PP Ed’s Blog: Tempos/ Winter School/ German Tutor/ Straight Fingers/ 1970 Mod/ RSPBA Fees

The Times had a story yesterday stating that classical music has increased in tempo over the years. According to independent research, performance time of Bach’s double violin concerto had fallen from 17 minutes in 1961 to 12 minutes in 2016.

Has the same accelerando affected piping? Perhaps in ceol mor. Perusing the Masters of Piobaireachd series you can listen to tunes played at what I would suggest is a more stately tempo than we hear today.

Maybe it is what you are used to, but I am not uncomfortable with the modern approach. The cardinal error we make in piobaireachd is that it is by definition slow and stodgy. To bring out the pathos we need to overdo the long notes.

Yet it is in the melodies themselves that the lament or the salute lies, not in the tempi we play them at. An excerpt from the Flame of Wrath will not be far off time-wise from a similar length portion of Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon. If we increase the tempo slightly, both tunes still retain their drama (FoW) and their heart-rending sadness (D Ban).

In solo light music we have gone into reverse. In the bands too. Everything is slower these days in the MSR. With the bands it is a case of ‘keep it clean’, no blunders and wait for the Medley.

In the solos, a careful, correct reading on a good pipe will more often than not be enough to secure a prize in a ‘big’ MSR contest. Have a listen to some of the ceol beag on the PP Audio Archive and see if you agree with this point.


To Germany tomorrow for the Northern Winter School at Lohheide, about an hour south of Hamburg. That this school was sold out months ago says much for the organising nous of Principal Ronnie Bromhead. The picture up top shows staff and students at last year’s school.

I’ll be joining an ace team of instructors in Jim Semple, Barry Donaldson, Craig Munro, Brian Lamond, Billy Jordan and Paul Turner. With the exception of Paul, all of these gentlemen worked with me at the College of Piping schools we established at Brüggen and Homburg from 2007 and it was always a great pleasure.

It is a source of some satisfaction that the Piping Centre now retains these schools and that they continue to draw significant numbers of students. With the BAG school in July, Germany has never been better served for tuition.

I am pleased to say that the German edition of Bagpipe Tutor 1 has been delivered in time for the school and will be available at Lohheide:

The new Bagpipe Tutor 1 in German. Click on pic to order

Still on the teaching front, registrations are now open for our two Academies in the States at Jacksonville in Florida in February (13 – 17th) and in New England from June 16 – 21.



Tom Johnstone, President of the Scottish Pipers’ Association, on the earlier correspondence on the 1970 Mod: ‘I read Les Hutt’s letter mentioning that the senior MSR was twice through. My memory of that is that I competed in it a few times, playing twice through and went to the Mod which I think was in Skye that particular year.

I was second on so didn’t get to hear anyone before me. I played my twice-through MSR quite well as I remember but when I came off I was told that the rules had been changed and that it was only once through now!

Tom is second from the left. Next to him is Les Hutt with diminutive Donald McBride centre
As a concession the judges said they would judge me on my first time through and I landed a second place. First was none other than your good-self so you must have played exceptionally well that day! Happy memories!’

Tom reminds us that the monthly meeting of the SPA is at NPC West tomorrow evening.


Chris Mulinder in South Africa has come up with an innovative way to keep his pupils’ fingers straight:

Chanter with board attached

It seems you attach a board to the back of the chanter and this prevents the fingers curling round. A bit more humane solution than the rap on the knuckles I used to get when the fingers were bent.


The RSPBA are reminding bands that subscriptions and fees from affiliated organisations are now due. Click here for more info.


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