PP Ed’s Blog: Teaching Fees/ Braemar/ Jack Lee/ Breton Music/ Bereavements

I have just read all the comments on our tuition fees story. They represent a wide range of views and are well put. Thanks to everyone who contributed and in particular to author Jeff Williams for putting his head above the parapet on this one.

It is a complex subject with many strands of argument. As a traditional art, there is still the laudable ‘carrying stream’ approach: we hand on our knowledge to the next generation, expecting scant reward other than the satisfaction that we are doing our duty.

In the modern world this can be abused: the unknowing parents of rich kids judge the quality of tuition by what the teacher charges.

The classic beginners tutor book now available in German

We have the scenario of a tutor who knows the same parents are paying £30 an hour for his second instrument; why should they be charged less for his first (the pipes). It would be demeaning to our instrument if he did otherwise.

The untutored tutor is a menace. Root out the charlatans before they do any more damage! How many of us have spent hours trying to correct their folly?

Teachers who overcharge will be subject to market forces. The internet may not be all good but the availibility of lessons on Facebook and Skype surely broadens choice. Shop around.

It is up to tutors if they wish to apply the Musicians Union guideline of £34 per hour for teaching. Can the student afford it? Are you qualified enough to charge it?



There is a gap of a week between the Northern Meeting and Braemar Gathering this year. (Inverness seems to be getting earlier and earlier). I wonder how many overseas pipers from the Meetings will stay on to go ‘over the hills’ to Deeside.

It may present an opportunity for local pipers. There’s usually a cap of 25 to 30, so more might get a place. Whatever happens, the winner of the (solid) Gold Medal will have deserved it. Of all the games Braemar is is the by far the toughest: eight tunes submitted, one chosen only minutes before performance.

Braemar 2018: Strathspey & Reel winner Finlay Cameron receives his trophies from Secretary Mr Jim Wood…nice tie Finlay

Jack Lee has sent this: ‘We have recently completed a significant upgrade to our piobaireachd library at Bagpipemusic.com. It took me nearly 30 years to record the full Piobaireachd Society Collection.

‘I have also been singing and writing the Nether Lorn Canntaireachd for years and had hoped to one day add the Canntaireachd to our piobaireachd library. 

‘I have also become increasingly interested in the history of these great tunes.  This was a big project (it took about two years) but we have now added in the written Canntaireachd (Urlar and Variation 1) for all piobaireachds. 

Jack has recorded all of the Piobaireachd Society collection

‘We have also added in the history for all piobaireachds.  Some of the histories are very thorough and extremely interesting to read. Some are pretty brief (there is not much to say about some of the Nameless tunes).

‘So, when you download piobaireachds from our site you now receive: Recording of me playing the piobaireachd on the full bagpipe; Music written in Bagpipe Music Writer format; Music written in PDF format; History of the piobaireachd; Nether Lorn Canntaireachd (Urlar & Variation 1). We hope you enjoy the music.’



Interested in Breton music? Cedric Moign in Brittany has been in touch: ‘Here is the link to download the video clip of a trio playing some Breton tunes. Nicolas Burel is the bombarde player and studies with Christophe Pervès, and Tristan Jarry is the piper.

‘He studies the pipes with me. Both are students in the traditional music department of the Conservatoire in Brest. I accompany them on biniou on that day. This was taken last Saturday at our school auditorium:


‘Tristan plays a set of pipes with B drones and the chanter has no low G but a low F instead.

‘It’s the same instrument that is used by Bagad Kemper and Cap Caval and many others. Very useful to play our modal music and particularly tunes in the mode of A.

‘Here we play what we call Tonioù Doubl which means ‘long tunes’. These have two parts but contrary to the short tunes, these have a longer second part that is twice the length of the first part.

‘The tunes are for dancing, the ‘gavotte des montagnes’ comes from central western Brittany, and I collected them from a singer named Bastien Guern who is well known here but no longer with us.’ 


I was sorry to hear of the passing the other day of Bill Gass, a noted competitor in the 80s and a pupil of Captain John MacLellan’s.

Always a ready smile….the late Donald Martin, Moffat, pictured at the Northern Meeting reception in 2010

Also that of Donald Martin who served for many years on the General Committee of the Piobaireachd Society and was a stalwart of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society.

Both gentlemen made their contribution and were popular figures with all who knew them. Condolences to friends and family.


Posted in News   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.