June 30, 2010

Nicol canntaireachd CD available to pibroch devotees

A new compact disc from a piobaireachd enthusiast’s private collection of reel-to-reel recordings that showcases seven piobaireachds sung in canntaireachd by the late ceol more great, Robert Bell Nicol, has been released in limited quantity by Macater Press of Wisconsin.

Titled Robert Nicol Canntaireachd – The John MacDonald of Inverness Settings, Dave Meyer made the recordings of Nicol while attending an Invermark piping summer school in New York in 1974. Meyer rediscovered the tapes a short time ago and decided to have the analog recordings converted to digital, and then compiled for release to piobaireachd enthusiasts for $24.95. The initial production-run is limited to 100 copies, but Meyer says more may be produced, depending on demand.

The recordings are of “John MacDonald settings” of “Glengarry’s March,” “The MacGregors’ Salute,” “A Flame of Wrath for Patrick Caogach,” “The Rout of Glenfruin,” “The Desperate Battle,” “The Little Spree” and “Lament for Alasdair Dearg MacDonnell of Glengarry.” Each tune includes Nicol’s canntaireachd rendition and his personal commentary.

“This is not intended for folk who like to listen to bands or solo pipers playing away at spritely marches,” Meyer said. “This is for the serious piobaireachd devotee who has studied enough to appreciate and hear the nuances of the way Bob Nicol taught in his day. That is why this is called first, a Limited Edition, because there won’t be that many people who can appreciate this recording.”

He added that Robert Nicol Canntaireachd – The John MacDonald of Inverness Settings “needs a connoisseur of piobaireachd who can hear and appreciate the distinctiveness of the recording and the manner of canntaireachd given on those specific days in 1974.”

Meyer said that the project differs from the multi-disc Masters of Piobaireachd CDs of Nicol and Robert Brown on the Greentrax label primarily because they are personal teachings by Nicol, and not in any way performances from recitals. “These are one-of-a-kind which have never been heard by anyone before. I sat across from Bob Nicol in private sessions when he gave me these tunes.”

Meyer recalled the recording sessions: “Nicol would prepare a bit, and then give me the cue to start the recorder. He wanted to make sure I got a good recording. One time, he made me erase a tune and then rerecord it because he didn’t like something that had happened on it. I had been to Invermark four times before Nicol came over from Scotland. The recording was made there in one of the old A-frame buildings in which piping classes were held.”

He said that the inclusion of “The Rout of Glenfruin” is also unique because of Nicol’s personal dislike of the tune, and, according to Meyer, the fact that Nicol wouldn’t teach it.

When asked about Nicol’s reputation for not charging his students for tuition, Meyer said, “I was definitely under the impression that my tuition to attend Invermark was paying [Nicol’s] transport from Scotland to New York, food and lodging as well as the handsome fees Mr. Nicol charged at the school.  He didn’t do it for free.”

Meyer was a proficient piper in the Midwest United States until his career in academia took him away from the instrument. He said that his other archival recordings of Nicol were accidentally destroyed, and the seven tunes are all that remain from his collection.


  1. While I agree with does the world need yet another interpretation of Alasdair Dearg!” answer: NO! It doesn’t seem like anyone is doing math here. 25X100 = 2

  2. The last time I checked, making a run of 100 CD’s cost £1.70each , including the costs of printing the sleeves, pressing the graphic images onto the CD itself, and the wrapping and the case. That is $2.45 US. So the profit on each CD is if they are being sold at $24.95, which they are, is $22.50, and when reflected in the sale of a mere 100 CD’s makes a total profit of $2,225. I do not believe the gentleman’s costs for recording or mastering would be anything as he is using private” tapes. Alternately

  3. I’m not in a position to comment on Iain MacDonald’s book, but knowing him well you can be damned sure that any compositions within it are published with the appropriate permission from the appropriate people. Iain I’m sure will be on shortly here to say that himself. If Mr Meyer is not interested in gaining financially from this, then he would be selling it for his cost of production, and not more than $20 per CD more than that. If he sells 100 of these, he makes over two thousand dollars. If he sells 1000, he makes over $20,000. And don’t be fooled by the there is a limited clienture for these

  4. I can assure piperjde” that the Donald MacLeod tunes and settings in the book were published with the full knowledge and permission of the copyright holders. Same for the other tunes in the book. If you owned a copy of the book

  5. I can assure piperjde” that the Donald MacLeod tunes and settings in the book were published with the full knowledge and permission of the copyright holders. Same for the other tunes in the book. If you owned a copy of the book

  6. I think that you’re all kind of missing the point. How else will you be able to get canntaireachd lessons from Bob Nicol? You can get lessons from one of his students, Jimmy McIntosh, but not from Bob himself. I would be nice to see more of this type of historical documentation being done, legal and ethical discussions aside. At least this way, future generations have a reference as to how the music was taught and played by recent players and the players of today. We’ll never really know how the MacCrimmons and others played these tunes in the past. All we have is the record passed down by word of mouth” to the modern day and assume that it is somewhere in the ball park

  7. This is good news for piobaireachd enthusiasts. But I would have liked to have read about how the final price was determined and if any thought/effort had/has been made about compensating the estate of Mr. Nicol? Not pointing fingers, just asking.

  8. Really? Here’s I see this: Robert Nicol resides in living memory and is not some long-dead historical 19th century (or beyond) figure. He never taught this summer school thinking what he said or how he said it would be released to the world (however small that world might be – our wee piping world [pibroch world is even smaller). I can’t think Bob Nicol ever dreamed his words would be packaged in some cheesie tartaned CD package. I wonder where proceeds go? This is a very cheeky project – unless I’m missing something. And everything aside, does the world need yet another interpretation of Alasdair Dearg!

  9. I have a couple of questions….1. He was given permission to record, and this is specialized material for him that he is willing to share, it should it matter who profits? 2. Does anyone know how much it cost to do what he did and make a run of 100 cds? He isn’t standing to profit much. Maybe he’s looking at taking the proceeds and donating them to a band or maybe just hoping to recoup some of the cost so he can make more and inturn allow more people the ability to get something rare and usefull.

  10. Do you people ‘challenge’ everything that somebody does in this field? Piperjde seems to have at least a basic understanding of what this publisher had to expend of his own funds to produce 100 CDs. Certainly doesn’t seem to me that he’s in this ‘for the money’. Nobody is forcing anybody to purchase this CD,,,and Alaisdair Dearg is a good beginner tune, so…????

  11. On a side note. As I read this, there is an advertisement banner on the page for Ian Macdonalds book, announcing unpublished tunes from PM Donald MacLeod…….was there any compinsation there?

  12. Colin, thank you. You hit on most of my points. Of pointing out Mr. MacDonalds book, I was just stating that many people use other peoples material unchallenged by the public all the time. I never remember him being questioned in an open forum. I would like to think you are correct in suggesting that maybe this gentleman has gone through the appropiate channels and gained permission to do this. As far as how much he stands to make. If he does indeed have permission and it only cost him a few bucks per CD to make, than why should we still care? I can’t fathom why you haven’t made any money off of that CD!!! I own a copy of it, and feel bad now knowing that these artist aren’t being compensated a little bit. But then again, you didn’t have to pay for the recording time or production either. Bands at the Worlds get recorded and never see a dime, but at the same time most of them use tunes that I’m sure, they have not received permission to use at an event that’s being recorded for money making purposes. My hope is that this guy, did everything the right way, and hopefully he makes a few bucks on it, or the estate of Mr. Nicol, or the estate, of who actually wrote the tunes. PS, if anyone wants to use my tunes, feel FREE.

  13. At the risk of seen to be flogging a dead horse here; I do not understand how it is seen to be right or the least bit acceptable to make even a farthing out of processing Bob Nicol’s teachings at a summer school, no matter how long it has been since that school took place , or regardless of what the costs etc are, however minimal or however significant those might be. [edited]

  14. We get recordings of top quality playing all the time at summer schools. But surely we all respect the fact that those recordings and that playing is not ours to package and sell!!! How disrespectful can anybody be! It would be nice to think that Robert Nicol, in some discussion years ago gave his blessing for a project such as this. Failing that, his descendents if he had any, got together with the initiator of this project and they decided that it would be nice to share the knowledge around, that Robert Nicol would have approved of this, and that any monies would go to deserving piping projects! If this is not the case, then it seems disrespectful to Robert Nicol to buy the CD. It would be nice to have clarification so we can decide whether it feels ethically sound to buy it or not.

  15. Again though. They aren’t Mr. Nicol’s tunes in the first place. He technically had no right to allow them to be recorded. Just saying. I would like to say while we are at own fault for maybe being naive? about how much we allow to get out for free, I think it’s what makes us so great, and our music amazing.

  16. I couldn’t agree more bagpipermann. So much whining about someone that was kind enough to bring forth some recordings of Mr. Nicol. I hardly think anyone would be in this for the money. What a silly thought. We are lucky enough to be able to hear these recordings for education and comparisons. It is great to be able to have a listen to someone from the past that was so highly respected by so many. Why not let people that would like to hear it, hear it? Do you think there is some great profit being made by such a release? I hardly think so. Stop your whining and be happy that someone lets folks have a listen to Mr. Nicol. I suspect if he was alive and well, he would probably like the fact that his recordings live on for the education of others. We weren’t all as lucky as Jimmy McIntosh to hear this live.

  17. I’m a drummer, and I’m not complaining about the $25 for the CD. In fact, my copy of the CD is on it’s way to me in the mail. Very much looking forward to a single malt and some great music. James L



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