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Craig Hohm has a further look at developing Uilleann piping techniques for the Scottish smallpipes. (See Common Stock Vol 15 No 1 page 8).



This is the second part of my lesson with Jerry O’Sullivan transferring Uilleann pipe tech- niques to the Scottish smallpipes. In this lesson we take on the four part reel “Farewell to Ireland”. Jerry’s approach to the nine note smallpipe chanter utilises fewer grace notes, rounder rhythm, and some specialised ornaments from the Uilleann repertoire.

The tune is widely played in Irish circles; but is it Irish? It clearly looks like a nine note pipe tune. The first three parts imply ‘A’ minor without ever playing the C natural, and the last part shifts into a strong ‘A’ mixolydian. Is there a 9 note Irish repertoire out there from before the days of the Uilleann pipes? Robert Mathieson plays a “round” version of this tune on the GHB on his album “Grace Notes” (Lismor LCOM 51 71), an excellent album of unusual GHB tunes.

Now for the tune:

Bar 1 - opens with a cran. This ornament is stronger than a birl on the cylindrical bore chanter, less staccato than the G/D/E gracing. Mathieson opens the tune with a dotted A quaver (see: RM bar1 below), a strong alternative and a more common setting; Try this with a slur from low ‘G’.

Bar 7 - Jerry calls the high ‘A’ figure a “shake”, made by sliding the thumb forward and back over the High A hole. It is a very fast and clear ornamentation once you get used to the sliding motion, a bright shimmering sound.

Bar 8 - R Mathieson plays a birl on the low A. (see RM bar 8). I like the effect of the birl but it is not as strong on the smallpipes as it is on the GHB. A cran would go nicely here as an alternative.

Bar 9 - similar to bar 7.

Bar 10 - this is a short roll; all graces including the final ‘D’ are evenly weighted. Bar 17 - a run of crans on the ‘A’ and ‘G’.


Bar 25 - Jerry plays what he calls a “backstitch” here, adapted from a closed fingered ornament on the Uilleann pipes. He simulates the chanter closure by dropping down to the low G and then playing the melody in closed fingering. It is also possible to play this ornament in staccato closed fingering if your chanter does not have vent holes: stop the chanter end on your leg in the same way Uilleann pipers do. I’ve written the basic melody of bar 25 in the more common setting and included the backstitch as an addendum.

Bars 25-26 as written.

Conclusion: I enjoyed these two lessons with Jerry, and I hope these articles have been of some interest to LBPS members. It was a revelation to hear him play the first time, and it’s had a definite influence on my own developing style. I like the drive of these old dance tunes, and I agree, with many of the opinions expressed in Common Stock, that sometimes fewer gracings enhance the melody line, the use of fewer (and lower pitched) grace notes, combined with rounder note emphasis, slurs , and the specific ornaments developed on the Uilleann pipes, sound wonderful on the smallpipes, and add to the options of pipers devel- oping their own individual style.

The Scottish smallpipes are well suited to play a wide variety of styles and music. Are there other tunes out there from other piping traditions that can be adapted to this simple nine note chanter?

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