Thursday, October 10, 2013


Catching up

It's been a long hiatus for me from serious professional development on the pipes, something like six or more years, and something similar on fiddle, any number of fits and starts attempting to get started again. But I've started taking clàrsach lessons with Cynthia Cathcart, and have resumed pipe lessons with John Sprague, so it's time to get serious. So here are some updates of what I'm doing on several musical fronts.

Practice Block 1 (Atherton pipes, will move to Kron pipes once they're fixed): City of Alexandria Pipes & Drums' music, and the EUSPBA massed band tunes. I'm in the process of returning to the pipe band, after over 2 years hiatus. Once I've memorized the CAPD repertoire, I'll play some of practice block 3 tunes here as well.

Practice Block 2 (practice chanter, will move to Atherton pipes once the Krons are back): Competition music. I've got one competition MSR for Grade 3 I'm knocking the dust off of (Charles Edward Hope Vere/Susan MacLeod/Colonel MacLeod), and am adding second set (24th Guards Brigade at Anzio/Blackley of Hillsdale/The Clucking Hen?). Both may get used for the Tailors at some point. I'm also learning a couple of hornpipes (The Man from Skye and Bobby Cuthbertson), and am knocking the dust off some jigs (Brae Riach, Turf Lodge, Paddy's Leather Britches) for a future H/J set.

Practice Block 3 (border and/or small pipes): I'm going through some books of pipe tunes for Highland Dance (starting with tunes from A High Cut Above), and also some very old collections of ceòl beag, like the Donald MacDonald's 1828 collection and Gunn's 1848 collection.

Practice Block 4 (18th Century reproduction Kilberry pipes): I'm going through the piobaireachds I've learned to re-memorize them, and expect to start focusing on a few for competition, and sometimes stuff for the Devil's Tailors.

Practice Block 1 (Dahlia 5-string): I'm going through the DunGreen collection, paying special attention to Cape Breton ornamentation on both left hand and bow. It's a slow slog, because I'm learning a lot of new techniques and am trying to play the tunes as written, and memorize more than a few of them as I go.

Practice Block 2 (High-bass tuned fiddle): I'm working on some competition tunes, mainly the same set I'm doing as an MSR on pipes (Charles Edward Hope Vere/Susan MacLeod/Colonel MacLeod) and am working on adapting piobaireachd ornamentation to the fiddle (mostly focusing on the Leumluath/Taorluath - and related ornaments like the hiodro, hodro, and edre, and the Crunluath).

Practice Block 3 (Dahlia 5-string): Devil's Tailors stuff. I'm especially going to be working on the tunes I normally play on pipes, because I may have to record those parts.

Practice Block 4 (Mahr Baroque): I hope to start spending time with the Gow Repositories and other 18th century collections if I get around to adding more fiddle practice time.

I'm slowly advancing to moving fingers around the harp. I've learned Tha Oighre Og Air Fear Dhungallain and am working on An Ossianic Air using the Ap Huw figures, which involve a very mobile treble hand. I'm also going through Cynthia's book, and a little past half-way through it (Begone from my Window is a current favorite), and am reaching the point where fingers are no longer fixed there as well.

I slipped backwards a bit in Gaelic, and am trying to find time to get back into it seriously. As far as singing goes, I've added a few good tunes to my repertoire. Right now, I'm working on "A Neighbor's Farewell to his Friends", the oldest known version of "The Parting Glass", and "Tha Tigh'n Fodham Eiridh", a 1715 Jacobite song that was the pattern for the Victorian song "Sound the Pibroch".

I spent the last long calibration effort at work practicing my Cape Breton steps. I've got most of the Reel and Jig steps at least nominally learned, and hope to have them under my feet by spring, so I can show off my moves when Clandestine plays the Duck for St. Pat's!

As I mention above, I'm working to get back into the band. It's a hard slog learning the new tunes - they just don't want to stick. It didn't help that for a long time I didn't have any pipes in Bb. My Kron pipes have been out for repair (cracked tenor bottom, cracked mount, broken mouthpiece, and chipped projecting mounts) coming up on 2 years, and though I bought an additional set from Dave Atherton, the outer tenor bottom of the new set developed a crack, and I was unable to play those for a while as Dave repaired them. Now I have the Athertons up and running again, and the Krons are expected back any day now, and I should be back in by the new year.

The Devil's Tailors:
We had a great year with Chelle Fulk, and after she went back to Keltish full time, we had another great year with Susan MacIntosh-Worrell, but are now without a dedicated fiddler (and Rosemary's still in college in Scotland!). Nonetheless, we're finally pressing ahead with recording our first album in November/December, have a few likely gigs in the new year, and will start performing more heavily after we bring in a new fiddler.

Fiddle Club:
I'm still on the board, and am still the Highland Games Coordinator, though I'm looking to push much of the responsibilities for the latter on others, especially the finding of sponsorships for the bands. My big project with Fiddle Club is to convert the previous years' music to Adobe Indesign, so they can be saved as PDFs and viewed online.

The Stewarts of Appin Regiment of Foot:
I'm still doing my 1745 piper impression, and have a few new skills and toys I'm bringing to events. I'm singing Gaelic and playing harp, and I now have a stock-and-horn to demonstrate. Sadly, my pochette has a damaged pegbox, and will need to be repaired! I've also added some food items to the impression, having converted a bodhran into a grain sieve, and have a quern on order from Deepeka, along with bags of hulled and unhulled oats and barley.

Music Websites:
The website is due for a total rewrite. I devised some technical improvements to its format when I did my wedding website, and will implement them soon. I plan to make it less about the hardware, less geeky, and more professional. The Devil's Tailors and Fiddle Club websites will also see some minor updates soon, especially the latter as I get the music online.

So this is the schedule I've set for myself. Will I stick to it? I hope so! And hopefully I'll post again before too long!

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