Matt Seattle continues his series on playing modern music in sessions

 Following our focus on jigs in the last issue, this fourth episode brings together four modern pipefriendly reels which are played in sessions around Scotland. They’re all in B minor, so you wouldn’t necessarily play them all together unless you subscribe to the Cape Breton practice of keeping to the

same tonic for a medley. Two are composed by flute players, one by a fiddler, and one by an accordionist. I’ve tried here to stay as close as possible to the composers’ own versions: because there are differences of detail between these and the way they are played or have been recorded by others, none of the transcriptions here, as far as I’m aware, corresponds exactly to any that appear in the usual places online.

The Trip to Pakistan by Niall Kenny is an unlikely name for a tune which has become a Scottish session favourite. The version transcribed here is from The Tannahill Weavers’ Capernaum album (1994). On website Niall himself writes “I wrote the tune more in the Breton style rather than as a reel, and I know it is played this way by the Breton pipe bands. I think the Tannahill Weavers’ version is closer to how it was written, but then I did share a flat with John Martin for a number of years.”

The Trip to Pakistan

©Niall Kenny



Before John Martin’s long tenure as the Tannies’ fiddler Stuart Morison held the post, and his popular reel Maggie’s Pancakes features on their Dancing Feet album (1987).

Stuart tells me that “the tune was written in 1984 in remembrance of a visit I made to Hamish and Maggie Moore in St Andrews arriving late on a cold, rainy December Sunday and there was tea and hot pancakes on the table. Seemed appropriate that a tune be written to remember the occasion!”

Note the abrupt stop at the end of the second time through the first strain: it can be done on pipes! (but there are other ways round it).

Maggie’s Pancakes

© Stuart Morison, Bug Music (BMG) Ltd




Kevin O’Neill plays flute and whistles with Treacherous Orchestra – “An un-definable collective force fusing people, concepts, styles and influences, shaping a musical supergroup that defies description.” His Superfly was brought to my attention by fellow sessioneer Martin Marroni of Kelso. In the Orchestra’s performance of the tune there are small differences of detail on each pass, and inevitably between the way it’s played on flute (Kevin) and pipes (Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton). I’ve taken the liberty of suggesting a harmony for pipers where the tune dips to the F# below the pipes’ low G, though you may prefer simply substituting the top hand f# for the unavailable low note.


©Kevin O’Neill



The Boys of Balivanich

It took me a while to track down accordionist Ian Kirkpatrick, who hails originally from deepest Dumfriesshire. When I did it turned out that he had been an LBPS member in the early days of the Society and previously owned a set of Colin Ross smallpipes. He also told me that the first recording of The Boys of Balivanich on the 1990 CD Names And Places, by Eclipse First and Scotrail Vale Of Atholl, featured a certain Mr Gary West among the personnel. The tune was “inspired by a memorable ceilidh which began one evening in the Creagorry Hotel on Benbecula and finished very much later in the village of Balivanich.”

There are various permutations of the three strains on recordings by different artistes, but for session playing it’s usually played straight through with repeats.


The Boys of Balivanich

© Ian Kirkpatrick



GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENTS to Niall Kenny, Stuart Morison, Kevin O’Neill and Ian Kirkpatrick for granting permission to reproduce their copyright works in Common Stock.