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.