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> Issue 52 > Page 45 - The Bagpipe in Cape Breton: From a Conversation with Barry Shears, Piper

Page 45 - The Bagpipe in Cape Breton: From a Conversation with Barry Shears, Piper

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1989/8/1 (272 reads)

gus MacDonald, who's from Scotland. I would like to see more pibroch players. But basically the research I want to get into is, maybe something was written down. Maybe in somebody's attic some place there might be an old piece of manuscript paper with a few notes jotted down. I was fortunate enough to get a photocopy of the unpublished MacNeil MS, which was found in Gillis Point.... It contains a lot of tunes that would have been played at the turn of the century. In Cape Breton. Angus J. MacNeil--he's the author of the MS--he was a great friend with John Lewis MacKin? non from Inverness County. Now John Lewis MacKinnon apparently was a note-reader and had a substantial collection of printed mu? sic books, or published music books. Some of the tunes in the manuscript, they're ob? vious reproductions of printed tunes. But some of them I can't find anywhere. I've been to several sources, and there's just nothing. A lot of them are just traditional reels. They just have no title, just "tra? ditional" written by it. I did find a reel for Vincent MacLellan-- Vincent Ghobha--who published Failte Ceap Breatuinn before the turn of the century, which was a book of Gaelic songs and poems. Now, whether or not it was made for him, or if he made it himself--! haven't been able to ascertain that. I found another tune, "Tha'n Daorach air Calum," or "Malcolm on a Spree," is the name of it. And it's a slow air. It's quite pretty. And I played it for Archie Alex Sheumais MacKenzie, who's originally from Christmas Island. And he knew this family of MacNeils from Gillis Point. And he remembers hearing it on the violin as a boy, but he hasn't heard it since. Now I suspect either that might have had its ba? sis in a song, judging from the title, or it just might have been a piper by the name of Malcolm who was suffering from a hangover and decided to lament his own po? sition, so he made this tune. It's a two- parted march. But there's just tantalizing little exam? ples of tunes in there (in the manu? script) . I've come across other tunes that I haven't been able to locate in any of the 19th-century collections that I have-- of which I have a fair number. (What does this mean? There's two things we seem to be talking about here. One is that you're looking for a survival of what was known in Scotland at the time of Cape Breton pipers coming to Cape Breton. And at the same time, are you saying that you're also looking for creative work done in Cape Breton for the pipes?) Yes. That's exactly right. During my research I came across, in the book just published by Uni? versity College of Cape Breton Press, Im? pressions of Cape Breton, they talk about this C. H. Farnum, who walked in 1885 the Cabot Trail. And he talks about a gather? ing of the clans on the shores of Lake Ainslie. And he went over. And he said a large part of the day was dedicated to dancing. And there were huge crowds gath? ered around the platforms watching the pipers. One piper, a shaggy man, very tall, sat upright in a chair, cheeks puffed out. He seemed to be the presiding genius over some heathen rite. I later talked with him, and he proved to be one of the gentlest of men. And we talked of the native airs of Cape Breton. So there were tunes composed in Cape Breton. I'm just trying to collect them. If we draw a parallel with the fiddlers--I mean, certainly the genius of the fiddlers DRAFTEX ARCHITECTURAL DRAFTING & DESIGN COMMERCIAL & RESIDENTIAL DESIGN BLUEPRINTING & COPYING URBAN CENTRE 3390 Piummer Avenue New Waterford, N. S. B1H 1Z1 BILL WHITE Bus.: 862-6111 Res.: 862-7408 Specialists in XT' %i1 'Qeolfl''' • No structural changes rWy* '?'r??' f • No more painting ??fyinwOW3?? • Clean irom inside ''/f'J''''i' FREE ESTIMATES 341 Welton St.. Sydney SERVING ALL OF CAPE BRETON PRODUCTS LTD. Oceon Lawn & Garden Equipment Tillers Sod Cutters Air Eators Engine Hoists Much Jacks Tow Bars More- Call: GLACE BAY 849-1616 South (Campbells Comer) - P. O. Box 265 Your Sign of Quality DON'T ACCEPT LESS Let our experienced staff help you with ail your printing needs SPECIALISTS IN PROCESS COLOR PRINTING 180 Townsend St.. Sydney f%r*r*' 564-8245 Fax: (902) 539-2040 539-8666
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