PIOBAIREACHD 2021

I'm glad you're here. This is the page where content from my new music project will be posted on an ongoing basis.

The word piobaireachd translates roughly as 'bagpiping' but through the centuries the term has become synonymous with a particular style of music in theme and variation format performed typically on the Scottish Highland Bagpipe.

While the world sorts through the legacy of 2020, imploring the resurrection of live music and so much more,  I'll be exploring my creative resourcefulness through recording new music featuring, or inspired by,  the art of piobaireachd. 

 A compilation of favourite pieces are to be issued on CD at the culmination of project.

Thank you, sincerely, for your interest in my music;  please use the comments box at the foot of this page, I'd love to know what you think.

I'm grateful to Creative Scotland for supporting this endeavour.  

The music posted below is free to download.  Sincere thanks for your interest. 

The Piper's Premonition

Improvisation on GHB

Being In Time

Being In Time

Fraser Fifield

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Being In Time

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Original composition by Fraser Fifield. Instrumentation: 3 x Scottish Border Pipes, 3 x Soprano Sax, 3 x Low Whistle, Bulgarian Kaval, Highland Hornpipe.

Dedicated to the late bagpipe maker and friend, Nigel Richard, (1948-2021) whose hand-made border pipes feature on this track.

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The MacDougall's Gathering

The MacDougall's Gathering

Fraser Fifield

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The MacDougall's Gathering

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Musical arrangement, soprano sax, low whistle, clarinet and keyboard: Fraser Fifield

The composer of this piece isn't known. The following notes are thanks to the Piobaireachd Society ( https://www.piobaireachd.co.uk ) :

A classic gathering tune which starts with 4 cherede movements (double echo's on E) ... some have thought this may represent the clan piper standing and playing them, facing north, south, east then west. The tune however may have an alternative title, no longer known. In the original sources (Angus MacKay, Angus MacArthur) the tune is given no name. An unknown writer (not Angus Mackay) who wrote "Fraser's Salute" against Catherine's Lament in Angus MacKay's index to the MacArthur manuscript, also wrote MacDougall's Salute against this tune.

The lovely (and irregular) Ground is followed by Taorluath and Crunluath variations. However despite being a relatively short tune, there are number of technical and musical challenges for the piper, and for this reason it has for generations been played at the highest level in compeititon.

The MacDougall chiefs share a common ancestry with the chiefs of Clan Donald in descent from Somerled of the 12th century. In the 13th century the Clan MacDougall (whose chiefs were the original Lords of Argyll and later Lords of Lorne) was the most powerful clan in the Western Highlands.

During the Wars of Scottish Independence the MacDougalls sided with the Clan Comyn whose chiefs rivaled Robert the Bruce for the Scottish Crown, and this resulted in clan battles between the MacDougalls and Bruce. This marked the MacDougall's fall from power and led to the rise of their relatives, the Clan Donald, who had supported Bruce - and also the rise to power of the Clan Campbell who were the habitual enemies of the MacDougalls and Clan Donald.

The MacDougalls supported the House of Stuart during the Scottish Civil War of the 17th century and during the Jacobite risings of the 18th century.

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Where Rivers Meet

Improvisation on Whistle

Improvisation on Whistle + Bodhrán and Drone

Fraser Fifield

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Improvisation on Whistle + Bodhrán and Drone

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As the descriptive title says, with a nod to both urlar and alap traditions of Scotland and India. The Alap is the opening section of a typical North Indian classical performance. It is a form of melodic improvisation that introduces the raag. The Urlar (or Ground, or Theme) is the opening section in Scottish Piobaireachd. Though today the Scottish tradition contains no improvised or extemporised aspect, I do suspect it once did.

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A Flame of Wrath

A Flame of Wrath

Fraser Fifield

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A Flame of Wrath

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Fraser Fifield plays the Highland Bagpipe, Soprano Saxophone, Eb Tenor Whistle, Clarinet and Keyboard

'Breizh' (the first tune) is composed by Fred Morrison - do visit: https://fredmorrison.com

A Flame of Wrath For Squinting Patrick (the second tune) is composed by Donald Mor MacCrimmon.

Music arranged by Fraser Fifield

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Lament for the Old Sword

Lament for the Old Sword

Fraser Fifield

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Lament for the Old Sword

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An arrangement of this striking ancient melody performed here on whistle (in F) with two saxophones playing sympathetic responses. In place of the toarluath and crunluath variations I linked the theme notes with something that felt more natural to play on the whistle, hopefully while keeping forward motion and the sense of urgency/intensity those variations typically add.
My approach is faithful to the composition in many regards but does add an extemporised element, especially through the variations. This interests me as I believe an improvisational aspect to this music must have existed and indeed perhaps once formed its basis.
Music traditions in India, as in Scotland, are built upon a drone but the Indian style is (still?) improvised. The Indian musician doesn't differentiate between 'improvising' and 'playing music'. I wonder whether Scottish bagpiping has lost roots in this regard? Hinduism - the collective spiritual understandings of people of the Indus region is still strong, whereas any equivalent understandings inherent to these parts (ie modern Scotland, etc) has long since disappeared. My anthropological hobbyist part suspects we lost something fundamental in this Western world, a long, long while back. I feel music can give (albeit very) faint clues to this.

An article by Mrs Bridget Mackenzie, serialised in the Piping Times in 1980 (reposted recently on bagpipe.news, linked below), also offered relevant notions in regards the lost improvisational aspect of Piobaireachd, linking with an ancient style of Norse verse.

"The convention was that they were spontaneous, and to suggest otherwise was to insult the artiste, but there is evidence that this spontaneity drew heavily on the store of training previously built up".**

*bagpipe ornamentation which the final variations in piobaireachd are often based around.

** https://bit.ly/2NHaczR

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Praise of Longer Days

Praise of Longer Days

Fraser Fifield

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Praise of Longer Days

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Music composed and performed by Fraser Fifield, part of 'Piobaireachd 2021' a project supported by Creative Scotland. Please leave any comment at the bottom of the page, many thanks.

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Lament for Red Hector of the Battles

Lament for Red Hector of the Battles

Fraser Fifield

The story behind the tune...

Hector Maclean served as a military commander under his uncle, Donald of Islay, Lord of the Isles. Ongoing territorial disputes between Barons of the East and West of Scotland led, in 1411, to the Battle of Harlaw, near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. The battle saved Aberdeen from destruction at the hands of the highland forces but Red Hector, along with many others, met his untimely end there. The composer of 'Lament for Red Hector of the Battles' is unknown.

In this arrangement, after recording the Highland Bagpipe I added soprano saxes in octaves and a tenor whistle in F.

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In Regard To That Matter

Any comments?

Piobaireachd 2021 

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to hear any opinions, feedback and comments from any interested listeners, helps me feel a bit connected with an audience during these online times. Don't feel you need know anything about piobaireachd to say hello here...

 

'Piobaireachd 2021' is supported by Creative Scotland's Sustaining Creative Development Fund

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