I’ve just put up my Live at the King’s Hall album of live piping on bandcamp.
You can find the album for download at https://simonmckerrell.bandcamp.com/album/bagpipes-live-at-the-kings-hall
On the 3rd May 2012, I recorded a solo bagpipe album at the King’s Hall, Newcastle University, in England. This was a really enjoyable experience, and I thought I’d share it through the digital media platforms.
All the notes to each track are available here on this page, and some photos taken by Darren Milligan on the day (thanks Darren!). I’d also really like to thank John Ayres, who did the recording and the editing with me for all his hard work, and Olivia Cameron who runs the Live at the King’s Hall series for the University.
I’ve included notes on the tracks, and also some of my own compositions I play on this album are available on amazon in the music collection–The Woodilee Collection of Traditional Music. Hope you enjoy some the music.
released May 3, 2012
Performed on bagpipes by Simon McKerrell.
Fairview Cottage (T. Green)
The Duart Gathering (Simon McKerrell)
A couple of traditional marches to start things off. I’ve often heard Fairview Cottage over the years and took the opportunity to learn it for the recital. It’s combined with a new tune I’ve written for the Clan MacLean. They held a composing competition last Autumn which I won with this tune, they’ve chosen the title Duart Gathering to reflect the use of the tune at their major gathering this year in Mull.
Air & Reels
Dhomnall nan Dhomnall (trad. arr. Simon McKerrell)
The Bird’s Nest (trad.)
Gillian Frame’s (Simon McKerrell)
Lauren McKowen’s (Simon McKerrell)
The Easy Club Reel (Jim Sutherland)
The Gaelic air I first heard on an album by the wonderful singer Jenna Cumming, and translates as ‘Donald of the Donald’s’. It’s a love song sung by a woman for Donald of the curly hair. He is attributed with many positive attributes, including a gentle eye and well-fitting trousers! A beautiful tune on any instrument.
‘The Bird’s Nest’ comes from the playing of Roddy MacLeod, whose piping I have long admired. Gillian Frame is a very well known fiddler from Arran, with whom I spent 5 years in the group Back of the Moon, touring throughout the world, this tune was written for her as a tribute. A similar story for Lauren McKowen an old friend, and the final tune is a well known standard amongst traditional musicians North and South of the Tweed.
Joe McGann’s Fiddle (D.R. MacLennan)
Duncan Johnstone (Donald MacLeod)
Arthur Gillies (Iain Morrison)
These tunes are some of my favourite hornpipes which have been in my repertoire for years. Duncan Johnstone was rightly known as the ‘King of Jigs’ and was a very rare case of a 20th century non-competitive piper who was well respected by his peers. This was due in large part to a phenomenal musical gift and good nature. The tune was written by the prolific Donald MacLeod. A friend told me that Donald let the tune unfold part-by-part to Duncan over a cup of tea, without letting on he was naming it for him, until finally when asked what he thought of it Duncan sardonically replied, ‘a terrible tune Donald’. Whereupon Donald instantly replied, ‘and that’s why I named it, “Duncan Johnstone”’! The final tune commemorates a lovely player from the Argyll tradition who passed away a few years ago.
The Knightswood Ceilidh (Donald MacLeod)
71st Highlanders (Hugh MacKay)
These are two of my favourite tunes. The Knightswood Ceilidh was famously awarded second prize in a composing competition for Donald MacLeod. However, it remains one of the all time great canonical tunes to be composed in the 20th century. I first heard Gordon Walker playing it, and adopted it into my repertoire immediately. The 71st Highlanders is a 19th century composition, just around the time that quicksteps were changing into competition 2/4 marches, and it has a simple, yet catchy melodic line. Hugh MacKay (1801-1864) was a member of this militia.
Farewell to the Laird of Islay (Angus MacKay)
This tune is one of my favourites amongst the 2012 Gold medal Set Tunes. Every year, competitive pipers compete against one another for two Gold medals, one at Oban and one in Inverness. The competitors are given a limited choice of tunes to select and perform from memory.
Piobaireachd is a type of theme and variations music for the bagpipe that emerged in the early modern period as an art music in the Highlands amongst Gaelic court society. They have a theme or ground that lasts for several minutes at the start and then the tune is reduced to skeletal form in succeeding variations and increasingly complex ornamentation is added until you are left with the ‘crowning’ variation (crunluath) at the end of the tune.
Colin’s Cattle (trad.)
Wee Michael’s March (John McCusker)
These two tunes are a traditional Gaelic song and a very modern composition by a well known fiddler respectively. They have both been in my repertoire for around a decade and are beautiful melodies, that really suit the pipes.
Strathspeys & Reels
Atholl Cummers (trad. arr. Willie Ross)
P/M Hector MacLean (Peter MacLeod Jr.)
Miss Proud (trad.)
The Little Cascade (G. S. MacLennan)
This is a set of old and new tunes for me. Atholl Cummers is a tune derived from a very old Gaelic puirt-a-beul (lit. mouth music) song entitled Bogan Lochan, which was used for dancing and to signal the readiness of illicit whisky.
One of my favourite composers has always been G. S. MacLennan who wrote ‘The Little Cascade’, supposedly to immitate the sound of a dripping tap. He was a piper who was rooted in the North-East of Scotland and was in my view extremely creative within a highly conservative tradition. Much of that conservatism continues today in piping; but thankfully, so does the individual creativity, both in performance and composition.
Air & Jigs
White Heather Cottage (Simon McKerrell)
Atholl Cummers (trad. arr. Simon McKerrell)
Turf Lodge (Angus MacDonald)
The Baldooser (trad. arr. Willie Ross)
The first tune I wrote in this set after a house my family lived in for several years, happily this has richly sardonic double meanings relating to a very well known 1950s (now considered) kitsch Scottish television show.
My own arrangement of Atholl Cummers in jig time was just for fun, along with two final tunes from one of my teachers P/M Angus MacDonald. One of the most generous teachers I have had in any domain.
This recording was done using a 2011 set of Douglas MacPherson pipes and a Henderson chanter. For pipers that enjoy the details, the set up was two Ezeedrones in the tenor drones and a cane bass. After swithering and experimenting constantly for years, I’ve been using an old Goretex pipe bag recently; but no doubt this will change again soon!