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Gaelic Music War

Sandy Mc Lean 14 Dec 11 - 10:32 AM
meself 14 Dec 11 - 11:05 AM
Leadfingers 14 Dec 11 - 01:23 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 14 Dec 11 - 07:32 PM
katlaughing 14 Dec 11 - 07:45 PM
meself 15 Dec 11 - 12:37 AM
meself 15 Dec 11 - 12:46 AM
Big Mick 15 Dec 11 - 10:21 AM
GUEST 15 Dec 11 - 09:30 PM
Effsee 15 Dec 11 - 09:47 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 16 Dec 11 - 10:32 AM
Big Mick 16 Dec 11 - 10:55 AM
Jack Campin 16 Dec 11 - 10:59 AM
Will Fly 16 Dec 11 - 11:10 AM
Big Mick 16 Dec 11 - 11:14 AM
Big Mick 16 Dec 11 - 11:18 AM
Jack Campin 16 Dec 11 - 11:42 AM
CET 16 Dec 11 - 08:22 PM
GUEST,gus 17 Dec 11 - 07:13 AM
Big Mick 17 Dec 11 - 09:47 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 17 Dec 11 - 10:13 AM
Big Mick 17 Dec 11 - 10:34 AM
Sandy Mc Lean 17 Dec 11 - 04:13 PM
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Subject: Gaelic Music War
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 10:32 AM

Halifax Herald Article

I often call Cape Breton Island the most western of the Hebrides. It was a large depository of Gaelic speaking immigrants, many of them refugees from the Highland Clearances if the early 1800's. In relative isolation for over a century they maintained the language and music of their ancestors. Meanwhile changes happened in Scotland to music and dance driven by competition and military standardization. Pipe bands by their very nature had to have a precision that removed individual expression from the music. Music societies substituted music sheets for ears in learning piping and fiddling. Highland dancing replaced the older stepdance and performers competed to standards set to meet the approval of judges. However in the Brigadoon of Cape Breton the old forms survived and music and dance was never a competitive sport.
By the early 1900's there was more and easier communication and Cape Breton was regarded by "experts" in Scotland as not playing "correctly". A few decades later Cape Breton's Gaelic College was founded and the "proper" methods of learning, playing, and dancing were introduced and adopted. However the Gaelic language was largely neglected to the dismay of many who were fighting to preserve the old ways.
In more recent years a worldwide market for Celtic music found a wealth of talent in Cape Breton and people like Buddy MacMaster, Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, The Rankin Family and The Barra MacNeils brought the older styles into the spotlight. Few if any of those that I named ever played before a judge in any competition.
Now the Gaelic College is putting more time into preserving and teaching the language and the "old stuff" and less on the dogmatic styles needed for proficiency in competition. This has ruffled some feathers so the war begins.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: meself
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 11:05 AM

From the quotes within the article and the comments beneath, it would seem that those who, in the context of this controversy anyway, are attached to competitive piping and dancing have no real appreciation of or interest in Gaelic culture. Or, they really believe that that stuff is Gaelic culture.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Leadfingers
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 01:23 PM

Competition in traditional music does NO good if it only stultifies the playing !


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 07:32 PM

The problem runs deeper, I am afraid. Non-Gaelic Scottish "experts" opinions are more and more being viewed as more legitimate than what history shows the truth to be. Years ago when the Gaels wished to compete they played shinty (hockey or hurling). When they played music and danced it was only for the enjoyment of friends and neighbours and themselves. An individual was often put in a place of reverance for their ability to sing, play or dance and that has not changed here for the traditional modes. Some have changed the tradition and so be it, but the lie is in inferring that the true traditional style is not as worthy as what they see as being correct.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: katlaughing
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 07:45 PM

From what I've learned on the Mudcat from folks such as yourself, Sandy, and growing up with a dad whose grandparents were from Nova Scotia by way of Scotland, I love the old traditions and find it a shame to have such rigidity as the competitive stuff. One reason my dad quit playing fiddle in competitions in his older years was because all it seemed the "judges" wanted was fast and furious with no real feeling and no ear for regional nuances.

Interesting this has come up now. As an aside, I've been listening to a classical radio station which is playing a lot of holiday music. I found myself mightily irritated a few times when I heard a full orchestra plus chorus sing the odd old carol or two, of which the originals, I've learned here. I grew up playing and loving classical, but in this instance it just felt wrong to me...as though they were fancying up what should be the peoples' songs.

Thanks,

kat


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: meself
Date: 15 Dec 11 - 12:37 AM

Right on, Sandy. Perhaps Rodney MacD. was not as diplomatic as he could have been, but I suspect there isn't a great deal of common ground between the two camps. (God forbid that anyone should have to travel to that Sodom of the east - Summerside, PEI - to find a school of competition-style piping!)


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: meself
Date: 15 Dec 11 - 12:46 AM

By the way, I have no idea how diplomatic RMcD was or wasn't; I'm just speculating.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Big Mick
Date: 15 Dec 11 - 10:21 AM

Nice to see this discussion, most especially Sandy's opening paragraph. It lays out the truth that most don't know. While the massed bands are impressive and enjoyable to listen to and see, the regimented piping should be acknowledged for what it is. The Gaelic styles of piping were far more free flowing, and if one is interested in historic styles truer to what our people played, the stuff preserved in the Maritimes is far more accurate. The stuff played by the the Highland regiments, and popularized around the world in competitions, is the British imposing their influence and regimentation on the old music and instrumentation of the Scots. I do not say this in a perjorative way, rather just a statement of the facts as I understand them. I actually enjoy the spectacle of the competitions, but I believe they should be labelled for what they are.

As to a more Gaelic form, I love what Brian MacNeil does with the pipes in a number of recordings. It is a wilder, and more emotional music that better reflects the Celt.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Dec 11 - 09:30 PM

Mick..."As to a more Gaelic form, I love what Brian MacNeil does with the pipes in a number of recordings."...erm, which B.M. is that?
Not the Battlefield Band Brian MacNeil I assume?


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Effsee
Date: 15 Dec 11 - 09:47 PM

Sorry, that last was from me, didn't realise I'd lost my cookie.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 10:32 AM

Thanks folks for your comments! One thing that some folks from Scotland try to tell us is that our music and dance style is Irish, not Scottish. Although that shows their lack of knowledge, at the same time it is understandable. In fact the traditional styles here are much closer to what you are likely to hear and see in Ireland than what you would find in modern Scotland outside of the Highlands and Hebrides. Of course we descend from the same Gaels of old and the same traditions were passed down through the generations. Some of the same fiddle tunes are played and although the styles differ the similarities shine through. There were also many Irish settled here during the Great Famine and contributed greatly into what was a similar culture. Winston "Scottie" Fitzgerald, Bill Lamey and some other Irish names are found among our all time fiddling greats. Acadian French also adopted the music and today many of our best bear French surnames. Even the native Indians absorbed the music and today many of them are magnificent players; notwithstanding that they maintain a proud culture of their own!


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Big Mick
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 10:55 AM

This is what happens when I post in a hurry. First I mispell his name even though I am full aware of the correct spelling (It's McNeill), then I don't make it clear that I am speaking of arrangements he did. A great example of the piping style I am speaking of occurs in the song he wrote and arranged that Ed Miller recorded. It is The Song of the Hammers. While it is a contemporary song, the piping is the wild and free form style. I am not sure who the piper is on that track, but McNeill's fiddle is emblematic of the style I am referring to as well. There are many examples of the return to the earlier less anglicized forms of piping and fiddle to be found in the earlier Battlefield Band music.

Thanks for your calling me back to this, effsee. Sometimes I get in a hurry and get a bit oblique. I know this subject could get contentious and I hope it doesn't. It is a discussion worth having and one I will probably learn something in.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 10:59 AM

The stuff played by the the Highland regiments, and popularized around the world in competitions, is the British imposing their influence and regimentation on the old music and instrumentation of the Scots.

It was not imposed. It was entirely the creation of influential players within Highland piping who saw that adopting military discipline gave the music an opportunity for development and wider adoption. The British Army needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into the adoption of the Highland pipe. The results were a mixed bag, and they did drown out a lot of traditional music in the process, but you can't really fault them for seizing a historic opportunity. They were nobody's lackey.

Do North Americans really have to keep up that bizarre opposition of "the British" and "the Scots"? You would never hear that in Scotland, whether from a unionist or a nationalist, Highlander or Lowlander. It's just plain wrong.

In Scotland today, the "kitchen piping" culture is more vital than it has been for a long time, and manages to coexist with the competitive stuff, with players moving between the two. But if resources have to be prioritized, obviously Cape Breton needs to put them into preserving and developing the music that's uniquely its own. It doesn't really matter very much if the world loses a few competition pipe bands, there are plenty to spare.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Will Fly
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 11:10 AM

Do North Americans really have to keep up that bizarre opposition of "the British" and "the Scots"? You would never hear that in Scotland, whether from a unionist or a nationalist, Highlander or Lowlander. It's just plain wrong.

My thoughts exactly, Jack. When I see regimented rows of little Irish girls wearing identical wigs to dance in competitions, for example, I wonder what the powers that be in Ireland are thinking of. The passing on of a tradition is a great thing, but to impose a straitjacket on it is not. And by the Irish on the Irish.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Big Mick
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 11:14 AM

Jack ....... Did you not read the whole post? Or are you just imposing YOUR bias on us poor colonials? Your "quote" left out the very important contextual next sentence. Did you do that on purpose? My use of the words "imposing" and "regimentation" simply refer to the fact that this is more of a British influence than a native Gael influence.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Big Mick
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 11:18 AM

Most folks I know find the wigs, and such, as ridiculous. There is a growing movement over here that supports ridding competition of this peacock paraphanelia

But don't switch topics, lads. Stay on the music.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 11:42 AM

My use of the words "imposing" and "regimentation" simply refer to the fact that this is more of a British influence than a native Gael influence.


It doesn't get any more convincing when you say it twice.

Okay Mick, you tell me where in "British" culture those influences came from. (Whatever the heck you mean by "British" - you still don't appear to have any idea what I was talking about there)

For example, the idea of using precisely specified gracing patterns on the pipes with an entire band doing them in unison has no parallel anywhere outside Highland piping that I've ever heard of. If it was an alien English imposition, do tell what the English source for it might have been.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: CET
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 08:22 PM

Hate to say it, Mick, but I think Jack Campin has the right of it. Scottish military piping is precisely that: Scottish. It has nothing to do with the English (I think that's what you meant when you said "British") imposing their culture on the poor Gaels. You might have been closer to the mark if you had said that the British Army eventually recognized that pipe music was something that might fit very well into regimentl culture.

As for the controversy, I heard a young pipe major on CBC Radio today who was not opposed by any means to teaching the Cape Breton style, but thought that the college was making a big mistake in abandoning the "pipe band" curriculum. His point was that the more structured way of teaching gave young pipers and drummers a very good grounding in technique.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: GUEST,gus
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 07:13 AM

As regards style. A friend could pick out the drummers in any Scottish Dance Band, who had been taught their drumming in the army, by the way they held the sticks--he was invariably correct.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Big Mick
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 09:47 AM

The problem here is not me, it is you. How the hell does one discuss the British influence on this or any subject without being accused of bashing? I am not bashing by calling the regimentation imposed on the piping style of the earlier Scots what it is. And if you don't have the ability or desire to take the whole comment in context, that is for you to deal with. But, like it or not, the styles preserved in the Maritimes are truer to the traditional forms of the immigrants. The competition/pipe band forms are an evolution and they show the effects of the regimentation and discipline imposed on them by the British military structure. The ability to play these tunes, with all the appropriate decorations, grace notes, etc. en masse, is an amazing thing to see and hear. Had you read for comprehension in my first post, you would have understood that I truly appreciate and enjoy it for what is. But the fact is that it is the cart and not the horse.

The reason I use the term "British" as opposed to "English" is that I am not referring to a people, but an institution. One of the things I have learned from my Mudcat friends in Jolly Olde over the years is that such generalizations are unfair. You all might remember that when speaking of North Americans.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 10:13 AM

"The reason I use the term "British" as opposed to "English" is that I am not referring to a people, but an institution"

I think whatever you were trying to say, the original statement, which somehow seemed to suggest that the British were someone other than the Scots, simply doesn't make much sense. Fair do if that wasn't what you meant though. So yes a form of piping became associated with the British Army and developed over the years within that framework but surely that isn't the same as someone other than Scots forcing their influence on Scots? It just is what it is. Things develop differently especially when there is an ocean seperating peoples.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Big Mick
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 10:34 AM

Yes, Allan, that was an error on my part. I got in a hurry and should have enunciated the distinction in a more concise way.


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Subject: RE: Gaelic Music War
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 04:13 PM

The war continues..........
Update


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