Scottish Bagpipes Music - A Tribute to Scotland
From a height of land, out over the clear waters of Loch Ern floats the wild, pure lament of a lone piper. A pibroch as deep and dark as "old Ben Voirloch's sleepy shade", the haunting music of the pipes calls to something fierce and free, something in the very depths of the soul. The heart of the piper seems to speak directly to our hearts, of sorrow, of aching-loss, but yet speaks it with such beauty that our longing is somehow eased. Such is the magic of the Scottish bagpipes.
I have also heard the bright skirling of the pipes referred to as "that sound that's made when a half a hundred cats have their tails stepped on all at once!" Love them or loathe them, either way, there seems to be no middle ground when it comes to the bagpipes.
I love a parade...
...and what, I ask you, would any parade be without at least one Pipe Band. Every police force, fire department, and regiment in the armed forces seems to have its very own Pipe and Drum Corp - the Black Watch, the Princess Pats, the Royal Seaforth Highlanders, to name but a few, all led by a plumed and kilted band of pipers who proudly set the pace.
I can't remember a single parade that didn't include at least one Pipe and Drum Band in the proceedings. The sound of the pipes always heralded the start of the excitement, their distinctive, atonal first notes signaling the approach of the first entrant.
One theater productions that gave me great satisfaction to work on was W.O. Mitchell's "The Black Bonspeil of Willie MacCrimmon". It's a delightful piece of small town Canadiana, about a passionate curler who makes a deal with the devil over a curling match. The climax of the play involves an actual curling match on stage. Some have likened it to the showdown in "The Devil and Daniel Webster", but the curling match has always been far more exciting for me than the emotion-laden trial of the latter piece.
We were blessed on that production with the presence of the author for the opening night performance - great for publicity, but guaranteed to bring on a case of nerves for cast and director alike. Mercifully he is a consummate gentleman who has most likely endured thousands of productions of his plays. He vowed
he was as enchanted with us as we were with him.
We were also blessed with a real "dead-eye dick" from the local curling club, who hurled his stones across the stage with uncanny accuracy, to the delight of all. I do believe he had the loudest and longest curtain call of the entire cast save one - our piper.
Though the script called for a pibroch to lead in the devil's rink, our man explained that a true pibroch, though technically demanding, would not really suit the character of out play. We did try out several well-known pibrochs but in the end, when he offered a lament, I knew we'd found our piece.
Not only did he lead in the devil's rink in great style, but our piper found a way to use the backstage acoustics in such a way as to make the pipes sound like they were coming from nowhere and everywhere all at the same time - a truly spooky experience. Oh, he was a bonny wee piper.
Whether the bagpipes were truly invented by the Greeks, and came to Scotland via Irish pipers, there is no sound on this earth that calls to mind the "heather o' the isles" in quite the same way. Nothing stirs the soul in the same manner, and nothing makes you wish you were in Scotland like the sound of the pipes.