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THE WHITE HOUSE HORNPIPE A Second Selection of Dances and Other Piping Tunes for Leicestershire smallpipes etc John Goodacre White House Tune Book No. 4


The first selection was Johnny D’s Home, published ten years ago. The White House Horn- pipe follows it and, since we have the makings of a series here, it starts at number 25.

Johnny D has been much consulted, the tunes introduced at odd moments in more or less accommodating sessions, and after ten years the book has acquired a patina of oil and other bagpipe detritus in the bottom of the case. No doubt The White House Hornpipe will do the same.

Here we have twenty-three tunes. Some are on one or other of the Goodacre Brothers’ tapes, but most are new to me. They are divided into five sections: jigs, waltzes (including mazur- kas), ‘Scotch tunes’, polkas and ‘hornpipes and other square tunes’. There are three of the ‘Scotch tunes’: two reels and a slow air. Both reels seem to me best played not too fast; indeed they feel like hornpipes under the fingers. What distinguishes them from the horn- pipes later in the book is the Scottish feel and the suitability for Scottish fingering and the flattened seventh.

Apart from the Scotch tunes, the feel of the music here is implacably un-Celtic. If, as of course we all believe, there is a lost Leicestershire piping tradition, this, when the manu- scripts are finally unearthed, will be what it sounds like: uninflected, deceptively four- square, and quirky. Specifically, the tunes (almost without exception) do not work played legato, and Scottish gracings are wrong on them. They are designed for the closed fingering of the Julian Goodacre pipes. If you don’t have a set of Goodacre pipes (or if you have but have never mastered the closed fingering) the ‘etc’ of the title is probably a better bet than trying to play them on Scottish smallpipes in a Scottish way. They work very well on the whistle, and you'll find yourself tonguing the notes more often than not.

In his introduction, incidentally, John Goodacre says that the tunes are written with a flat- tened leading note in mind, but that in most cases a sharpened leading note will do, if that is what you have. Many of the tunes make some play with the leading note (the jig Bucket and Spade, for example), and, whilst the writer obviously has the last word, I thought that they worked better with a sharpened seventh. It is the same with the tunes in Johnny D; I’ve tried them with both sorts of leading note over the years, and prefer them sharp.

The book itself is in the same format as Johnny D. In other words, it looks nice and it's small enough to fit easily in a bagpipe case without buckling or tearing. The music is repro- duced from John Goodacre’s own (I assume) elegant manuscript, as opposed to mechani-


-cally printed. Just occasionally it's not clear which note is meant, but, since you would learn the tunes anyway, that doesn’t matter; similarly as regards the two, or possibly three, transcription errors.

More importantly, there are occasions when bars or phrases straddle the end of a line in a way that could have been clearer. Sometimes, an indication of the tempo intended for the tune would have helped, particularly with the waltzes, some of which I guess are meant to be at Viennese speed and others only half that. But these are all very minor quibbles.

I will not attempt a detailed account of the tunes, partly because it's beyond my powers of description, and partly because if you don’t know them you won't be much the wiser, and if you do you'll likely disagree. But if some at any rate of them do not become part of our common Currency, they should. That means that you should buy this book, and its prede- cessor, and make sure they get known. Those of a more cautious disposition should seek out someone else's copy and test it. Try Welford Place, a reel for enthusiastic unison playing, Calico Ban, a nicely lopsided slip-jig, The New Director, a gorgeously elegant mazurka, with a counter-melody to make it more so, The Chocolate Army Knife for its distant echoes of Frank Ifield, Ice Cream Treat for its distant echoes of the Caribbean, or Round the World for sheer oddness. And then buy the book and try the rest.

Robin Bynoe.



The Book of the Bagpipe


Hugh Cheape, author historian and piper, tells us something about the forthcoming (small, he insists) book on the origins of the bagpipe. As a curator of the Museum of Scotland, he was responsible for the setting up of the Bagpipe Museum in Glasgow (see CS 13 No 2 Dec 1989).

Scotland's ‘national instrument’ is the Great Highland Bagpipe, a powerful and successful wind instrument with unique qualities. Seeking distant origins fails to explain this phe- nomenon since what we have now is as much the product of a recent rather than a remote past. The ‘Book of the Bagpipe’ interprets the Highland bagpipe as the creation of a society in the historical Gaidhealtachd and analyses origins in the context of European history.

This reveals a sometimes bewildering variety of bagpipes and possible patterns of evolution and diffusion; influences may be seen in long-term social and economic change, movement of people and ideas, the growth of towns, the Crusades, and the so-called Twelfth-century Renaissance. Hypotheses are offered for further testing.

Pipes may have spread to Scotland and then into the Highlands from France and the Low Countries and from England, ultimately to be adopted in a cultural upbeat Gaelic society


and taking over the instrumental role of the harp or clarsach.

A medieval-style patronage of court and castle was emulated in the burghs where the Lowland and Town pipers have left a fainter but nonetheless definite tradition.

The erosion of burgh patronage and the breakdown of traditional Gaelic society left the Highland bagpipe with the army of empire and new patrons of paternalist and philanthropic Highland Societies in the nineteenth century. The ‘Book’ suggests that the bagpipe in modern Scotland is the product of relatively recent interpretations of exclusive traditions of piobaireachd composition and performance and of competition. An evolving present-day reveals the pipes let loose in the hands of skilled exponents who have recovered past riches and variety and are taking the bagpipes of Scotland into an imaginative future, but still faithful to the inherited and ancient traditions which the ‘Book of the Bagpipe’ describes.

(To be published by “Appletree”. Price £7.99)



Matt Seattle Out Of The Flames

Music For Border bagpipes From 1733 to the present


We are no longer people of the book: or, to put it more correctly, we are no longer people who depend on the book. Our sources of information are now technically diverse and so- phisticated and become increasingly so every few months. This is true of music as it is of other subjects. Yet books of music continue to be published as if it were an earlier age.

Insofar as bellows blown pipes are concerned two of the more recent books come from the pen of Matt Seattle - the Border Bagpipe Book and The Master Piper. I have nothing but admiration for the scholarship of these books which is enhanced by the meticulous presenta- tion of the music. Pipers of the Lowland and Border persuasion are fortunate to benefit

from the work which has gone into both publications.

But there has been a missing element; and that is, what do all these 90 tunes sound like when played by an expert. I can only remember hearing less than 20 performed in public and not necessarily as set out in Matt Seattle's arrangements. Pipers especially are attracted to sheet music after they have heard someone play the tune. It is quite common for perform- ers to be approached by pipers and asked for the name of a tune and where it is published.

I would argue that the aural takes precedence over the visual - in some courses on the uilleann pipe held in Ireland learning is based solely on listening to the teacher.

The fact that Gordon Mooney had recorded ‘Over the Border’ by the time I had purchased the eponymous book made all the difference to the accessibility of the tunes to me.

However the Border Bagpipe Book and The Master Piper were published in 1993 and 1995


respectively and it is only now that a recording of some of the tunes in The Master Piper

has become available.

The CD has two titles - Music for Border Bagpipes from 1733 to the Present, and Matt Seattle Out of The Flames. Those conversant with the latter title know that it pertains to the William Dixon MS of 1733 presented by Matt Seattle as The Master Piper. However of the 12 tracks only 5 are Dixon tunes. It is not therefore a listener's guide to the book and not even an orthodox reproduction on Border Pipe. What this CD sets out to do is entertain.

The aim is achieved by setting the Dixon and other border tunes in various modern idioms accompanied — and sometimes submerged by a host of modern instruments played by very talented musicians. The instruments listed are clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophones, percus- sion, cittern, fiddle, bass guitar, English concertina, keyboard, hurdy-gurdy, electric and acoustic guitar (the last mentioned played by Matt himself). Dixon having escaped the flames emerges deep fried on this CD and is bound thereby to attract a strong following of supporters.

For purist reactionaries like me this CD must be a disappointment. The Border pipe is a notorious instrument to reed, tune and provide a truly satisfying sound. I have only heard three instruments that I could say I had pleasure listening to. And Matt Seattle’s pipe is not one of them. Additionally his technique falls well below the standard one would expect on a commercial recording. A master of the instrument would make the music flow effortlessly, but it is manifestly not an instrument Matt is truly happy playing - in contrast to his virtuoso playing on the guitar, an instrument on which he provides beautifully phrased music as if it were second nature.

The CD opens with Dixon's Little Wee Winking Thing. From the guitar’s opening sequence it is evident that Dixon is to be given a funky Caribbean treatment, which would not be out of place in a disco. While I enjoyed this track I did not take to tracks 2 and 3. The playing and the sound of the instrument in The Lad that Keeps the Cattle, The Lads of Duns (as printed in The Border Bagpipe Book) and Lindisfarne, festooned with superfluous G grace notes and in waltz rhythm, did nothing for me.

Two more Dixon tunes - the politely titled Rangers Frolick and Saw Ye Never a Bonny Lass are distinguished by some first rate clarinet playing; the bass clarinet being particularly effective.

Would that the remainder of the CD had come up to the standard of pipe playing heard in The Wood of Fyvie, Such a Wife as Willy Had, Linkumdoddie; the Oyster Wife’s Rant and Ratho Fair. Accurate and rhythmical - a pleasure to listen to.

Track 6 The Fisherman's Daith is a song sung expressively and movingly with guitar and


and concertina accompaniment. Towards the end the pipe intrudes.

Dixon’s Highland Laddie (page 42 in The Master Piper) is a tune every bellows blown piper should learn. It is played here with a joyful rhythm and joins track 5 as another success.

The West Indian has been skilfully arranged for and attractively played by guitar and fiddle. The border pipe thankfully makes but a brief appearance.

I would have preferred a straightforward rendition of An Thou Were My Ain Thing. There appears to be some electronic jiggery pokery here with some alien sounding orchestral chords. Four Vicker’s fiddle tunes follow and hardly fit the generic title Music for Border Bagpipes. The same could be said of Nathaniel Gow's Gudewife of Peebles. The last sen- tence in the CD note reads “Nathaniel, I trust does not object to our treatment of his tune.”

The CD ends with Mock the Soldiers' Lady and The New Way to Morpeth, both Dixon tunes played sufficiently straight to assist old carnaptious Neanderthals like me to learn both tunes.

For a review of Matt Seattle’s CD which takes a completely different stance, readers are referred to William Marshal's ‘Lighting the Flame’ in the Autumn 1999 Newsletter of the Bagpipe Society.

Ian Murray