Published: September 30, 2001

Gathered together

Barry Shears
The Gathering of the Clans Collection, A Collection of Music, Photographs and Historical Essays, Volume 2
Published by the compiler.
108 pages, 146 compositions

Reviewed by Iain MacDonald

Nova Scotia’s Barry Shears has published two previous collections of pipe music, and with his second Gathering of the Clans Collection he brings to light many traditional Cape Breton settings of tunes, as well as some new music that he has collected and written.

One of the really interesting developments in recent years has been the study of piping and pipe music in the context of the times in which it was played. Players and player/scholars have begun to re-examine how piping used to be, and how we got where we are today. As one of these piper/scholars, Barry Shears has given us a picture of piping as it existed and developed in Cape Breton over many years.

His latest collection includes an essay entitled The Piping Tradition in Nova Scotia, which provides a rich background setting for many of the tunes in the collection. Shears has researched his subject thoroughly, and presents a succinct yet comprehensive overview of the development of piping from the early immigration period through to the 1950s.

Whereas Volume 1 covers many of the individual pipers and piping families of Cape Breton, and his Cape Breton Collection covers the composers and their music, this new collection brings it all together to provide a real notion of how piping developed and changed over the years. The collection also provides excellent notes and background on the tunes, settings, and composers/arrangers. Like his earlier collections, Shears has included many fine historical photographs of the old pipers and pipe bands.

Once you’ve read the essay, and pored over the tune notes and histories, and wondered about all the right-shouldered pipers, you’ll want to get down to the tunes. There is a great variety of idiom and style here, with marches (20), jigs (30), hornpipes (6), Gaelic airs and waltzes (11), and a piobaireachd.

This collection offers a stunning array of strathspeys (22)—some notated to convey the traditional Cape Breton dance rhythms (faster/rounder), and some in the more standard “competition style” notation (slower/pointed). Either way, there are many fine tunes here, and they are complemented well by a large collection of reels (46) that pipers will love to play.

There are a number of new tunes and arrangements by Barry Shears and other contemporary pipers to balance the traditional Cape Breton music and settings, and these will provide a rich source of tunes for band and solo concert material.

Once again, Shears has given us a collection that honours the traditions of Cape Breton, expands our knowledge of its culture, and provides an excellent source of new music for pipers, wherever they live.

Iain MacDonald is an accomplished professional piper and Pipe-Major of the Grade 2 City of Regina Pipe Band of Saskatchewan. He played for many years with the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band and lives in Avonlea, Saskatchewan.

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