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  • Writer's pictureDale Newton

Bag Pipes and the Vermont Highland Games June 15

Updated: Jun 16

Brian McCandless is our guest at Fruitlands. He is both playing his bag pipes and teaching at the Vermont Highland Games today at the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro. After breakfast this morning, he shared two songs on two different pipes. The first bag pipe was made by a renown pipe builder in England. Brian also makes his own pipes as shown in the second video.

Hello Dale and Janet: Here is a short explanation of the bagpipe I played for you in the first video at your breakfast table.

Called a "pastoral" bagpipe, it is a reproduction made by Jonathan Swayne in Glastonbury, England based on an original made in the 1780's by Hugh Robertson in Edinburgh, Scotland. The wood is boxwood, acid stained, mounted with brass and imitation ivory. The bag is leather and the instrument is inflated with a bellows secured around Brian's waist. The use of bellows-inflation instead of mouth-blowing is so that thin wooden reeds can be used, making a soft indoor tone: these reeds would be quickly damaged by the moisture from mouth blowing. The pastoral bagpipe was a parlor instrument used to play song melodies, jigs and reels - all popular in the 18th century throughout England, Scotland and parts of Ireland. At the time it was considered to be a refinement over the raucous pipes being played outdoors, and it has been depicted being played in small ensembles with fiddle and flute. The air Brian plays is to a love song called "Ca' The Yowes" which was used for Robert Burns' song of the same name: the first stanza is:

Ca' the yowes tae the knowes,

Ca' them whare the heather grows,

Ca' them whare the burnie rows,

My bonnie dearie.

[Call the ewes to the hills, call them where the heather grows, call them where the stream flows, my bonnie dearie]


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