Matt Seattle offers more ‘Strategies for Pipers’

For this episode we’ll look at a couple more fiddle reels commonly played in Scottish, Irish and English sessions. As far as we know both The Silver Spire and The Reconciliation first appeared in Ryan's Mammoth Collection, Boston (1883) as The Great Eastern Reel and The Olive Branch respectively (the latter originally as a hornpipe rather than a reel), but they have both long enjoyed resident status on this side of the Atlantic.
You’ll see and hear that the fiddle passages which go above and below the 9-note range are substituted either by shifting them an octave or recomposing them when octave transposition would create awkward gaps. The aim, as ever, is to make the replacement phrase both melodic in its own right and concordant with the actual melody. This makes the adaptations more satisfying to play, and is also less likely to result in dirty looks from your fellow sessioneers.
In the recurring bar in The Silver Spire where there’s a choice of notes, play both low alternatives if you don’t have high b available. In The Reconciliation the key signature demands g# so we’ve avoided the note apart from one instance where g natural doesn’t clash too much. The g# in the key of A major is the reason why many tunes don’t transfer readily to the pipes when you’d think they would, two modern examples being Easy Club Reel (Jim Sutherland) and Frank’s Reel (John McCusker). On most Border pipes g# is easily playable, as it is on Scottish smallpipes with the relevant keywork: if there’s an appetite for some tunes where the g# is essential, let me know via the usual channels and I’ll see what I can do.