page 17

The satiric sketch in Collville’s Account Book (reference number: E31/6,f.97r)                 reproduced by the kind permission of the Keeper of the Records of Scotland. The original is held in the National Archives of Scotland. “Margaret Tudor, long resident in Scotland, at times Regent of the kingdom and Queen Mother in 1540...............There is a satiric sketch in Colville’s Account Book (Treasury) which very likely depicts her. (She is portrayed            playing the small bagpipes, an uncomplimentary presentation of a Queen figure)”.                            Cover pic  computer enhanced by G. Agnew.


Whistlebinkies Timber Timbre                           

CDTRAX 159. Greentrax Recordings Ltd, Edinburgh Rd, Cockenzie, EH32 OHL, Scotland. 


The Whistlebinkies need no introduction to the music listening public. And this CD is definitely for listening to. The choice of music is varied - and so are the instruments. The seven members of the group can put together (not all at the same time) a viola, three fiddles, two clarsachs, concertinas (although the leaflet doesn’t say what sort), Scottish side drum, bodhran, vocals and, under the accurate and nimble fingers of Rab Wallace, Lowland pipes and Scottish smallpipes. Pipes are featured in six of the eleven tracks, although for one of those only the drones are to be heard. As suggested in the opening sentence, the whole CD is good; although if I need to leave the room to fill my glass, then track 7 (“The Tryst”) is the moment.

1 found my attention immediately caught by the opening track; Judith Peacock on Clarsach with the haunting “Nuair a bha mi og”. And to my surprise the Lowland pipes crept in to offer a change of tune and tempo without any kind of jolt to my listening system - even with the ear lulled into a sense of peaceful security by the softly plucked Clarsach. While this change of instruments might have been subtly managed using studio tricks, it is certainly helped by Rab coming in with first the tenor, then the bass drone before sounding the opening notes on the chanter. It is very effective. And listening to the Lowland pipes I was struck by their sweet, almost lyrical tone. And I wondered (as one does on these things) whether this had been achieved by the design of the chanter, the shape of the reed, studio technology - or a combination of all three.

Whatever the method, the result is highly suitable for the tunes on track 4 - the strathspey “John Roy Stewart” followed by the hornpipe “Sandy's New Chanter”. The fiddle plays alongside and then in harmony, softening and giving added depth to the chanter’s high note. And the second tune, the hornpipe, is not rushed, but progresses at a stately almost regal pace. For me this is quite the nicest track on the CD. In contrast, the low pitch of the smallpipes (in D) are used to give a wonderful resonance to the slow air “Sleep Dearie Sleep” on track 8. This is followed by “The Mason’s Apron” with same variations I hadn’t heard before, and where the low tonic is used to give a staccato effect by separating the notes in one of those variations.

For those of us who wrestle with Lowland pipes it is good to see the cover picture. On it, the chanter is heavily taped, and one of the tenor drones appears to be stopped off. It is comforting to know that others may also struggle with the tuning and the balance of sound!

Altogether a good CD to have in your collection if, like me, you find that listening to accurate pipe fingering helps to improve your own attempts.                          Jock Agnew