Featuring on the PP Audio Archive today is a recital given by leading piper Donald McBride in the Savoy Hotel, Kansas City, MO in March 2010. In it Donald displays all his mastery of timing and technique on a superb 1908 silver and ivory Lawrie bagpipe with a Hardie chanter (1975).
Donald was taught originally by his father Willie Mc Bride, and played in his band, the Monktonhall, for many years. From 1972 until he emigrated to the United States in 1984, Donald went to Donald MacPherson for piobaireachd instruction. In the 1970s, he also played in the Muirhead & Sons pipe band under P/M Robert G. Hardie. When he returned to Scotland in 1996 until he moved to County Donegal in 2004, Donald took piobaireachd lessons from Andrew Wright. He has been placed 2nd twice and 3rd twice in the Gold Medals at the Northern Meeting and Argyllshire Gathering. He won the A Grade March at the Northern Meeting in 1982 and has been 2nd and 3rd in the Strathspey & Reel events at Oban and Inverness more times than he cares to remember. Presently he lives in Kansas City.
Editor Robert Wallace said: ‘A bit like the great Duncan Johnstone, Donald was an indifferent competitor never quite enjoying it the way his talent dictated he should. He did notch up some significant prizes but these should never the only criteria we use when assessing a piper’s ability. You can be a great player and seldom have ventured on a competition board.
‘We are grateful that Donald has now given permission for us to enjoy his superb playing via this recording. The piping is as good as anything you will hear on the boards today.’
Listen to the recital here.
Donald’s notes to the concert are as follows:
6/8 Marches to see where the drones will go! Brian Boru’s March/MacDonald, Lord of the Isles/Major Moir of Villeveque. The first march commemorates the march of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, and his army to the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, the object being to boot the Vikings out of Ireland. He and his army prevailed but poor Brian managed to get himself decapitated in the closing stages of the battle when some fleeing Vikings stumbled upon him in his tent where they caught him having a few premature victory cocktails! If nothing else the second tune is a reminder that the Clan Donald Lords of the Isles at one point owned about one third of Scotland, from their Earldom of Ross up in the far north, down through the western seaboard and islands and into their Irish possessions in what are now Counties Antrim, Tyrone, Derry and Donegal. I’m assuming the third march is to do with WWI since Villeveque is a town in Normandy and that’s where much of the senseless butchery took place between 1914 and 1918 in that most horrible of all wars. Amazing that beautiful music can come from such carnage.
Two-parted Strathspeys and Reels: Lady Victoria Ross/Lady MacKenzie of Gairloch/Duke of Gordon’s Birthday/Fiddler’s Joy/Forrest Lodge/Pigeon on the Gate/Daldowy’s Reel/Lady Monaghan’s/Skansen Reel/Traditional Irish Reel/Selma Reel. When pipers realised what treasures were in the fiddle music books that started appearing in the 18th and 19th centuries they must have thought they’d discovered the mother lode and these volumes were plundered mercilessly. These dance tunes are not of the same depth or complexity as most of the competition strathspeys and reels but are generally a lot more fun to play.
Slow Airs and Jigs: Muile nam Mhor Bheann/Smaointe (Mull of the Great High Mountains/Thoughts)/Jig of Slurs/An Fáinne Oir (The Gold Ring)/Catrin Williams’/Bessie Brown. First up here is the tune to Dugald MacPhail’s beautiful song of the same title. The first time I heard it played was by my brother Kenneth during a ferocious session in the West End Hotel in Edinburgh before he got sick and fell asleep under a table. Smaointe/Thoughts I got from the singer Deirbhile Ní Bhrolchain from the County Galway on the west coast of Ireland during a great night in the Lady Gregory Hotel in Gort. It took me seven days to complete the five-hour drive from Spanish Point in Clare to my house in Kilcar in County Donegal. It was pointed out to me in John Burke’s Armada Hotel in Spanish Point that the first two parts of the Jig of Slurs are actually from County Cork and I got this setting from the flute player Matt Molloy from Ballaghadereen in County Roscommon. The Gold Ring is one of the big Irish jigs. The Irish have ten parted reels and jigs which match I suppose our competition strathspeys and reels. Catrin Williams’ I composed myself for a friend who lives in London and which is published in Michael Grey’s book ‘Music for Everyone’, and Bessie Brown was composed by Captain D.R. MacLennan for the celebrated piper Bob Brown’s sister.
Competition March, Strathspey and Reels: Donald Cameron/Blair Drummond/John Morrison of Assynt House/Mrs. MacPherson of Inveran. If Angus MacKay had done nothing but publish his piobaireachd book in the 1830s he would have been granted piping immortality, but he also co-invented the competition march along with Hugh MacKay (no relation). The march is the traditional pipe band standard Donald Cameron. The strathspey, Blair Drummond, is a traditional tune that has stood the test of time, as have the two reels, composed respectively by Peter MacLeod of Partick and P/M G.S. McLennan. Someone once mentioned to me that he thought that Mrs MacPherson was the most perfect tune ever composed. It’s hard to argue with this.
Piobaireachd (Theme only) Thainig mo Righ air Tir am Muideart. (My King Has Landed in Moidart). This tune was composed in 1745 by John MacIntyre at the start of a last-ditch effort by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and the Royal House of Stuart to reclaim the British throne from the German House of Hanover which had acceded to it in 1714 when the last Stuart monarch to reign, Queen Anne, died. The Jacobites raised their standard at Glenfinnan in Moidart in August 1745. Arguably the top three ‘lost causes; in the English-speaking world are that of Mary Queen of Scots, the Confederacy in America, and the Jacobite Risings in the 17th and 18th centuries in Great Britain. The fact that the risings failed has not dimmed the cause’s perennial popularity. On the contrary, the British establishment’s subsequent guilt trip over their policy of genocide following the rebellion lead to a veritable Brigadoon-like ‘Celtic Twilight Zone’ in the 19th Century and the creation of the Scottish tartan industry. The version I’m playing tonight has been raised a tone from pentatonic in ‘G’ up to ‘A’. The effect is that as a tune it sounds less sombre than it does in ‘G’. I got it from Robert Wallace, who got it from P/M Donald MacLeod, who in turn got it from P/M Willie Gray of the Glasgow Police. The original came from the manuscript of a Mr Simon Fraser in Australia. The tune is in the Piobaireachd Society Collection Volume 5, and also in Angus MacKay’s published book. Under the first line of MacKay’s version are the words, ‘Thainig mo Righ, s’air Tir am Muideart, Tearlach Stiubhart, Righ nan Gael’. (Came My King, on Land in Moidart, Charles Stuart, King of the Gael.)
An Coinleach Ghlas an Fhomhair/Seudain a’Chuain/The Foxhunter/O’Dowd’s/Jimmy Ward’s/Paddy Clancy’s/The Queen of the Rushes. The song is from the Gaoth Dothair area of Donegal and was made famous by the group Clannad from Croilí. Its English title is The Grey Stubble of Autumn. The next tune was composed by my friend Allan MacDonald and translates as Jewels of the Ocean. Then we have The Foxhunter in both hornpipe and 9/8 jig time. In the third part of The Foxhunter hornpipe I’ve tried to emulate the yelps of the hounds as they close in on the unfortunate fox. To finish off we have some jigs in 6/8 timing.
Calum Sgaire/The Gravel Walks/The Shetland Fiddler’s Welcome to Cape Breton/Humours of Tulla/The Humours of Elizabeth. The slow air is the tune to a song from the island of Lewis on the Outer Hebridean chain of islands off the west coast of Scotland. I got this from the singing of the late Micheál O’Dhomhnaill from Rann na Feirste in County Donegal where my father’s people were originally from before they moved to Scotland. The next three tunes are reels popularised by the playing of the great fiddler Natalie MacMaster from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, and the last reel I composed for my great friend Elizabeth Scott from Shawnee. She keeps me sane when I’m on the American side of the Big Puddle.
• Donald can be heard playing piobaireachd on the PP Video Archive here.
Only just over a week to go! We can’t wait!