Review of the ‘Pipers Meeting’ by Dr Jack Taylor and Patrick Molard

By John KS Frater

The launch of this book has had an impressive impact: inclusion in the Piobaireachd Society (PS) conference programme isn’t surprising, though nonetheless very welcome, but it was great to have significant coverage on the BBC’s ‘Pipeline’ programme.

The Campbell Canntaireachd manuscript (CC) is the oldest known collection of piobaireachd, written in vocables, a system for presenting the music in words (not in staff notation), reflecting the teaching of ceol mor by singing; the two volumes of the CC collection have long been a source of tunes and settings, for example in the PS collection.

The ‘Pipers Meeting’, by well-known piobaireachd experts Patrick Molard  and Jack Taylor [pictured top], contains 45 tunes from the CC that are not in current publications, many published in staff notation for the first time, including the eponymous ‘Pipers Meeting’.  Patrick Molard has been working on CC for decades; he gave us a presentation of some of the relatively unknown CC tunes at the 2012 PS conference and this led to the collaboration with Jack Taylor that has brought us this fascinating book.

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I am still getting to grips with it; this review gives my initial impressions and thoughts, one of which is that the wealth of material is almost overwhelming!There is a variety of tunes on offer, from short, simple pieces, to the massive Taviltich (you’ll play 238 taorluaths and 238 crunluaths in this tune if my arithmetic is correct!), with plenty in between, offering a breadth of music: attractive tunes, interesting tunes, unusual tunes, sometimes all three together!

The book is physically well presented, A4 size and geared for playing, having a ring binder format that sits open comfortably, hands free. The scores are clear, similar to PS style, but with some differences, notably that taorluaths and crunluaths are not routinely marked with T & C. This and other features suggest the book is not an obvious text for piobaireachd beginners, but, given the subject matter, it’s perhaps reasonable to assume the book is more likely to appeal to seasoned campaigners.

An example of how the book interprets the CC vocables

There are no time signatures, reflecting one of the key differences of the CC from other original sources, but tunes are barred and in lines (lines are also given in the CC), so, effectively, most tunes have the time signature demonstrated.  Phrase structure is not always clear from the CC and, where the authors believe it appropriate, tunes are presented with unusual phrase structures, without aiming for standardisation of pulses or bars per phrase and avoiding the emending that, for example, General Thomason might have undertaken………

Read the full review here. Dr John Frater is a distinguished amateur piper and piobaireachd scholar. He is a member of the Piobaireachd Society’s Music Committee and a winner of the leading amateur piobaireachd prize, the Archie Kenneth Quaich and also the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society members’ championship.

The book’s co-author, Patrick Molard, discusses his work here. Buy the book here.

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