Small Tunes Podcast: “One of the Irish Piobaireachd”
In this episode, we dive back into the Campbell Canntaireachd. The Campbell manuscripts have been an inexhaustible resource for students of piobaireachd since their emergence in the early 20th century. The earliest of the manuscripts is dated 1797 and constitute the earliest pure record of piobaireachd music there is. Even still, this far away from their creation, there are tunes in both volumes that have never been heard in recent memory. One of these is tune 30 in volume 1 of the Campbell Canntaireachd and listed as “One of the Irish Piobaireachd.”
There has been plenty of speculation over the generations about a possible Irish origin for the form of piobaireachd music and its relationship to Irish harpers. Solid evidence though, one way or the other, is hard to pin down, but it is not unreasonable to imagine a cross-fertilization of musical traditions in the distant past and this is evident in many of the melody lines in several piobaireachd and in the obviously Irish titles of tunes in some of the old piobaireachd collections. Clan Bards of the past were known to travel to Ireland for training in all manner of the arts and Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries was known as a center of learning throughout Europe. But much of this speculation gets short shrift for purely Scottish origins of piobaireachd music. As Hugh Cheape says in his book Bagpipes: A National Collection of a National Instrument though, “Nevertheless, for the understanding of Highland piping, its historical context, as well as broader issues of cultural roots and mores, we ignore Ireland at our peril.” Listen to more history and background in the podcast along with a rendition of the tune on the bagpipe.
Follow Up and Additions
It’s fairly easy to blether on about the possible Irish connections to Scottish piobaireachd music as I’ve done here in the podcast, and in the recently published article in the EUSPBA’s Voice magazine. Sometimes though, more than words are needed and pictures tell the tale as much as the words. Taken together, these images provide a hint of connections between Irish and Scottish culture before the 17th century. As I said in the podcast, a hint is all we have at this moment, so far away from the times those connections may have been strongest.