New Tunes from the Campbell Canntaireachd by Patrick Molard Chair Peter McCallister
Gives a short introduction in French.
If you Google Patrick Molard you come across pictures – Patrick playing the bombarde, and many other pictures come up. Patrick is a world renowned expert. He came to Aberdeen in the 1970’s as a trainee teacher. He learned a lot from the Bobs of Balmoral and he also played with the Aberdeen Police Pipe Band and at one point he camped in a tent in Jack Taylor’s garden.
Thanks to the Piobaireachd Society , in particular Jack Taylor , for the invitation to speak today.
Jack and I are old friends , being very close at the time when I was teaching in Aberdeen in 1971 , and because of our association with the two Bobs . We were not the only ones , since there was Iain Duncan and Bill Wotherspoon as well , Bob Brown called us his three musketeers . So we have been keeping in touch over the years , and to-day I am very happy to see them again , in particular Bill whom I had not seen again since 1972 , some 40 years ago !
I must say I feel very impressed to be here talking and playing for such a prestigious and venerable institution as the Piobaireachd Society . I did not think that such a thing would ever happen , and once again I thank Jack for his kind invitation .
I am going to play for you to-day a few unpublished pieces from the Colin Campbell manuscript , also called Nether Lorne Manuscript .
But first I would like to say a few words about my own relation with the manuscript . When I first started playing Pibroch , more than 40 years ago in 1970 , I first got tuition from Jakez Pincet , my first teacher , who had been getting tuition in Pibroch from Bob Brown in 1968 .
I remember that he insisted on the importance of singing a tune before playing it , and I suppose he was using a form of canntaireachd , rather a kind of chanting , probably an imitation of Bob Brown’s own chanting ? Then I went to see Bob Brown , from August 1971 till February 1972 before he left for New-Zealand , and I was not to see him again since he sadly died when he came back from New-Zealand in march of the same year . Then I went to Bob Nicol for further tuition until the end of my school year in Aberdeen , beginning of July of the same year .
So I got quite a number of tunes from the Bobs , and always through singing , we hardly ever used a practice chanter . So I started singing using their system of canntaireachd , which was not exactly the same by the way , they had some different vocables , but not much . But in those days , I did not know much about the Campbell canntaireachd , except what I had read in the introduction of every Piobaireachd Society book . I don’t remember neither Bob Brown nor Bob Nicol mentioning the Campbell manuscript to me , or maybe they did but I was not aware of the importance and the value of such a work . So it was not before the beginning of the nineties , some 20 years ago , that I started to grow an interest for the manuscript .
It all started with a friend of mine from Brittany , Eric Freyssinet ,composer of the tune Echoing roots from Brittany which was one of the set tunes a few years ago . Eric had the opportunity to get a complete copy of the whole manuscript from the National Library , and he made me a copy . He was so excited about it that he started persuading me to study the manuscript in depth , and together we started learning all the different vocables , with the help of the Piobaireachd Society introductions .
We had a lot of sessions together , sometimes on the phone , singing away and trying to find the rhythm and phrasing of unpublished tunes in particular . The problem with the Campbell canntaireachd is mainly rhythm which is not clearly indicated , one has to try different possibilities in order to find a satisfactory phrasing and rhythm , in particular in the Urlar .
So what I did was in first place to study tunes I already knew in staff notation , like the Blue Ribbon ( vol1 , tune 2 ) or Maol Donn ( 74 , 1) , and I compared with the edited versions in staff notation . Then I discovered I was becoming more and more fluent in this new language , and that I could play directly on my pipes straight from the canntaireachd , without using the staff notation anymore . Naturally , I had a look at the unpublished tunes , and I am still trying to find solutions for a number of them .
I went through all the tunes called One of the Cragich and made a recording of them , and also recorded a CD including a tune called Failt Na Misk , Salute to drunkenness .
I had to take my own decisions , concerning rhythm and phrasing , and to-day I would like to play for you the result of my research . Of course I have no pretention at all , this is purely an artistic approach , I don’t consider myself as an expert of the Campbell canntaireachd , and there are probably a lot of pipers here who probably know far more than I do .
I have chosen 4 unpublished tunes , I am not going to play them in full , apart from the last one , because of the time it would take . And I am going to play these tunes on this set of pipes which is a perfect replica of the 1806 set made by Donald MacDonald and which was purchased by Dr Hugh Cheape for the National Edinburgh Museum . This is the set which you can see on the cover of the two Donald MacDonald volumes recently published by the Piobaireachd Society . This replica was made by a Breton pipe-maker called Pierre Blanchet who already had made replicas of old vintage sets made by Alexander Glen , Duncan MacDougall , John Thow , to name a few . Thanks to our mutual friend Andrew Frater who also made the reed for the chanter , we got permission from Dr Hugh Cheape to measure up the original set at the Museum , and I have here the result .
The first tune I have chosen has a strange title , it is called The white wedder black tail ( 69 , volume 2 ) , and is just after the Black wedder white tail ( 64 ) which has been published in book 11 of the Piob Society . The tune starts with an Urlar of three lines , followed by a doubling of Urlar , or Thumb variation , then Taorluadh Brabach singling and doubling , played up , and then Crunluath breabach singling and doubling . With 4 hiharins at the end of line three . The phrasing is on 4 beats , strong medium medium strong . The tune is made of 5 notes only , A B C D E , , and an interesting point is the succession of grips in the urlar , a feature which occurs in other unpublished pieces .
Here it goes White wedder black tail
The second tune is a nameless tune , Nameless 16 , volume 1 , and I must confess it took me quite some time to find a solution as far as rhythm is concerned .
At first , I was misled by the fact that Campbell has attached a certain number of vocables and this does not make the interpretation easy . For instance , it starts hiharintra hotra dreha dreotra hihodrodintro and is quite difficult to sing with a consistent rhythm , so I have decided to adopt a 3 pulse rhythm , strong-medium-strong , and it gives something like this : hiharintra hotradre hadreotra hihodrodintro , then line one is repeated but finishing on a D rather than B , we have drodintra instead of drodintro
For the following lines I apply the same SmS rhythm which gives …..etc Then we have a doubling of the ground introducing high G and high A , which makes the urlar sound very beautiful like this /…….. Then follows a Dithis singling and doubling , a Taorluath singling and doubling , a Crunluath singling and doubling , and a Crunluath A mach , and all these variations are on 3 beats , SMS , except one strange detail : Every last bar of line 3 is on a 2 pulse rhythm Sm Sm .
I sing the last line of Dithis . And this is not a clerical mistake , since it occurs in every variation down to the Crunluath A mach . I will now play the tune down to the Dithis doubling .
My next tune is called A Glas and is n 43 in volume 2 : In fact there are 3 tunes in the MS called A Glas , one in volume 1 , 49 , which has been published by the Piob. Society in book 11 , another in volume 2 , 63 , which is nothing but The lament for the castle of Dunyveg , and number 43 in volume 2 , this is the one I am going to play now . There is only one ground , no variation at all , and I think it is a lovely melody . It goes like this ……………….
My last tune will be Nameless 28 in volume one .
It is a bit similar to the one published by the Piob. Society in book 13 ,which is Nameless 29 , and which starts with the same vocables , that is Hiharin himtra hihodrodrooche , and in number 28 we have hiharin himtra hodrodrodro , again a succession of grips as we had previously in The white wedder black tail .
It starts with an urlar of three equal lines , with first line being played twice over , with a 4 pulse rhythm , SmmS . Then there is a first motion , and then a second motion which completes the tune . Once again , I find the tune quite beautiful , and I am now going to finish with this tune which I will play in full
New tunes from the Campbell Canntaireachd. Questions and discussion.
Peter M. Any questions for Patrick on what he has just said?
James Burnett. Are his reeds the same as the conventional reeds? Is the chanter reed the same as a modern reed or is it longer?
Patrick M The staple is 1/16th of an inch longer. When we went to the museum Andrew had prepared special reeds with longer staples for an A chanter and we tried them on the original chanter but it didn’t work. I said maybe I can use my own chanter reed. Andrew said it won’t work but I put it in and blew the chanter. And it worked! The F was a bit sharp. Andrew made the slightly longer staple and it worked. I just have a little piece of tape on the D which is quite high pitched and difficult to get used to.
Rory Sinclair. A comment on the original set. They came from Toronto. When I got them I put my own cane reeds and McAlister chanter reed in and they sounded terrific. I took it to a number of players in Toronto and they just couldn’t believe the wonderful sound.
Patrick M The tenor drones in particular have a very big double tone, and it is not easy to deal with that sometimes. It comes in if you let the pressure off just a little. The reeds I have are slightly longer. They seem small but they make a lot of noise. And for the bass drone I had to put in a very long reed. And I have put in a sheepskin bag. But they are much better in the open air. In the open it is impressive how the sound carries. In an article in the Piping Times Dr Hugh Cheape quoted that the pipes in the North had a prodigiously loud sound. I believe it.
Another interesting point. When my friend measured up the chanter he realised something. In a modern chanter you normally have one cone for the reed and one cone for the chanter. But in the MacDonald chanter there are two cones for the reed and four cones for the chanter, so he had to make six reamers for the chanter. Why? I don’t know. What do you say is the explanation Andrew for this?
Andrew Frater The metal the reamers were made of was soft, and it may be that because of that he had to make more than one reamer to make the chanter.
Patrick M – So it might not have been on purpose.
Andrew Frater Possibly not.
Patrick M But possibly.
Malcolm White A suggestion about the missing Campbell Canntaireachd. Years ago, and I’ve said to Bruce Campbell, I have seen, at our chief’s house, Sir Malcolm MacGregor who lives in Angus, boxes of music of pipe scores. Now if it’s not there, because John Murray wouldn’t have thrown it away because he was a piper, it’s possibly in the 905 boxes that Sir Gregor, our late Chief, gave to Stirling Council. George Dixon, the archivist then, actually indexed those boxes. So from those two sources you might find something, because there is no way that John Murray would have destroyed them.
Peter M It is interesting isn’t it. Keith (Sanger) has been there and had a look around. He can’t find them at the moment. Any clues are helpful. Thank you.
Barnaby Brown I would just like to comment on the significance of what Patrick has done today. I have been scratching my head on the interpretation of this manuscript and of the unpublished tunes in particular, and I have never heard such compelling interpretations. It is a very difficult task to make music out of these, and I really do think that Patrick’s creative and scholarly work here in bringing them to light is not just compelling, it is very very important. The success too in which he has tackled the many problems in this manuscript has been a total delight to me today and he deserves our congratulation.
Patrick M I often talk with my friend Eric Freyssinet. We have both become crazy about the Campbell manuscript, and sometimes he will call me, not during the night, but almost, saying I’ve got a solution for something – what do you think? I think that I follow the phrasing that I learnt mainly from Bob Brown. The main thing is to put music into it. He used to say “The music is in front of your eyes Patrick and you don’t see it” and that’s true. What I like about the canntaireachd, and this was said yesterday by John Frater, there is no time signature, so you have to decide which rythm. So sometimes the first thing I do is to have a look at the variations. If for instance the variations are in 3 pulse, I imagine that the ground should be in 3 pulse, but it is not always the case. This is what is fascinating, that there are a lot of irregular things in the manuscripts, and sometimes we consider irregularity as mistakes, but I don’t think they are. For instance the change of nameless 16 – to move from 3 to 2, every end of every third line which occurs in every variation down to crunluath a mach, you cannot say well he has made a mistake.
There are lots of things. I remember Barnaby that you wrote things about five.
Barnaby Brown Well certainly it is a delight to see you taking the evidence of the manuscript seriously. The temptation to correct that evidence and to regularise things is very strong particularly with the musical background that most pipers have. You have brought to it possibly an openness to the expressive capability in the style of how piobaireachd was performed at the time this manuscript was brought out. I find this very compelling, and the confidence to believe in what you see particularly in those tunes which fell out of transmission. One of the reasons they fell out of transmission is their genuine irregularity, which is not to say that there aren’t mistakes, but that is where the difficulty is. It was a delight to see you not correcting that change in time signature. I think that that is part of the joy of piobaireachd.
Patrick M Not all of them are enjoyable tunes, although very irregular. One of them for instance called “One of the Cragich” is a very irregular tune. You just have to accept this. In Brittany, our music we have a lot of slow airs with very irregular rythms, and we always emphasise the importance of singing, and knowing a few verses in the language, if you want to play it on your pipes. It is almost impossible to capture these from staff notation. It is very important to sing it. It is probably the reason why the Bretons are captivated and fascinated by piobaireachd, because it is like singing on the pipes.
Jack Taylor Have you looked at tunes which are staples of the repertoire in the Canntaireachd and have you come up with anything that would surprise us?
Patrick M Well for instance in MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart there is a nice passage in the third line which is slightly different from what we play. Sings passage. Or tunes like The Blue Ribbon – in the first variation the second high A is a high G. Sings passage. Also in tunes like Grain in Hides and Corn in Sacks there is a lovely thumb variation that does not exist in other versions. Sings thumb variation and next variation of Grain in Hides. Sometimes you think oh it’s a tune you know but it is interesting to read the tune and there are those little touches.
Peter M Any further questions? Well it’s lunch time. A big thank you to Patrick for all his hard work.