Reviews: ‘A MacCrimmon Collection’ and ‘Tutor Book 3 – Piobaireachd’, German Edition

‘A MacCrimmon Collection of Traditional and Contemporary Bagpipe Music’

By P/M Barry Donaldson

A new collection of bagpipe music compiled by Iain and Calum MacCrimmon, the acclaimed father and son pipers, composers and, as I understand, hereditary pipers to Clan MacLeod, has been issued. There are 59 compositions on offer covering the complete spectrum of bagpipe music. 

Normally when asked to review a new publication of pipe music, my approach is to sing through the tunes, mark those I like and only then use the chanter. I marked every tune in this book on that first instance. 

The music is original and has a fresh feel about it, with 33 of the compositions from the hands of Iain and  Callum. Additional  tunes are from some well known contemporary composers such as Neil Dickie and John Mulhearn, and others like James Duncan MacKenzie whose written music I have not previously come across.

Also included  are  some excellent arrangements of old traditional tunes. In general I would describe the overall musical style as ‘Gaelic’. 

Callum’s work within the traditional music industry will be well known to many, and indeed his energetic approach comes through in his compositions. His unusual strathspey, Kenna Campbell’s, written in 3/4 time, works okay for the dance albeit it’s in the style of a waulking song.

Another unusual piece is his reel MacIsaac’s, written in 3/2 time and just to confuse us, a hornpipe Home Sweet Not Quite Home, written with just one part containing 16 bars of music starting in 3/4 time, then changing to 4/4 and 2/4, returning to 3/4 time. Callum is anything but conventional.



Iain on the other hand presents a more standard approach but still delivers compositions brimming with musicality. I was impressed with his piece of ceol mor, written for his father, Salute to Malcolm R. MacCrimmon. This is a beautiful melodious piece of music and whilst I am no expert of the big music, I would think this has to rank as one of the best of the modern era.

I was also impressed with his four-parted 2/4 march Kenneth T. Melvin which presents us with a driving, swinging phrase line. I note that Iain is careful not to over embellish.

An excellent  2/4 march, Donald Mackay of Upper Barvas, caught my attention too. It is jointly  arranged for the pipe by Iain and Callum but composed by KC and A Mackay. (I suspect the Mackay’s are not pipers.)

What’s interesting about this piece is how the melody develops in all four parts, with the second phrases in each ending on a doubled low G. This gives the tune a dramatic effect, adding colour to what is a punchy march.

That said, some other phrases have similarities to John MacLellan, Dunoon’s masterpiece, the Taking of Beaumont Hamel. I have to say this was the only tune in the entire collection which I felt had similarities to other tunes and  it probably reflects the idea that the composers are not pipers.

That said some of the legendary composers have lifted ideas from other tunes and developed masterpieces in their own right. This tune could well end up in the same category.

I could write much more on this collection but suffice to say: very impressive. Looking for something fresh, different and seeped in the Gaelic? then this is it. You can buy the book here.


‘Bagpipe Tutor 3 – Piobaireachd’ by Robert Wallace

By Dagmar Pesta

The third tutor book ‘Bagpipe Tutor 3 – Piobaireachd’ from Robert Wallace starts with a Foreword, which has a short summary about the meaning of piobaireachd. Then there is a jump into the music.

Here each of the four piobaireachd in this book starts with a description of the movements required to play it. The tunes are described variation after variation with the necessary movements in an easily understandable language.

The learner knows how the variations and movements have to sound as he has the opportunity of listening to the audio files on www.pipingpress.com.

After the learner has made his first experiences in piobaireachd playing, he finds in the middle of the book (Lesson 10) a short summary about the history of piobaireachd.

Close to the end of the book (Lessons 16 & 17) there are explanations of tune classification and canntaireachd, a Gaelic singing language in syllables, similar to the Italian ‘doh, ray, me, fah, soh’ which is how the music was passed on from mouth to mouth before the structure was written as sheet music.

Overall the book gives a good insight into piobaireachd playing and it is very suitable for learners who make their first experiences in piobaireachd playing and who want to go to competitions with their first piobaireachds.

A sample page from the book

Revision des Buches „Bagpipe Lehrbuch 3“ von Robert Wallace

Das 3. Lehrbuch „Bagpipe Lehrbuch 3“ von Robert Wallace beginnt mit einem Vorwort, welches kurz zusammenfasst, was Piobaireachd eigentlich ist. Danach wird auch gleich in die Musik eingestiegen. Hier kann man sehen, dass für jeden der vier Piobaireachds, die in diesem Buch Thema sind, zuerst die neuen Movements beschrieben werden. Die Piobaireachds werden variationsweise mit ihren Movements in einfacher, gut verständlicher Sprache, beschrieben. Damit der Lernende auch weiß, wie sich die einzelnen Movements, sowie die Variationen anhören müssen, besteht die Möglichkeit, sich die Audiodateien dazu auf www.pipingpress.com anzuhören.

Nachdem der Lernende seine ersten Spielerfahrungen mit Piobaireachd gemacht hat, findet sich in der Mitte des Buches (Lektion 10) eine kurze Abhandlung über die Geschichte des Piobaireachds, und gegen Ende des Buches (Lektion 16, Lektion 17) die Beschreibung der Klassifikationen und des Canntaireachd, einer gälischen Singsprache in Silben, ähnlich dem italienischen „do, re, mi, fa, so…..“, über die der Piobaireachd früher gesanglich von Mund zu Mund übertragen wurde, bevor das Gerüst eines Piobaireachds in Notenschrift festgehalten wurde.

Im Großen und Ganzen gibt dieses Buch einen guten Einblick in die Spielweise des Piobaireachds und ist gut geeignet für Spieler, die ihre ersten Erfahrungen im Piobaireachd sammeln und damit auch auf Wettbewerbe gehen möchten.

  • You can buy Tutor Books 1, 2, and 3 in German and English here.


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