Kylie MacHattie reviews ‘A First Book of Modern Settings for the Great Highland Bagpipe’
A First Book of Modern Settings for the Great Highland Bagpipe
Compiled and published by Calum Galleitch
75 compositions, 94 pages
$29, available at Amazon
Reviewed by Kylie MacHattie
I am a nerd when it comes to new books, especially new piping books, so A First Book of Modern Settings for the Great Highland Bagpipe, compiled and sett by Calum Galleitch, was exciting to receive. I teach a great deal over the course of the year with the bulk of my students being beginners, so I was also very curious. What makes this book different from the standard, tried and true College of Piping’s “Green Book” or the National Piping Centre’s tutor?
First, this is not a tutor book but a collection of music for beginner pipers. The book contains 75 tunes and the introduction states that the intention is to take the selection of tunes that overlap in the aforementioned and other tutor books and add in other tunes that the compiler thought suitable.
A First Book of Modern Settings for the Great Highland Bagpipe is compiled with early pipers in mind, though teachers will also find it valuable. The selection is quite good in range, with most of the standard foundational tunes that challenge the student as the book progresses. The tunes span marches, strathspeys, reels, jigs, slow airs, a simple Highland dance tune and four piobaireachds, going from familiar starter tunes to more challenging ones with the goal of getting a student’s feet wet with competition style repertoire. There are tunes to suit everyone’s interest and intent, whether it is to compete, or simply to play and have fun learning a new instrument.
The book isn’t just a collection of tunes. It delves deeply into the origins of each piece so you have the historical context of the tune.
One aspect that really stood out for me, which I think is the book’s best feature, is that the book isn’t just a collection of tunes. It delves deeply into the origins of each piece so you have the historical context of the tune. To me, knowing the history of the tune name and even some melodies adds significant value and it adds to the enjoyment of learning the tune. Many tunes are accompanied by lyrics as well, in both Gaelic and English. The translations from Gaelic are Galleitch’s own. He clearly conducted thorough research.
Here are some examples of what one can expect to find: he provides 34 other titles for “The Liberton Pipe Band Polka”; we learn some lyrics to “The Cock of the North,” with the suggestion that what continues is too lewd to be published; and we find out who the original Mairi is of “Mairi Bhan/Mairi’s Wedding” fame. The notes for each tune are fascinating, and plenty of them are humorous.
The only picky comment I have is that sometimes the first part of one tune starts on one page and then the second part is on the next page. I think this was because of size constraints, as it is a not a particularly big book. The size of the book is quite nice, even with my criticism, as you aren’t lugging around a big book, which we all know can take up valuable space in the pipe case.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed A First Book of Modern Settings for the Great Highland Bagpipe. It’s fun and interesting to know the background of tunes. It’s obvious that Calum Galleitch invested a lot of time in the thoughtfully assembled collection.
I would highly recommend A First Book of Modern Settings for the Great Highland Bagpipe to beginner pipers who do not want to invest in numerous collections to start their piping journey.
Originally from British Columbia, Kylie MacHattie lives in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, where she is a full-time instructor at the College of Piping & Celtic Performing Arts. In her piping career, she has competed at the Professional/Open level and has been a member of the Grade 1 Simon Fraser University, 78th Fraser Highlanders and Toronto Police pipe bands, and now runs the College of Piping’s Grade 3 band.
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