For the most recent tunes:
October, 2017, Lifeline
October, 2017, Hutt Valley High School Centenary
October, 2017, Dr Ralph Brock-Smith
July, 2017, The Pyper of Avalon
June, 2017, Jig on the Rock and Dr Lindsay Davidson
March, 2017, Song who writes Himself and Lammerlaw
Feb, 2017 An Beannachd and Lochend
To download: Desktops/laptops: right click on the pdf or mp3 icon and select "Save link as"
Tablets and smartphones: Tap to download or view online
Have you ever heard the pipes played digitally? Don't cringe too much - it sounds less synthetic than you might expect. The three tunes below were composed and played on Sibelius - a computer program used to professionally compose and write music. The notated music can then be played with various stored music sounds including bagpipes. Sibelius had 650 instruments available at last count, including a bagpipe chanter, and drone. Unlike conventional Pipe notation, the music must be created in a key, in this case A Major. The notation of gracenotes can be complex for the more florid ornaments, but they are amazingly uniform compared with the struggle a live performer has. The advantage of the system is that it has a rather greater pitch range than conventional, eg., one of the pieces in this collection reaches high C#. It is also possible to create chromatic notes not in the original scale. The Scary Pensioner is an example but shows why this has been traditionally avoided – discordance is worse than usual. The match of Drone and Chanter volume proved poor, and impossible to adjust. This was because an unvarying loudness has been programmed in. The only solution was to have a "quartet" of pipers playing the melody in unison above the drones to give 4x the volume. Interesting, but live performance has much greater clarity. Other programs dedicated to bagpipe imitation are said to be much more accurate and pleasing. Three Sibelius examples are in this section.
Flock House was an agricultural training centre near Bulls in the North Island, NZ, 1924-1987 - now a conference centre. Originally it was a “thank you” to British seamen who kept New Zealand exports viable during WWI. Their dependants were trained there and settled on New Zealand farms. The jig was written during a communications training course run by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research late last century
Dr Tom Little served as an optometrist with the International Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for more than 30 turbulent years. I met him during a visit to Kabul in the late ‘90s. In 2010, returning to Kabul after doing a remote eye clinic, he and seven other foreign aid workers with him were murdered then robbed. (2nd pdf is an instrumental version)
Pipe Major Masaharu Hoshi
Bagpipes and bands are rare in Japan, though Toyota has sponsored one. Professor Masaharu Hoshi of Hiroshima University led a disparate group of scientists for several years in a variety of projects. On his 2011 retirement, I declared him an honorary “Pipe Major” of the group and wrote the tune for him
The Irvings of New Zealand
Oran An Beatha
Yet to come
Maria of the Snows (A flamenco jig)
We had a Spanish English language student staying with us, whose full name was a mouthful: Maria de las Nieves Ruis de los Panos Martin de Vidales. (She had numerous problems with bureaucracies!) There were so many Marias in Spain, she said, that she preferred to be called Maria de las Nieves, Maria of the Snows. This poetic name almost demands a pipe tune! It sounds more like a flamenco as it proceeds, but is rather easier than it sounds
Pipe Major Brian Jackson by Don Sargent
Brian Jackson was Pipe Major of the Hutt Valley Pipe Band. This tune was written in the early ‘60s (roughly) and played at a Pipe Band Contest but through modesty called a “traditional air”! It does not seem to occur in published collections of Don Sargent’s music, but seems to me well worthy of it
Rev. Dr Ross Wards
This tune celebrates a more than 50 year association with Ross, who was in the Hutt Valley High School Pipe Band and Hutt Valley Pipe Band with me. He had a long vocation in the Anglican Ministry, remained an adherent of piping, and was known for his enthusiasm for the pipe organ. His doctorate was in Scottish Culture
March of the Fat Friars.
A lightweight ¾ piece. These overweight monks of very unsteady pace and gait are heading off to a retreat. They are clearly short of breath, and one appears to tread on a companion’s foot. Fortunately there are more grace notes as the piece progresses. This piece is best played with a hard reed prone to squeal!.
A rant is supposed to be an intense, long-continued speech, perhaps dance, or possibly playing of an instrument under the grip of a strong (often negative) emotion. A good example is the pipe tune The Cameronian Rant. In Western classical music, the tarantella can be of this type.The surname above is actually Irish, and the music is apposite there, if anywhere. The name is also a Israeli word for “dance”. The piece is unlike any other rant I have been able to find, in that it is in ¾ time and sounds something like a wild reel
The Loch Ness Monster’s Cold
This piece (a march) arose from a friend's remark that bagpipes sounded like the Loch Ness Monster with a cold. So the piece is composed to sound like that. Coincidentally the recording technique produced a flattened low G which could easily be the honking sound of nasal passages getting a good cleanout!