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From Other Shores

100 original tunes for bagpipes, Great Highland Bagpipe, Lowland pipes, Scottish smallpipes and other traditional instruments. Bob Cameron.

I never cease to be amazed that the bagpipe nine-note range can allow new tunes to be gen- erated year after year, century after century, without repetition. Now Bob has ‘prick’d’ down a hundred more for us to try.

Most of them were written for the Highland bagpipe, with detailed gracings included. But in the “Notes for Pipers and other Musicians” he explains the key signatures used, the tuning required by the harpist, and the necessity to cross finger C and F natural when play- ing tunes in A minor - written specially for the Lowland/Border pipes.

Bob has a wide range of musical experience (he mentions playing the tuba, and study- ing music theory), and it shows. For instance the hornpipe “Captain Timothy Driscoll” is the first piece of pipe music I’ve ever seen with double dotted quavers (8th notes) combined with demi- semi-quavers (32nd notes).

Bob has arranged the 100 tunes (spiral bound quato size) into 11 major categories, each of which has a page of paragraphs, telling something about each tune. There are marches, 2/4 marches, strathspeys, reels, 4/4 marches, hornpipes, jigs and slip jigs, slow airs, slow marches etc. The final section has settings for Scottish smallpipes and Lowland pipes.

The tunes were set on an Apple Mac computer, and in some respects the Lime Music Nota- tion Software has let Bob down. For instance the melody notes don’t always sit centrally on or between the stave lines, and some of the notes get almost on top of one another.

When it comes to tunes everyone has personal preferences, but it is safe to say there is something here for every piper. When going through the tunes I put a mark against the ones I’d like to come back to and learn. Here I mention a few amongst the many:- the 2/4 march The Mooneys of Lauder (which requires the use of high B); the strathspey Dancing At Cor- pach; the reel Ice Cubes In The Coffee; hornpipe Angus Cameron of Creignish (which has both a major and minor setting); the jig Paddy’s Melodeon; slip jig Dorothy’s Famous Hat, slow air The First of May; and most definitely Lockerbie Remembered.

I can recommend this book as a good source of new and original tunes. I shall certainly con- tinue to enjoy them.

Jock Agnew

[Obtainable from Bob Cameron 11 Totnes Rd, Braintree, MA 02184-401 USA price $20 plus handling & shipping]


Roddy MacDonald  Good Drying

The sight of a small cardboard package in the post is always met with anticipation, because it heralds the arrival of Greentrax Recording’s latest CD for review. In this case it was Roddy MacDonald’s “Good Drying” album - an unknown quantity initially - but which has since been played and played and played.

Despite Roddy’s impeccable piping background - son of renowned player, composer and judge, William MacDonald (Benbecula) - he is perhaps not well known on the Scottish piping scene, probably as a result of having lived for many years in London, and now in Japan. I have often heard his tunes ascribed to other pipers (particularly Gordon Duncan), by session players who haven’t bothered to check whose music they are playing. I sincerely hope that this CD goes a long way to changing this situation and enhancing Roddy’s reputa- tion in this country.

The album is designed to appeal to other musicians as well as pipers and it offers a range of styles from “straight” Gaelic slow airs and strathspeys, to salsa and techno funk proving Roddy to be an accomplished and versatile composer, and it features most of his best known tunes such as the title track, Electric Chopsticks, Il Paco Grande and Last Tango in Harris.

One area which is increasingly attractive to listeners, particularly other pipers, is the sleeve notes which accompany such a production, often giving background information about tunes, or the characters behind the tunes. I knew little of the background to many of Roddy’s tunes, except Green Day strathspey which celebrates the national day of Japan (and in fact started out life as a reel!) so it was a bit disappointing that he had decided on a mini- malist approach to sleeve notes. Having spoken to Ian Green, I decided to e-mail Roddy for some more information - and such is the wonder of modern technology that his reply was back in a few short hours!

Readers may be interest in the following notes from the man himself:

GOOD DRYING: relates to a saying I heard as a young boy in Inverness where there would be “good drying” days and “bad drying” days. This was in the days before Laundro- mats and tumble driers!

BULLET TRAIN: This is the Shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan. You can hear my son standing on the platform at Osaka station asking if the train is going to Kobe.

SMOKIN’ THE WASPS: My home is a smoke free zone and when a famous piper was visiting me in London, he had to stand on balcony to have a cigarette. Unfortunately I had a wasps nest in my roof at the time!

THE PIVOVAR EXPRESS: During a visit to the Czech Republic with the Neilston Pipe Band, we were invited to a brewery and the proprietors kindly filled our bus up with cases of the local beer (Pivovar!)

MEAL FUAR-MHONAIDH: Named after the hill on Loch Ness- side I used to visit regularly as a teenager.

THE FAMOUS FOURTH: My Boys’ Brigade Company in Inverness.


All in all, this is a highly entertaining selection of music; “a lifetime of musical excursions” Roddy calls it, from the pen of a composer at home with a variety of styles, traditional and otherwise, music enhanced by sympathetic accompaniments, recorded in Australia by Murray Blair - and I am sure it will be a huge hit. Furthermore it is another addition to the Greentrax stable of thoroughbreds - as if they needed to work at enhancing their reputation for producing quality recordings, and seeking out something a little bit out of the ordinary. Full marks to Ian Green and his team again.

Available from Greentrax Recordings and all the usual outlets. Rona MacDonald