Category Archives: Tuition

Fine Selection of Second Hand Books Offered for Sale by Piping Press Shop Now Sold

Six classic piping books were offered for sale today for by the Piping Press Shop. These have now sold within one hour of going on sale. The books, first lot, were the ‘Seaforth Highlanders Collection’, Seumas MacNeill’s ‘Tutor for Piobaireachd’ and Roderick Cannon’s ‘Highland Bagpipe and Its Music’. Revenue from these sales will help maintain Piping Press’s not for profit, subscription-free service.

The ‘Seaforth Collection’, currently retailing new at £25, was first issued in 1936 and contains over 250 tunes. The edition offered here was the 1998 reprint. What makes the Seaforth Collection so outstanding is the quality of the settings. No superfluous gracenotes, just good traditional and regimental tunes easily assimilated by every competent piper.

Seumas MacNeill’s ‘Tutor for Piobaireachd’ was first published in 1990 and was the first modern tutor for this music. Tunes covered are the Company’s Lament, Mackintosh’s Banner, Glengarry’s Lament and Lament for Alasdair Dearg MacDonnell of Glengarry.

Dr Roderick Cannon’s ‘Highland Bagpipe and Its Music’ was first published in 1995 and is a very well-written account of the instrument, its history and the nature of its music. Dr Cannon was a bagpipe music scholar of considerable renown and for 30 years a mainstay of the Piobaireachd Society’s Music Committee. This book is essential reading for every young piper.

The second lot we had for sale is now sold too. The books were ‘P/M Angus MacDonald’s Bk 2’, currently out of print, the ‘Seumas MacNeill Collection’ and ‘Masters of Piping’ also by Seumas MacNeill.

P/M Angus’s book (1995) is a formidable collection of tunes by the late, great, pipe major (pictured top). Stand outs are Allan MacDonald’s Dr Flora MacAuley, Carradale, Alan MacPherson of Mosspark, P/M Joe Wilson, P/M Angus MacDonald, another great tune by Allan MacDonald, the piobaireachd Lament for Alan, My Son, the airs Mull of the Mountains, Highland Cathedral, Peter MacLeod’s celebrated march, the Rhodesian Regiment and many, many more.

‘Seumas MacNeill’s Collection’, was offered in its original edition, was first published in 1960 and also contains some outstanding music: Major Byng M. Wright and Jeannie Carruthers by John MacColl, David Ross of Rosehall by Seumas’s teacher Archie MacNeill, the Back of the Moon by Archie Kenneth, Echoes of Oban by Donald MacPherson, Jim Tweedie’s Sea Legs by New Zealander J Allan MacGee to name a few.

The third book in this lot was ‘Masters of Piping’ by Seumas MacNeill and edited by Robert Wallace. Published in 2008, its 220 pages explore the lives of some of the great names of piping of the past: Calum ‘Piobair’ Macpherson, John MacLellan, Dunoon, Donald Cameron and Willie Ross are four. A very valuable book for those interested in piping history.

Historic Video Recording of Donald MacPherson Saved For Posterity

An important, good quality video of a recital given by the late Donald MacPherson has been saved from the waste bin thanks to the inquisitiveness and diligence of an Irish piper. 
The recital was given by Donald in the Crookhaven Hotel in County Cork in 1990. Introduced by local stalwart Noel O’Mahony, Donald gives a brilliant demonstration of ceol beag and ceol mor. His mastery of the instrument and its music is a lesson for pipers everywhere. He plays for around 35 minutes finishing with the piobaireachd, Lament for Ronald MacDonald of Morar.
Ronan Maguire, a leading piper with the former World Champion St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band, takes up the story: ‘I was about to throw out an old video recorder recently and I could see there was a tape stuck in it.

‘The eject mechanism didn’t work, so I had to pull it apart to get the tape out. Eventually I did and was delighted that it turned out to be a recording of a recital featuring Donald MacPherson, from Cork in 1990 so it was definitely worth saving for posterity.

‘There doesn’t appear to be a lot of video of him up on YouTube, so I think this is worth a look and listen or two. He proves the point that you don’t need to play a gut bursting pipe to achieve a quality sound – he doesn’t even break sweat! The tape is about 35 minutes in length – and starts of with some nice marches and finishes with the piobaireachd.

Ronan on duty with the O’Tooles

‘Donald was over to give some tuition and I remember him taking a few of us through the Battle of Auldearn and a couple of other tunes that I can’t remember at this distance. A  few played at the recital that night, myself, Michael and Kieran Murphy, Noel Harford and some drummers too, namely Johnny Keogh and a young Stephen Creighton.

Donald with his father in 1953 after winning the Clasp at the Northern Meeting

‘The highlight of the night was Donald though and you could hear a pin drop. Personally, I was in awe of him. We’ll never see his likes again. Somebody local recorded it and they were selling it shortly after probably to raise band funds and that’s how I ended up with a copy.’

 The Editor writes: ‘Having watched the recording a couple of times one is left in no doubt that here we have a master at work. Not for Donald lengthy tuning boring the audience to death like we hear so often, just the odd quarter turn here and there and off he goes, his immaculate fingering and expression to the fore, the pipe full and steady.

‘No need for flashy fingerwork either and I would like to encourage all those who populate so much of the airwaves with this kitchen piping to better spend their time trying to emulate what Donald MacPherson does in this video.

Donald MacPherson and P/M Terry Tully of SLoT at the launch of Donald’s Living Legends CD in 2006
‘We are due Ronan a debt of gratitude for saving this for piping and making it available to all.’

• Were you at the 1990 Cork recital? If so please pass on your memories to PIping Press. Email us at Read all about Donald MacPherson and how he achieved him immaculate sound in our unique series of articles on Piping Press here. Hear more of Donald’s playing on the PP Audio Archive.

Piobaireachd Can Touch the Heart of Every Piper

By Robert Wallace

There we were one evening last week well-fed with drams encouraging loquacity among our most reticent. As always the atmosphere at the New England Pipe and Drum Academy was warm and friendly. The conversation turned to ceol mor. The first question, how best to describe this music – what name should we use. In Gaelic ‘ceol mor’, great music, was more accurate, ‘piobaireachd’ simply translating as ‘piping’.

This was fine at a time when all pipe music was ceol mor, if you follow me, but nowadays could be confusing to someone well schooled or brought up in the old tongue.

I explained how use of the word ‘piobaireachd’ indicated that the instrument was inextricably bound up with the music itself. Like intelligence and common sense, there’s was a symbiotic relationship, the one could not exist without the other.

I also explained that I disagreed with Willie Ross’s alleged statement that if you thought too much about piobaireachd it would drive you mad. Quite the opposite I contended. This was simple music which only required an understanding of the medium on which it was performed, its tonal shifts, its rhythms and its structure, to be appreciated. All could, to varying degrees, be taught to, and accessed by, any piper who showed a modicum of interest. What drove you ‘mad’ was a failure to seek out this knowledge.

Of course to play it really well was a different matter. It took years of study and application – and an ability to wind, control and set the bagpipe – before it could be delivered satisfactorily to the tutored ear. Having said that, it was technically much easier to play than any competition MSR. Just look at the piobaireachd champions who have/had scant ceol beag success for evidence of that.

The finger dexterity required for one was half that for the other. Learn a crunluath and the top hand movements well and you were ready to go at least in the fingerwork department. (As an aside I pointed out how well these throws and motifs were explained in Jimmy McIntosh’s book and in my own Bagpipe Tutor 3 – which we just so happened to be working from.)

That said, sometimes a slowness of finger could actually assist the delivery of pleasing ceol mor. Rather than being clipped to extinction, with slower, softer hands movements were allowed to breathe and their true embellishing beauty thus came forth. So here was encouragement for all the adult learners on the course. They may not be able to get through Mrs John MacColl without a phoney double E from F or multiple crossing noises, but the Wee Spree could transform their enjoyment of their chosen instrument.

Just get those dres and edres cooking and we were ready to rock and roll. A quick addition of some Eezidrone reeds saw many of the pipes transformed; a bit of tape here and there on the chanter and suddenly we had an instrument on which we could do justice – well nearly – to the great music.

The piobaireachd player had other physical, synaptic connections that had to be made however. He/she had to play from head to heart to fingers NOT head to feet to fingers as the ceol beag player was bound to do. Both had to learn to sing their tunes right enough, but in the absence of strict brogue or drum driven tempo, the first would fall without the innate guidance of rhythm and tempo gained through singing.

Listen to the Masters of Piobaireachd series and absorb just that I said, the message in the tunes from ages past. Not some contrived notion of how the music should go (are you listening you revisionists) but the authentic voice of the carrying ceol mor stream – music handed down over the generations and available now to calm us all in this mad, frantic, cyberstruck world.

After that little pep talk I’d never had a busier nor more enthusiastic piobaireachd class. There we were collectively singing away these ancient melodies. People from all backgrounds and of all abilities, their voices ringing out through the Massachusetts woodland, ringing out with age-old strains borne of hills and glens so many hundreds of miles away across the deep.

Another Successful Week in New England

The Editor writes: Another successful New England Pipe and Drum Academy has come to a close and I’d like to thank Tommy Johnston and Matt Pantaleoni for all their hard work during a rewarding week.

We didn’t have too many students to teach but those who did attended got the very best in piping and drumming instruction. Tommy’s reed making workshop was a real highlight and attracted a few outside visitors to the very pleasant surroundings of the Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Centre.

Tommy shows how it is done

It is run Episcopalian ladies and they know how to keep the likes of ourselves in order. They also feed us with the very best produce, some of it grown in their gardens at the centre situated in the Massachusetts woodlands north and east of Boston. We’ll be back next year, the object being to create a critical mass of well taught individuals who can go out and spread the word.

There are good teachers in New England make no mistake, but NEPADA provides the sort of immersion in piping and drumming which offers the unique benefits of joint music and making and learning. There is as much learned informally as there is formally.

Pipers are put through their paces

One of the lady pipers on the course Beverly Knapp is following in the footsteps of her grandfather in playing the pipes. Beverly has a snap of him in his uniform. His surname was Tyrie and he was from Forfar. Beverly is intrigued as to what British Army regiment it might represent. We think from the kilt and sporran that it is the Cameronians but this doesn’t chime with the Angus region. Any thoughts appreciated:

Our most promising piper was Jesse Fulton from Connecticut and drummer Patricia Edwards from New Hampshire. Jesse and Patricia are pictured below. Patricia received a set of drumsticks  and Jesse a practice chanter courtesy David Naill & Co.:

Patricia and Jesse

The dates for next year’s Academy are June 18 – 22.

Best wishes to Eric Ward wishing him a speedy recovery from his operation and also to Mike Nugent of the South Florida Pipe and Drum Academy after his recent bout of ill health.

Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust Summer School

Lee Moore writes: SSPDT are holding a five-day piping and drumming workshop from Mon 24 – Fri 28 July 10 am – 3pm each day. The summer school is open to all young pipers/chanter players, snare drummers and bass and tenor drummers in East Lothian, writes Lee Moore. 

The venue is Port Seton Community Centre. Please note the change of venue which offers us great facilities to run our school. The cost of the summer school is £75 for the week. Tutors for the workshop will be the Preston Lodge team of tutors, Lee Moore and Eilidh Alexander (Pipes), Simon Grant (Snare Drum) and Jordan Bailie (Tenor and Bass Drums)

SSPDT will consider helping those in financial need and applications for help will be treated in the strictest of confidence. Please contact Jenny Charalambous on to enquire about financial help. There will be a short performance on the Friday at 4pm for friends and family when the pupils will be able to show off their skills.

Refreshments will be provided for break times and pupils should bring a packed lunch. Please return both the booking slip and permissions slip with a deposit of £15, cheques made payable to Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust to:

The Administrator, SSPDT, 14 Albany Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3QB Early booking is advised as places are limited. Closing date – 17 July 2017. The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust and/or SSPDT names are the commonly used names for The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Charitable Trust. This is a charitable trust registered in Scotland (No. SC037980).
Lee Moore is on T: 07720261306; E:

Download the Booking Form: SSPDT Summer School Booking Form