Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lighter Moments of Ceol Mor

The College of Piping's Piobaireachd Tutor is an amazingly concise little book. Seumas MacNeill leads the reader through four entire piobaireachds, allowing room to present everything from a darado to a crunluath a mach. To me, it is quite a valuable little volume; no doubt there are other books with more information; certainly there are more with more tunes, but I would guess it is a hard work to beat for efficiency. If you forget, as I am bound to, exactly what a darado is, you can go back and have it explained to you piece by piece.

Possibly because it is such a practical book, it becomes doubly funny in the passages where the writer obviously began to have too much fun. The edition I have was revised by Rab Wallace, so I don't know whether Mr. MacNeill or Mr. Wallace is to blame for the pithy statements that sneak up suddenly upon you, but no matter where they came from, here are a few highlights:
  • "The singing is only to help your mind's ear (a neat phrase that, and worth dragging in again)."
  • "Take your time. Remember that the race is not to the swift. Remember also that this is not even a race."
  • "Now it's time to begin your third piobaireachd [. . .], 'The Lament for Alasdair Dearg Mac Donnell of Glengarry', generally referred to as 'Alasdair Dearg'. 'Alasdair' is pronounced with the 'd' something more like a 't'. 'Dearg' is pronounced 'jerrug,' somewhat to your surprise, no doubt, if you are not a Gaelic speaker."
  • ". . .'What a great song I am making,' you say. But when you come to the Taorluath and the Crunluath variations you add, 'and what a clever chap I am, the way I do it'."

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