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Celtic & Scottish Studies Blog

Celtic & Scottish Studies Blog

Traditional arts, languages and culture in Scotland

“Finding New In Old?”

I’ve played the Scottish bagpipes since 1986, initially learning about the instrument and the music played on it in what can be described as ‘a traditional fashion’. I became acquainted with the various strands of repertoire, ceol mor agus beag, developing an overview of the various collections which constitute the available canon of music of the Highland Bagpipe. Youthful enthusiasm propelled my search for new bagpipe music in whatever form it took – in pre-internet days this meant company catalogues, magazine adverts and local libraries. I was up to date, a specialist, eschewing music which didn’t involve bagpipes until my mid-teens… which would later render me useless in a pub quiz.

However, if asked now for thoughts concerning bagpipes and their related music, I might surprise my teenage self if he could listen in – perhaps only time and experience can begin to inform the perspective that really ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’.

Only after starting in the post of Traditional Artist in Residence at University of Edinburgh did I become aware of the Eliza Ross Collection, ‘Original Highland Airs, Collected on Raasay in 1812’, which was first published in 2016. The most recent edition was in 2022 containing additional settings specifically for bagpipes made by Angus MacDonald (a favourite player). Finding new repertoire from the existing tradition was an activity I hadn’t experienced in many years – I was surprised!

To then present a selection of this long lost music in concert seemed a most obvious step forward – and so, on 26th February, in the Reid Concert Hall, Edinburgh, I’m looking forward to do just that. I’ve enlisted the help of a fantastic piano player, Dave Milligan, with whom I’ll perform on bagpipes, low whistles and the soprano saxophone.

My aim is to provide variety, a sense of authenticity, and hopefully some surprises for listeners. The music feels as new as it is old; a fascinating and unusual mix.

The beautiful setting of the Reid Hall will give this ancient new music, lost and then found, grander surroundings than perhaps it has ever enjoyed to date! Come along, 26th Feb 7.30pm, it’s free – reserve your place via the following link:

image of event poster

Poster for concert in Reid Hall, Edinburgh, 26/02/23




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