which sits nicely in the pipe scale.
The legendary perception of Scottish “thriftiness” might make people think that only in Scotland would Dream Angus have the temerity to “sell” his dreams to bairns !!!
Dreams to sell, fine dreams to sell,
Angus is here with dreams to sell.
Hush now my bairnie and sleep without fear,
Dream Angus has brought you a dream, my dear.

Major MacLennan.
Composed by G.S. MacLennan of the Gordon Highlanders.
This march was composed by GS in honour of his favourite cousin, Major John MacLennan, a great character who was RSM of the1st Battalion The Gordon Highlanders in the Boer War when he won the Distinguished Conduct Medal . He was commissioned in 1902. Sadly Major MacLennan was badly injured in France in 1916 as a result of a fall from his horse which had been startled by shell fire. He was evacuated to Aberdeen where he was frequently visited by GS. He died of his injuries in August 1916.

Shoals of Herring
This song by Ewan MacColl (1915-1989) tells of the perilous lives of the North Sea herring trawlermen, chasing the fish often referred to as “the silver darlings”. Many of these trawlermen sailed out of such ports as Aberdeen, Peterhead, Fraserburgh in the north east of Scotland.

This is the CEPB’s own tune, inasmuch as it was composed by Jim Cottnam while he was a piper and bass drummer in our band. The tune was later entered in a composition competition in Victoria and won first prize. Jim was a stalwart of our band for many years. He had two sons who played pipes (David and Colin) and another who played the drums (Robert) in the band. Blairbegg (strictly Blairbeg) was a place in Jim’s native Scotland that obviously left a lasting impression on him.

Old Angus

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Workshop with Donald Blair and Merran Moir from Warrnambool and District pipe and Drums

Good Evening all
Just thought I would fill everyone in on the workshop today at Scotch "Hogwarts" College.
It was a very good day, started at 10am and finished around 4.30ish.
I, Andy T that is, attended the learners' section. There were about 15 people in attendance, at various levels of playing; a good bunch of people, ready to listen and learn.
First session Donald Blair took, informing us about teaching learners for many years, and the difficulties associated, being geographically isolated.
The Warrnambool Band has been very successful, in this area, moving from Grade 2 to Grade 4, and producing very good players.
We then got out chanters, and he went around the tables, getting people to play various embellishments, and a couple of bars from a tune we knew.
He said the bottom hand movements tend to be a problem, and produced a neat little exercise to prove it.
Then went on to the Taorluath movement, and broke it down, as many people struggle to play two low G's. Then we had a go at the Crunluath movement, although for Pibroch, he encourages it for good finger work> This man was no slouch on the Chanter!
Everyone got out pipes, and he had a quick look to see where they were tuning. He then went through various areas about pipes - then time for a coffee and some chit chat.
After the break we had Donald's daughter, Merran, who has played at Grade 1
She also has ways on teaching learners. They spend a lot of time on embellishments, and has some nice down the scale, dittos. At this point I must say, their teachings are very similar as to how I was taught by both Angus's Snr and Jnr. All the scale dittos she played, I have heard young Angus play on the p chanter.
They also encourage all their players to enter solo competitions; they think it helps with a pipers overall development,
We then went through Scotland the Brave, slowing down C doublings for this tune. We all asked Merran about breaking down a tune, and she gave us her method, for doing this; time for lunch...
At lunch caught up with Malcolm Massie. Had a good chat about the cabaret, and his recent trip to Scotland with his band. All we missed was having a beer!
After lunch Craig Masson took a session on some timings, 2/4, 4/4 etc, and again encouraging people to have a go at solos. He also talked about Pibroch, and encouraging all to have a little listen, he then taught us the Variation 1 of "Hail to My Country". Being a Pibroch fan I thoroughly enjoyed this session. They encourage it for blowing , and learning to hear notes. I know it's not for everyone, but I like it.
Merran then had a little session on 6/8's, which was enjoyable, she played some very nice ones on the practice chanter. We all played "Cock of the North" and "Bonnie Dundee".
The last session was hosted by Brett Tidswell and Andy Fuller from City of Adelaide. It was all about looking after and setting up pipes.
I think sometimes we take it for granted, our pipes will just work, without any maintenance. A lot of this was visual, and too hard to explain here. I took a lot from this area, but for a learner like myself, it was well worth seeing.
All in all, for me personally, it was well worth the trip. I would have no hesitation about going to the next workshop.
Andy T

Peter where were you?

Dancing late in the evening ....

As the evening wound up the dancing got more bizarre or interesting?

Let you judge yourself .. but should mention that this file is about 16MBytes long so only suitable for those with broadband


some less formal pictures from the bands social evening

here are some of the less formal shots from last night .... also do have some video of the dancing that may add later:>


Friday, August 1, 2008

Getting the most from your hand-held tuner.

1. Understanding Scales and Intervals.

An "interval" is the ratio of the frequencies of two notes in a scale. Let me give you an example. The interval between Low A and B in our scale is 9/8 (or 1.125). For instance, a reasonable frequency for our Low A would be 470 Hertz (or 470 vibrations per second). In a correctly set chanter with this Low A then the "B" must be 1.125 times 470 which equals 528.75 Hertz.

It is important to realise that the actual frequency of Low A can be fixed anywhere between say 460 and 480 Hertz - this will depend on many things including the make of chanter, the mood of the pipe major, and the weather !!! The point to remember is that the interval between Low A and B will always be the same - i.e. 1.125

At the risk of labouring the point, the "intervals" between notes in the bagpipe scale are fixed and immutable, even though the actual frequencies may vary over a limited range.

2. The McNeill/Linehan Scale.

The bagpipe scale is unique, and the recognised intervals, (as reported by McNeill and Linehan in “Acustica” vol 4, 1954) are as follows :

Low A to B 1.125 (9/8)
Low A to C 1.25 (5/4)
Low A to D 1.35 (27/20)
Low A to E 1.5 (3/2)
Low A to F 1.666 (5/3)
Low A to G' 1.8 (9/5)
Low A to A' 2 (2/1)

It is worth noting that, at that time, the Low A was deemed to be 459 Hertz.

Summarising the McNeill/Linehan Scale

Chanter A B C D E F G A
Tuner A# C D D# F G G# A#
Correction(cents) 0 +4 -14 +20 +2 -16 +17 0
Freqency Hz 470 528.7 587.5 634.5 705 783 846 940

To fully understand the meaning of “Cents” you should refer to the section 5 below.

However, the bagpipe scale has shifted quite dramatically from this early standard, especially since the early 1970’s. The accepted pitch has moved upwards quite markedly to be in the “470+ Hertz” region, while D and G have been considerably flattened. We will now look specifically at the Modern Scale.

3. The Modern Bagpipe Scale.

As previously mentioned, the trend since the 1970’s has been towards higher pitch and also towards a fairly large flattening of D and G. The correction for D should be +2 cents (rather than +20) and the correction for G should be -24 (rather than +17). The other notes are unchanged. This will place the scale in the range of a number of top solo players and bands of the past 30 years and are as follows :

Low A to B 1.125 (9/8)
Low A to C 1.25 (5/4)
Low A to D 1.333 (4/3)
Low A to E 1.5 (3/2)
Low A to F 1.666 (5/3)
Low A to G' 1.75 (7/4)
Low A to A' 2 (2/1)

The Modern scale will therefore require the following corrections on the tuner.
(n.b. the corrections are calculated for the nominal ratios listed immediately above.)

Chanter A B C D E F G A
Tuner A# C D D# F G G# A#
Correction 0 +4 -14 -2 +2 -16 -31 0
Freq Hz 470 528.7 587.5 626.6 705 783.3 822.5 940

Notice that the ratio of Low A to High A is 2. In other words High A is precisely twice the frequency of Low A. This "two-to-one" ratio is called an "Octave".

For the record, the tenor drone is precisely one octave below Low A, and the bass drone is precisely one octave below the tenor drone. Also, Low G is an octave below High G.

4. Where are the drones in all of this.

If we assume a Low A frequency of 470 Hertz, the tenor should be set to 235 Hz, and the bass to 117.5 Hz. The relationship of particular chanter notes with the drones can therefore be expressed as follows.

LowA is twice the tenor frequency and 4 times the bass frequency) = 470Hz.
C is 5 times the bass frequency = 587.5Hz.
E is 6 times the bass and 3 times the tenor frequency = 705Hz.
HiA is 8 times the bass and 4 times the tenor frequency = 940Hz.

Those notes which have audible relationships with the drones (A, C, E and HiA) are pitched identically in both the McNeill and Modern scales while D and G are significantly different.

Firstly, we need to establish how far each interval of our two scales deviates from particular intervals in the Equal Temperament or Chromatic Scale used by the normal hand-held tuner. If you intend to use your electronic tuner to set a chanter (as opposed to its normal function of tuning drones) you need to know the precise deviation that will be displayed for each chanter note on the tuner.

To fully understand the rationale behind all this, it will be necessary to digress briefly into a little more basic music theory.

5. Equal Temperament - Semi-Tones and Cents.

In the "Equal Temperament" approach the octave is divided into 12 equal intervals and each is called a "semitone".

To further complicate matters, each of the 12 equal intervals (or semitones) is given a value of 100 cents, the whole octave then being represented by 1200 cents. The importance of this for pipers is that the deviations are expressed in the form of "cents".

The semitone is a precise interval and is 1.0595. (For the mathematically minded, this is the twelfth root of 2).

Of course there are only eight notes in an octave, therefore not all of the intervals between notes are semitones. In fact some are "tones" which have intervals of 1.1225 (which is 1.0595 squared) and these have a value of 200 cents.

To recap:

a semitone = 100 cents and is an interval of 1.0595.
a tone = 200 cents and is an interval of 1.1225.
an octave = 1200 cents and is an interval of 2.

Scale intervals referred to a chosen note (in our case "Low A") can be expressed as Cents using the following formula:

Cents = (1200 x log(interval))/ log 2
= 3986 x log(interval)

To illustrate this by an example let us choose "F" on the bagpipe scale. Referred to Low A, the interval is 1.666 (as noted earlier).

Cents = 3986 x log(1.666);
= 3986 x 0.2218
= 884 cents

We will discover shortly that this is quite close (within 18 cents) to the interval between A# and G in the Equal Temperament scale.

The Low A of the Pipe chanter is closest to A# (B flat) in the chromatic scale, therefore we should look at the intervals referred to this note to see what is closest for each of the other chanter notes.

The relevant intervals for the Equal Tempered Scale referred to A# can be tabulated (in Cents) as follows:

A# C D D# F G G# A#
0 200 400 500 700 900 1000 1200

The intervals for the Modern bagpipe scale can be tabulated (in Cents) as follows:

0 204 386 498 702 884 986 1200

The differences (in Cents) between the nearest comparable notes (chanter and tuner) are therefore:

0 +4 -14 +20 +2 -16 -31 0

6. Summarising - the Modern Scale.

Chanter A B C D E F G A
Tuner A# C D D# F G G# A#
Correction 0 +4 -14 -2 +2 -16 -31 0
Freq Hz 470 528.7587.5626.6705783.3822.5940


If you are not now totally confused then you haven't been paying attention !!!!!

Old Angus