The Cameron/Gillies/Reid Style
By James Barrie
Chairman Jack Taylor
Please extend a very warm welcome to Jim Barrie. Has has come, voluntarily, from Canada, which shows you how much dedication people in the piobaireachd world have for our art.
Jim contacted me nine months ago. He said he was coming to the conference and asked if we would be interested in him telling us about the Cameron Gillies style. That wasimmediately attractive to me and to others in the Society. By having Jim talk to us about what might be thought to be a past, and well worn, subject, we have achieved that ultimate accolade in the piping world - an editorial in the Piping Times. This says, more or less, “what is all the fuss about?” We may hear from Jim what he thinks about that. Jim Barrie was born in Canada. His only teacher was his father Willie Barrie, who was brought up in the Cameron-Gillies style. Jim started to play the chanter at the age of four and by the age of six he had won his first competition. He continued to compete successfully in Canada until the family moved to New Zealand. He was a successful solo competitor there and he won several major championships. At the age of 13 he won both the B grade (amateur) and A grade (professional) championships on the same day.
He did not limit himself to the bagpipe and he plays several other instruments. After 21 years in New Zealand he returned to Canada, eventually making his home in Vancouver Island. He is actively involved there in piping, and he judges both band and solo competitions.
Like his father Jim is a prolific composer and his bagpipe and accordion melodies are played by Pipe Bands, Scottish Country Dance Bands and folk groups throughout the world. Two of his best known compositions are the Donald MacLeod hornpipe and John MacKenzie’s Fancy. Jim has promoted his father’s work extensively. In that connection he has produced CDs of Willie Barrie singing piobaireachd in the Cameron style. These are available for sale today, and Jim has generously offered to donate half of the proceeds to the Piobaireachd Society. I know that people who have listened to Jim’s father’s singing have been attracted by it, and that it has opened windows for those who maybe did not have much prior understanding of piobaireachd. Jim and his father also produced a book of their compositions featuring four piobaireachd composed by Willie Barrie.
Please welcome Jim Barrie.
Ladies, Gentlemen, members of the Piobaireachd Society; thank you for this opportunity to share with you the style of piobaireachd as I got it from my father, my only tutor. I have a lot of material that I would like to cover, so I would ask that you save your questions to the end.
Many of the stylistic differences are well known. I’m here to tell you how I was taught by my father who was taught by MacDougall Gillies and then by PM Robert Reid. So perhaps this talk should be more aptly called the Gillies/Reid style.
I recall my father telling me on more than one occasion, that “in his day” there really wasn’t much of a difference and that many played much the same with some personal preference differences or setting differences. He never talked much about the different schools, but more so how he got it his style of playing from Gillies or Reid.
I was taught to strive to make phrases and passages finished, without being cut short, making an overall effect smooth. There are many references and observations about style differences in both publications of the Side Lights to the Kilberry book.
Now, I would like to introduce you to some of the personalities I’ll be referring to.
The story of the Cameron/Gillies/Reid style starts with Donald Cameron. Donald had 3 sons, Colin, Sandy and Keith.
John MacDougall Gillies
John McDougall Gillies was taught by Sandy, and his brother, Keith Cameron. They, in turn, were taught by their father, Donald Cameron.
Robert Reid was considered a master player in his day. He went to Gillies for seventeen years, until Gillies’ death in 1925. By the way, the second picture was taken by Andrew MacNeill.
My father, William Barrie, received his first lesson on the chanter from John MacDougall Gillies when he was ten. It was only because my Grandfather and MacDougall Gillies knew each other that he agreed to take him on as a pupil because Gillies would only teach accomplished players. Gillies said to my grandfather “I’ll give him three lessons after which time I will know if he has the makings to be a good player.” My father continued his tuition with him for almost five years until Gillies’ death in 1925. To my knowledge, Macdougall Gillies never taught anyone else from their first lesson on the chanter.
After this, he went to PM Robert Reid for at least another five years. He and Reid kept in regular contact over the years until Reid’s death in 1965.
Lessons were on a Tuesday evening and Robert Reid would come after my father’s lesson was finished. Often, Gillies would ask my father to stay and listen to Reid play when he was practising for a competition. Gillies would often walk by my father’s house and take him to the pipers club, walking and talking piping along the way.
This photo shows Willie Connell with William Barrie in 2002
Willie Connell was a star pupil of Robert Reid’s, and worked in his pipe-making shop for fifteen years, making bagpipes. Willie often talked about how Robert Reid had a big Grundig tape recorder that he would use to record his playing. If someone came in to the shop and asked Reid to play, he would often summon Willie to come and set up and run the tape recorder. We have those occasions to thank for the recordings that are out there. I am lucky to have quite a large collection of unpublished recordings of Reid, and you will hear excerpts from these today.
Andrew MacNeill was another well-known student of Robert Reid. He and Reid remained good lifelong friends. Andrew was a great correspondent, and kept in regular touch with many pipers worldwide, including myself and my family. He was only too happy to pass along anything he had learned from Robert Reid.
Matt Turnbull was Willie’s pupil for about twenty years. Matt continued to visit Willie on regular occasions for the rest of Willie’s life. Willie always stressed to me that Matt was his protégé.
Willie MacLean was a well known McPherson taught player
John MacDoanld of Inverness
John MacDoanld was the teacher of the Bobs of Balmoral - RU Brown and Bob Nicol, and also the teacher of Donald MacLeod. Much of the teaching of these 3 individuals has been recorded, and is available on CD. Here's a photo of John MacDonald with Robert Reid
I’ll be speaking about features that characterize the style of playing that I got from my father, and will be using audio examples from my personal collection. Some of these examples are recordings of Robert Reid, William Barrie, Andrew MacNeill, Willie Connell and Bob Hardie.
I’ll also feature John MacDonald of Inverness, Willie McLean, James Campbell, and Bob Brown. Here, you’ll be able to listen for any differences and similarities there may be – you be the judge! The recordings all appear ont the website page as red lettering - you just click on the red lettering to get to the sound clip, and then click the "back" button to return to this page
Movements will include such things as echo beats, D throws, low G taorluath and crunluath movements.
Phrasing will cover the treatment of cadences, variations, and features like the Donald Mor rundown.
In the last segment, I will talk about how I was taught to approach a tune by using a selection of piobaireachd excerpts as examples.
Low G Leumluath, Taorluath and Crunluath:
For taorluaths, leumluaths and crunluaths, these movements go to low A, with a D gracenote, as written below.
D throws are light rather than heavy. I play light throws in piobaireachd, and usually heavy in light music.
Double D Echoes:
Double echoes on D are struck to C rather than low G, with the second gracenote on low G being well-sounded. Listen to how Reid does this
Reid Double D
and now compare his protégé, Willie Connell:
Willie Connell Double D
I was taught to strike these to low G, as written in Kilberry, Glen’s and as in Colin Cameron’s manuscripts available on the Piobaireachd Society website. It is noted in the Sidelight to the Kilberry book that “A. Cameron considers that the D echo should be played as written by A. Mackay and that Gillies’ system of striking with the first finger only is wrong”.
Here is a recording of Willie MacLean, who also strikes those D double echoes to C; next, we have John Macdonald of Inverness, a master player: listen to what he does.
Willie MacLean Double D's
John MacDonald Double D’s
Redundant Low A:
Here is how Kilberry wrote his movements in the Kilberry book, with no "redundant low A":
Here is how these are written in David Glen's Book
My father often reminded me that he wanted me to play taorluath and crunluath movements without the redundant low A. Again in Sidelights, Campbell notes when discussing the A semiquaver in both taorluath and crunluath as written in Mackay, that he was “taught by Gillies not to sound it at all but to lift the third finger of the upper hand simultaneously with the little finger of the lower hand.” He goes on to say that Gillies says, “that it is possible that the A may just sound and no more. If it does it is merely caught in passing and is undoubtedly the shortest grace note in the whole turn.” However Robert Reid is on record as saying that he was taught to play the redundant low A by MacDougall Gillies. He passed this on to his pupils. Reid quotes MacDougall Gillies as saying, “don’t depend on your ear; your finger should feel it also.” In other words, the redundant low A should not be obvious to the ear. If it is, it is not executed properly.
Introductory and cadence E’s:
Now, let’s move on to phrasing. The treatment of introductory and cadence E’s depends on the tune being played. In low G tunes such as Kings Taxes, Patrick Og and the Bells OF Perth, the E is generally shorter than the low G. Although played short the E’s are still well-sounded and have some fullness, as in this example as Robert Reid plays it in the Bells of Perth.
Robert Reid Bells of Perth
In tunes like Big Spree and Maol Donn, the E is long and the A short. This is how I start The Big Spree.
Jim Barrie Big Spree
However in tunes like Patrick Og, the E’s tend to be the same whether the following note is to low G or low A. Hear how John Macdonald treated these phrases in this audio clip.
John MacDonald Patrick Og
The Donald Mor Run-down:
The Donald More Run-down is well-known but not always favoured by many players. You will hear more of this phrase used by Cameron-taught players, and in more tunes, such as Lady Doyle’s Salute, McSwan of Roaig and others. The following examples will highlight use of the Donald Mor rundown and you will notice it isn’t always treated the same way. The treatment may vary on the tune type and the feeling of the player.
Robert Reid once told Willie Connell that as an accomplished player he should go beyond what he was taught; that he should express himself as a player in his own right.
Andrew MacNeill Donald Mor rundown
Robert Reid Donald Mor rundown
James Campbell is a well-known personality in Piobaireachd Society circles, and was responsible for producing the Sidelights books. This is how he treats this phrase.
James Campbell Donald Mor rundown
And here are 2 more examples
For the most part I was taught to play this movement up in tunes such as Corrienessen and Earl of Seaforth, but down in Donald of Laggan. By this I mean getting smartly up to the next note. This is how Robert Reid timed Corrienessan. I have included some of the suibhal to show how he played that down and the Taorluath up.
Robert Reid Corrienessan
In this clip of Donald of Laggan, we can hear how Reid plays the taorluath down.
Robert Reid Donald of Laggan
My father timed it like this:
William Barrie Donald of Laggan
Not much to be said here, other than I was taught to play an a’mach on this movement in such tunes as Maol Donn, King’s Taxes, Big Spree and Viscount of Dundee. Some of today’s players also play an a’mach on this movement. Anyone who has Bill Livingstone’s piobaireachd albums will hear how he was taught by John Wilson of Edinburgh to play an a’mach on the Viscount, and he does so on this album. This example from the last line of the doubling is how I played it in the Big Spree.
Jim Barrie Crunluath Fosgailte
I was taught to play a well sounded theme note, followed by the two connecting notes generally played even. Robert Reid illustrates this in these examples.
Robert Reid Corrienessan
Robert Reid Donald of Laggan
Two Note Cadences:
The treatment of these movements depends on the tune, but generally they are played even, for example in such tunes as Patrick Og and Earl of Antrim. There are, of course, exceptions such as in Lament for the Children and Donald Duaghal McKay.
Three Note Cadences:
In Taorluath variations, these are played pretty much even, such as in this example as Robert Reid plays it in this recording of Marion’s Wailing, or Praise of Morag.
Robert Reid 3 note cadence
This example shows how Andrew MacNeill, Reid’s pupil, treats the cadence in Macleod of Raasay.
Andrew MacNeill 3 note cadence
In Crunluath singling variations, the E’s before three-note cadences are always held, in other words you extend the E of the last crunluath, before playing the next E short into the cadence. Now, listen to how Robert Reid and his pupil Andrew MacNeill time this.
Robert Reid - King's Hand Crunluath Singling
reidcruncadencekingshand (1) Andrew MacNeill - MacLeod of Rassay Crunluath Singling
Elongated Fourth Notes:
In variations in tunes like MacSwan of Roaig, Bells of Perth, Earl of Antrim, and MacFarlane’s Gathering, where there is a series of four notes, as written here, you put a slight accent on the second note with the main emphasis on the final note of the four.
Listen to this example as Bob Hardie, a pupil of Reid’s, times this. Note that it is written in 4/4 time and he plays it in 6/4 time.
Bob Hardie MacFarlane's
Next, hear how my father treats it in the same way.
William Barrie MacFarlane's
Willie Connell used a system of phrasing a tune which didn’t necessarily coincide with the bars of music. He said that this is how he was taught by Robert Reid, with whom he had apprenticed and studied piobaireachd for 15 years. Here is what he does with the last line, and then hear what Robert Reid has to say.
Wille Connell Bells of Perth
Now I would like to move on to music and settings.
MacDougall Gillies taught my father using Glen’s Book for a lot of the tune settings. In fact, I still have the book Gillies used when he taught my father.
In this first tune, Ronald Macdonald of Morar, there are a few note differences compared to the Kilberry setting. Some of the ground and first variation is omitted. Here is my father singing the last two lines of the ground.
William Barrie Ronald MacDonald of Morar
Next, the variations of King’s Taxes are different to what we usually hear. This example is of Robert Reid playing an excerpt of the first variation. Listen to how he treats the edre movements and the note before the edre. Here, he groups them as a single phrase.
Robert Reid Kings Taxes
Now, hear how my father treats these phrases inside this same tune.
William Barrie Kings Taxes
Marion’s Wailing or In Praise of Morag:
My father always referred to this tune as “Marion’s Wailing” and said that it was representative of a woman’s expression of grief or sobbing, in particular the first variation, which is written in Glen’s Book like this. Let’s listen to my father, and then to Reid, as they express this very beautiful tune.
William Barrie Marions Wailing
Robert Reid Marions Wailing
I would like to finish off with some excerpts from MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart. Let’s listen to the last line of the doubling of the thumb variation played by my father. This is from a BBC broadcast in 1987, followed by a comment from David Murray about that particular variation.
William Barrie Maol Donn (MacCrimmons Sweetheart)
Now hear R.U. Brown playing this variation from a 1957 recording. This clip starts in the middle of line 2, and goes on to line 3. Note that despite the somewhat slower treatment, it is fairly similar: listen for the grips at the end of the lines, which is not as written in Kilberry. Listen also to how he times the cadences in the following variation.
RU Brown Maol Donn (MacCrimmons Sweetheart)
Finally, we have Reid demonstrating that next variation on the chanter.
Robert Reid Maol Donn (MacCrimmons Sweetheart)
To summarize, I’ve discussed movements and how they are played. We looked at phrasing, and how the movements, while there are certain conventions, can be interpreted differently depending on the individual player. Finally, we heard examples to illustrate the music.
It’s all piobaireachd, and it’s all good! And in the words of Duke Ellington, “If it sounds good, it is good.”
To finish with, I play a short excerpt on the pipe before we hear my father’s vocal version of the doubling of the thumb variation. But first, I would like to read you this quotation from Robert Reid about this tune: “Now that, as they say, is a love song. And, I don’t think there’s EVER been anything written that can better that, PROVIDED it’s played like that. A French music critic at the Festival of Edinburgh, when I played with the Scottish National Orchestra said, Ah yes, that’s a love song. Well, if it conveyed that to a Frenchman I don’t see why it can’t convey it to a Scotsman or a Highlander.”
Jim and William Barrie - Maol Donn (MacCrimmon's Sweetheart)
In conclusion, I would like to thank you for listening, and if you have any questions, I will try to answer them as best I can. You can always email me via one of the people on the Piobaireachd Society "contacts" button, which is on the top of every page of our website.
Jim Barrie Discussion
Chairman. Jim, thank you. I found that fascinating, especially the musical illustrations. Judging by the level of attention I detected in the audience, I think this feeling is shared. I am reminded of one of the quotations I remember from Bob Brown – “ It is not the length of the note that matters, it is the spaces between the notes that matter.” Whatever the nuances, all the great players we heard there were capturing that underlying innate musicality that can only come from within themselves. They may have been taught it and shown it, but ultimately it is their musicianship.
Does anybody have any questions?
Alastair MacQueen. Did your father play at all in Bute before he left? JB. No. He was born in Rothsay but the family moved to Glasgow before he started lessons with MacDougall Gillies.
Bruce Thomson. The backing music to your father’s magnificent singing – was that produced by an organ?
JB. It was a synthesiser mainly. Some live acoustic instruments were used as well.
John Frater. I notice that the crunluath brebach is nice and rounded. However I notice that when both notes are low A the first is often cut. Say in MacSwan of Roaig. How were you taught to play that?
JB I’d have to try and get on to that. Not too long on that first low A I guess is the answer.
Peter MacAllister. You were saying that in the crunluath brebach singling you would hold the E before the cadence.
JB. Yes, you would hold the E after the crunlauth before putting in the E of the cadence. In other words the E is moved over closer (to the themal note). You will notice that when Reid played those examples that the 3 notes of the cadence are much the same. It is written in Kilberry with a pause mark on the E before the cadence E. In the torluath,where the movement finishes on low A the low A would not be lengthened and the following cadence E would be longer.
PM Don’t take this the wrong way but my teacher, Tom Speirs from Edinburgh says that is called the “dirty Glasgow habit”.
JB I’ve actually heard that before myself.
Duncan Watson. Moving away from the tunes you have covered there are one or two tunes – the MacKay’s Banner is an example – that thing in the crunluath – the open crunlauth – what way would you have been taught that?
JB Smartly off the first note. Short on the first note.
Q Where did your father’s interest in singing develop?
JB I think it is from the way he was taught. His teachers used to sing the tunes to him. Right from a very early age he did the same to me. Very rarely would he get out the practice chanter and demonstrate it. He would rather sing it to me. I got used to his vocables and I knew what he meanth when he sung a grace note or a torluath or a crunluath movement and I got toknow what he meant by that. Some of his vocables he said came from Robert Reid. He picked up the odd one. He would say “Reid would sing it this way” and he would know how long to hold the note by singing it in his mind before he played it. So I think that he picked those things up from both Gillies and Reid that way.
Peter MacAllister. Something else about the singing. In the Nicol and Brown collections you get the impression that one of them – I can’t remember which one – likes to sing and that he could stretch notes so that the music was sung more slowly than it would be played. Did you get the impression from you father that he sang it at roughly the same speed as it was played?
JB I think you are right about the first comment. You can hold the note or express it or give more volume to it when you are singing rather than when you are playing it on the pipe. So I think that some of what he sings he might hold the note a bit longer just because he liked the sound of his voice.
Chairman. Thank you Jim. Because this has been an electronic presentation we should beable to make it available, including sound, on our website. It will be an invaluable educational resource, especially perhaps for those coming new to it, who may have heard about it, but who do not know too much about it.