April 30, 2001

Home and Away

Co-chruinneachadh MhicChoinnich, Pipe Music From Cape Breton and Away (volume one)
Compiled by Allan J. MacKenzie
74 pages, 100 tunes
Published by the author

Reviewed by Pete Aumonier

Co-chruinneachadh MchicChoinnich (volume one) is a collection of pipe music by Allan J. MacKenzie, Nova Scotia. Co-chruinneachadh MhicChoinnich translates as The MacKenzie Collection of Cape Breton style Pipe Music. Allan MacKenzie’s musical background comes from a strong piping tradition. He is the grandson of Pipe Major Black Jack MacDonald, a name that is synonymous with piping in Cape Breton, and it is to his grandfather that Allan dedicates his collection.

This book is a first class production. The binding is professionally done and each page of the book can be turned easily without the need for constant folding and creasing. The print is large, clear and accurate. I did not note any obvious print errors.

The cover displays a photo of Pipe Major Black Jack MacDonald against a clever background of ivory, taken from the sole of a Robertson pipe chanter owned by Pipe Major MacDonald and now in the possession of his grandson. The effect is very good and captures the traditional mood of the music contained within the pages.

The music in the collection is extensive and varied. There are a number of good marches worthy of play. In particular, “Passing Portnalong” by Allan MacKenzie and “The Bandwagon” by John Grant, both two-parted 2/4s caught my attention.

In any pipe music collection that has Cape Breton roots, one looks forward to the strathspeys and reels. Co-chruinneachadh does not disappoint. There are ten two-parted strathspeys, all of a traditional nature, that are simple in construction and musically tasteful. The 27 reels in the collection vary from simple to demanding, and “Paddy Currie’s Favourite” is an attractive “mouth music” tune arranged by John MacLean.

“The Glendale Gathering” by Doug Moulton is a four-part tune that is interesting and enjoyable to play. “John MacColl’s Reel” by J. Scott Skinner, the fiddle king, is an excellent two-part tune in typical Skinner fashion.

Several attractive airs are included in the book. “Do Lamh a Chriosda (Your Hand O Christ)” has been performed by a couple of pipe bands over the past few years and the setting here captures the simple beauty of the melody.

Matt MacIsaac’s “Lynn Sutherland,” a hornpipe, is an excellent composition that is rhythmic with an original musical line that stands out in the collection.

It is obvious that Allan J. MacKenzie is very proud of his musical heritage. In this collection of 100 tunes, he has captured his love for the music and shared it with us to enjoy.

Pete Aumonier is one of North America’s foremost pipers. He has won many awards in piobaireachd, light music and with pipe bands. Originally from Victoria, British Columbia, Pete Aumonier lives in Oakville, Ontario, and plays with the Peel Regional Police Pipe Band.


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