Piper & Drummer Promotes a Piobaireachd Composing Renaissance

Published: May 31, 2001

The Piper & Drummer magazine, the world’s leading publication for the Scottish musical arts, and GHB Communications of Toronto, Canada, have announced that they are commissioning three of today’s most creative composers of music for the Highland bagpipe to write a piobaireachd with an emphasis on creativity.

Roderick S. MacDonald of London, England; Neil Dickie of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; and Michael Grey of Dundas, Ontario, Canada, each have agreed to compose a piobaireachd that adheres to the basic constructs of the idiom, but more freely experiments with rhythm, melody, and structure.

“Unlike light music, piobaireachd composition and creativity have not flourished over the last hundred years,” said Andrew Berthoff, editor of the Piper & Drummer and director of GHB Communications. “What piobaireachd composition that has occurred since 1900 is more often than not predictable and boring, and has little appeal to today’s listener. There is absolutely no reason why piobaireachd, as an art form, cannot thrive as a continually evolving part of Highland piping.”

The three composers are each recognized internationally for their originality in light music composition. They were carefully selected as writers who have continually challenged preconceptions of “traditional” pipe music. Many of their original compositions have changed the way Highland pipe music is today perceived, and the organizers of the project expect that the same creative assertiveness will come through in the three piobaireachd compositions.

Rather than developing a somewhat predictable composing competition, the organizers chose simply to commission the tunes. Many of the greatest piobaireachds from the 19th, 18th, and 17th centuries were written by professional pipers employed to, among other things, create original music, so in many ways it’s a return to the roots of piobaireachd creativity.

“We love, enjoy, and respect traditional piobaireachd as it exists today,” Berthoff continued, “but new composition in the idiom is virtually non-existent. By commissioning these tunes, it is our hope that it will stimulate others to take the art form and experiment with it, thus creating a creative trend in ceol mor not seen since the 19th century.

The three new piobaireachds will be published in the August 2001 print edition of the Piper & Drummer.

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