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George Greig.

Melrose or Edinburgh? For the last few years, members have enjoyed a weekend at Mel- rose. This year we were the guests of the Royal Scottish Pipers Society in their splendid rooms just off Rose Street in Edinburgh. Some 20 members attended and the tutors were Lee Moore and Andy Hunter. In addition, Richard and Anita .Evans and Nigel Richard led a maintenance session. Of those attending, I recognised about half as having been at Melrose last year.

The intention was that we should be split into two roughly equal groups which would then swap tutors at lunch time. Needless to say, some of us did not stick to Rona’s carefully- made plans. I attended Lee’s class in the morning, enjoyed it so much that I went back for more in the afternoon - apologies Andy!

All I can say about Andy’s class, therefore, is that I heard, from time to time, some lusty singing; so people were obviously enjoying his piping to accompany traditional songs.

Lee’s classes were designed to introduce us to new tunes with an emphasis on harmonies - something much more imaginative than the usual seconds we hear to ‘The Green Hills’, for example. The starting point in the morning was the slow air (march maybe) ‘I Will Go Home to Kintail’. Not only did we learn the melody by ear but also two sets of harmonies. Played all together, the result was lovely. Rona also introduced us to a version which she had learned from Allan MacDonald - very nice too! We wound up the morning session by learning the Jig Run Rig. Again, this was new to most of us; but great fun to leant.

All this enticed me back to Lee’s class in the afternoon and, for me, this was a good deci- sion. There we learned a Breton dance called ‘Le Bal d’Erquy’. This would traditionally be played with bombardes and pipes in a question-and- answer style. We achieved something approaching this effect. Parts 1 & 2 of the tune are written such that they harmonise; add to that, harmonies to bars 2 & 4 of each part and the permutations multiply. As we played, Lee would call out whether we should play in unison, or as a round, and whether harmonies should be added. This may sound like a recipe for chaos. Not so. Since all the alternatives harmonised, it didn’t matter if you lost count of which part you were on; the result still sounded great. This sort of playing is very much a group activity and must be repeated on future occasions.

All in all, a great day. So, thanks to the tutors and to Rona and Martin Lowe for all their work to ensure its success. And, should it be Edinburgh or Melrose? I would like to think that there is a place for both and that the committee can find a way to run both. There aren’t so many occasions when bellows pipers can get together and events such as these deserve support.


..........and from Malcolm MacInnes


My experience of the Tuition day was the converse of George’s. I had booked to attend Andy Hunter’s Song & Pipe Session in the morning only but enjoyed it so much I returned for the afternoon.

Initially there was a short talk by Andy on the best method of accompaniment, such as the number of drones playing- Andy suggested 1 only, probably the bass. There was also talk on whether the accompaniment should follow the melody or provide a harmony. Andy played in the former style but suggested we listen to other singers such as Davie Robertson or Judy Barker for the latter. Judy was attending the session, so we were happily provided with pur- veyors of both styles. Andy also suggested linking verses by a repeat or partial repeat of the melody- possibly the last line only.

Another topic discussed was how to identify a song that could be played on the pipes. Obviously it had to fit on the 9-note pipe scale but with a bit of work some songs could be adapted. Andy also recommended a ‘grip’ movement as an effective replacement if 1 or 2 notes could not fit into the scale.

We were issued with the words of 9 or 10 traditional songs and a rough guide on the finger- ing for the melodies on the pipe scale- without note lengths or bar lines. Obviously each singer will have an individual interpretation of the songs, so this rough guide was sufficient.

The class firstly tried to learn the words of the song before attempting the melody. We need to be confident of the words so we can concentrate on the accompaniment. We looked over 1 or 2 songs in detail and at least 1 or 2 verses for the rest so we could work on these at home. When we had the words off, Andy split the class into 2 with one half singing and the other half accompanying, and then vice versa.

On occasion we attempted both together, with varying results it has to be said. The song se- lection was excellent, with greats such as “Fareweel Tae Tarwathie”, “The Trooper & The Maid”, “Bonnie George Campbell”, “Hey Ca’ Thro’ “, “The Gallowa’ Hills” and “The Baron O’ Brackley” .One song I hadn’t heard before was “The Hills o’ Gallowa’ “ which used a variation of the melody for “The Lea Rig” and was a cracking song.

This class was most enjoyable and everyone was enthusiastic about trying to develop this difficult technique for next year.

Of course, Andy’s singing was tremendous and things were wound up with a couple of un- accompanied songs from him, including the hilarious “Farting Song” by Davie Robertson. Judy Barker also contributed a fine version of “Maggie Lauder” with which she won the LBPS competition in 2004.