The LBPS Annual Collogue 2016 this year took was held in The College of Piping in Glasgow. Caroline Barden reports:

This issue of Common Stock is unique in my stint as editor in that it consists almost entirely of material provided by contributors other than myself! The major part of the issue is taken up by transcriptions from the recordings made at this year’s Annual Collogue. This was a truly significant event, in that it brought together four of speakers, each an leading authority in their field, to explore the concept of form h in bagpipe music and how that concept has influenced the development of the both the pibroch and Lowland and Border traditions.
For the first time, this year’s collogue was available to watch live courtesy of the College of Piping website. This is a major boon for all those members who are unable to travel to central Scotland and we hopr that this can be repeated for future events. We cannot but wonder, however, whether this service was in any way the cause of the lower than usual attendance at the actual event.
One thing that was missing, however, was comment on the ‘Lowland Pibroch’, a concept which has been existing as a rumour for nearly two hundred years, and which briefly flowered again in Paul Roberts’ hands. But perhaps that’s a topic for another collogue. Anyone considering it might well look at the publications of Joseph walker, Historical memoirs of the Irish Bards’ in which he published various pieces, some collected from pipers, which seem together to form a narrative.
It takes a particular kind of mind to take a step back from current thinking and look again at original sources. Peter Cooke’s piece in this issue does just that. Whilst we are far from convinced by the arguments presented, we are satisfied that much remains to be understood about the William Dixon manuscript. Not least is the question of in what order, and by whom, were the various pages compiled and later bound together and what is the significance of that brief message regarding writing William’s four-line notation onto a stave with five lines? Dr Cooke’s opening up of these questions alone justifies returning with fresh eyes to the manuscript.
Dr Cooke’s argument rests largely on the divergence between what has become the unquestioned interpretation of Dixon’s notation and the rest of Scottish music, that of song in particular. The question remains in our mind, debatable, however. To what extent should we expect popular music adapted for the bagpipe, and that is certainly what the MS contains, to conform to the ‘norms’ of song? It is the limitations of the instrument that impose demands on the piper, and Dixon’s solutions might be seen as exemplary ones, not least in the way they transform ‘tonalities’.
Mention of tonalities brings up one more aspect of such enquiry. We are conditioned by generations of experience to think in terms of ‘chords’ and ‘tonalities’ (and here it is worth noting that Dr Cooke uses the convention of referring to ‘modes’ by the name of the note in the scale of C major which forms the root of the modal scale - eg. what is sometimes referred to as ‘Dorian’ he terms ‘D-mode’; Mixolydian (the scale of the Lowland bagpipe) in this system is the ‘G–mode’). The inevitability of this imposition is that we often need to resort to the use of ‘fluid tonality’ to describe melody which flouts these rules. Much more appropraite, perhaps would be to return to Joseph MacDonald’s use of the word ‘Taste’ to describe the particular set of intervals that characterise the make up a composition.
Meanwhile, David Singleton continues his relentless pursuit of the perfect reed for the Pastoral Pipes; in this issue we offer the second part of his exploration of this little-known territory, though at the very last moment he supplied us with a photo of his latest attempts which he assures us have a wide range of new possibilities.
Mention of that photo leads me to offer an apology; many of the photos printed in this issue do not reach our usual standard; this is entirely your editor’s fault, since very few photos were taken at the event, and those that are printed here were captured as frames from hand-held videos. We decided to include these images since the alternative was page after page of unbroken text…
The text itself however, I am sure, will generate much discussion, if not controversy; where else can you read such material? Where else can you see you own opinions in print? Be sure to let me have them…
Pete Stewart, Pencaitland, Nov, 2016Over 30 members – veterans and newer recruits –gathered in the splendid setting of the College of Piping, Otago St, for a full day of illustrated talks, with the Society’s AGM squeezed into the hour before lunch. The first session began at 9 am, so we were very grateful for the coffee and pastries which awaited us on arrival, kindly provided by the Committee.
There were four talks during the day, all constructed around the central ideas of Theme and variations. As these talks can now be streamed online (and as full transcripts will be made available), detailed descriptions here are redundant: briefly, however, one can say that the morning’s speakers – Barnaby Brown and Matt Seattle – were both, in rather different ways, urging more radical approaches to these topics; and that the afternoon’s speakers – Allan MacDonald and Chris Ormston – homed in on historic instances of the same.
The AGM was relatively well-attended, the Committee’s reports being followed by relevant discussions and suggestions from the membership. The central theme here, with variations, concerned the sterling work that the Committee members – all dedicated volunteers – have performed over the year in promoting the LBPS, with acknowledgment of some of the difficulties this presents in terms of time available and distance involved. None of this deterred further volunteers (myself included, I admit) from stepping forward to fill the vacancies offered on the Committee. There were also several suggestions from members present as to how other events might be offered as a way of expanding the Society’s activities.
Timing issues meant that the advertised programme was revised; with only time for the Plenary Session after the final talk, no workshops were held, although I did manage to have an impromptu lunchtime session with two other pipers. Nevertheless, as a new piper with only a couple of years’ experience of playing, I found the talks opened up a lot of valuable avenues which I might explore. The gathering too was important, not only for meeting friends and making new ones, but also for supplying inspiration and encouragement – crucially important for all concerned, and especially for those who, like me, are somewhat geographically isolated.
Glasgow in the late autumn sunshine, and the train journey home through the darkening fields and hills to Lancashire, made up an added bonus. I look forward with enthusiasm to the next event, and to seeing as many there as possible.

Caroline Barden (with contributions by Kevin Littlewood)