Bagpipe playing, as performed at traditional Highland Games, is distinctly national and characteristically Scottish.
Nowhere else will you find anything quite the same. This aspect of our cultural heritage has been encouraged and developed over many centuries and is part of the life of Celtic people.
History of bagpipe playing
There were pipes and reeds back in prehistoric days. The Persians, Chinese and Romans mention bagpipes in their ancient folklore, with Emperor Nero starring as a piper as well as a fiddler. The single drone pipe instrument can be traced back to 100A.D. by Scottish musical historians. The addition of a second drone around 1500, and then the bass drone some 200 years later, led to the instrument being recognised world wide as the Highland Bagpipe.
Adoption by the clans
Scottish Clan Chiefs from an early date well knew that the bagpipes were more suited to wars and battles than the harp which once flourished in Scotland, and by the late 15th century every important Clan Chief had his hereditary piper. The MacLeods of Dunvegan in Skye had as their hereditary pipers the McCrimmons, a family of exceptional musical talent, who set up at Boreraig their College of Piping. This school was to have an undying effect on the quality of pipe music since all the finest players in Scotland were invited to attend their courses of seven years’ duration. Here and in other colleges of piping, techniques were taught and coached to near perfection, and classical pipe music composed by the masters. This foundation is continued today by Scotsmen and Scottish Regiments in all parts of the world, for with the re-organisation of the British Army in 1881 all Scottish Regiments were provided with pipe bands for their military music. Later an excellent Army School of Piping was established under the best tutors available, and in the 1980s many army pipers would compete successfully at our Highland Games.
At these colourful outdoor events popular piping competitions are organised which now attract entrants from many countries and various nationalities keen to win coveted trophies and gold medals and esteem in world of musical excellence. Usually classes include Marches, Strathspeys and Reels, sometimes Jigs, and he great music – Ceol Nor – or Piobaireachd (Pibroch).
A tune for every occasion and everyone
Adults and children really enjoy hearing pipe bands and pipers playing stirring marches where the players proudly strut in time to the music, while the well known airs of Battle Tunes, Gatherings, Salutes quicken their pulse beat. With dancing tunes such as Strathspeys, Reels and Jigs, the piper is usually stationary, only his toe tapping out the time. Pibroch playing is unique as it is the blending of perfect fingering and technical execution of the various grace notes which embellish the theme, combined with the players interpretation of the emotions inherent in the tune. A lament must express the summation of past pride, perhaps utter forlorness or deepest grief, and while playing the piper may walk slowly with dignity around the platform. It is for this class that the highest awards are presented and those who are deeply appreciative of this emotive music stay close and reflective every minute of the playing.
The Highland Bagpipe is basically a simple instrument, one which cannot be varied in pitch or played more loudly or more softly, yet in the hands of our experienced masters can express dominating pride, marriage joys, youthful exuberance, and graveside sorrow. Come to our Game and let this playing bestir your tired blood and the music transport you to a world of glorious rapture.