Million Dollar Act Need Info on Pipe Tune/ New Piobaireachd Tutor Book Praised

image003A hugely popular Australia-based children’s show want to use a pipe tune as part of their act but have as yet failed to get copyright clearance. Leanne Williams, International Royalties Manager for ‘The Wiggles’, has written:

‘I’m hoping you can help me. I’ve been trying to get in contact with the Pinkman family regarding the tune Itchy Fingers and have been in contact with P/M Iain Grant and Mike Greene from the Bob Dunsire Bagpipes Forum who have been trying to help me, unfortunately with no luck to date. Today, after coming across your website, I was reading through the Letters page and to my amazement, saw a letter from Melody Jane Pinkman regarding her father, P/M Robert Pinkman.

‘I’m writing on behalf of Australian children’s entertainers, The Wiggles.  The Wiggles are one of the most successful entertainers in Australia and have been touring and releasing CDs and DVDs for 25 years – with huge success in Australia and the USA.  They are extremely popular with pre-school children and their parents, touring ten months of the year (their upcoming Christmas tour sold 70,000 tickets in 24 hours). 

‘They are currently working on their new DVD release. One of the founding members of The Wiggles, Anthony Field, plays the bagpipes himself and is very keen to record P/M Pinkman’s Itchy Fingers on this new DVD (to be released mid-2017). I’ve been researching this song and found that it is not represented in Australia so thought it best to try to track down P/M Pinkman’s family and speak with them directly.

‘It would be very much appreciated if you could pass my details on to Melody Jane so that I can explain in further detail who we are and what our plans are. Many thanks.’

Over to you Melody Jane and well done to this organisation for trying to do everything above board. Too often in the past have pipe composers been exploited, their music finding its way into CDs, videos and DVDs for no gain. If Melody Jane gets in touch we’ll pass on relevant details. 

Pipe Major Robert R. Pinkman was born in Edinburgh in 1953 and died in Penicuik on 3 December 2012. In 1971 he joined the 1st Bn King’s Own Scottish Borderers and in 1979 became their Pipe Major. He taught piping for the Army Catering College’s pipe band (to be succeeded by P/M Roger Huth). P/M Pinkman wrote the tune for the students so that they would have an easily learned hornpipe in their repertoire. It was immediately popular and it is said that he became so fed-up hearing it that on occasion he would say ‘I wish I’d never written it’. 

euspba-logoThe Eastern United States Pipe Band Association magazine ‘The Voice’ has carried the following review of editor Robert Wallace’s new piobaireachd tutor book. ‘Voice’ editor John Bottomley, who is also Director of Bagpiping at the United States Military Academy, West Point, writes: ‘Rab Wallace has added a third tutor book/video collection to his first two, this one dedicated to piobaireachd. As with this first two tutors the book is pared down to just the basics, with a lot of the value of the instruction coming from the free videos on Rab’s website.

t3-1‘These are also quite simple, with no extra bells and whistles to interfere with the instruction being presented. Less is definitely more in this case. The instruction uses the ‘just enough is plenty’ system, where you learn a movement or two, just enough to work on

‘For a piper looking to begin the piobaireachd journey, this tutor is an ideal jumping-off point. You will be well grounded and ready to perform with a strong basic understanding of the great music…..’

a new tune. This helps the student avoid getting bogged down in masses of exercises before getting to the music. The book does assume familiarity with all the light music movements, however. For example, there is only one new ‘non light music’ movement (dre/edre, or the throw on E) then it’s right into the Wee Spree.

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-07-03-28‘Tunes included in the tutor are the Wee Spree, Clan Campbell’s Gathering, The Boat Tune, and Duncan MacRae of Kintail’s Lament (also known as Duncan MacRae of Invereenat’s Lament). As is becoming more common now, the tunes are written without time signatures, although bar lines are included to show phrase structure. The tutor also includes a brief look at piobaireachd structure, which is vital to both memorization and presentation of the music, and canntaireachd, the vocal form in which piobaireachd was transmitted before the introduction of staff notation.

The written instructions are clear, as befits a trained journalist like Rab, and when combined with the video and audio recordings, provide a clear path for the student. Rab’s point in his Foreword about ‘In piobaireachd, this guidance (ed. Note, the audio/video links) assumes an even greater importance than with ceol beag . . . .’ The videos give you a starting point, but access to a qualified teacher is vital. For a piper looking to begin the piobaireachd journey, this tutor is an ideal jumping-off point. You will be well grounded and ready to perform with a strong basic understanding of the great music of the pipes. The book is available through Rab’s website, pipingpress.com.