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The Mysteries of Piobaireachd Volume 1: What’s in a Name?

Piobaireachd is one of the forms of music that is quintessentially Scottish.  It’s the original music of the GHB, played by lone pipers before anyone ever thought to make more than one piper play at the same time.  It’s sometimes referred to as the classical music of the bagpipes, and there is a lot more to a good piobaireachd than just playing the notes.  This series of posts will highlight some of the mysteries of piobaireachd, and why it’s such a unique style of music. 

One of the best things about a piobaireachd is often its title.  Tunes were traditionally written to celebrate or mourn a person, commemorate an event or battle, announce the gathering or movement of clans, or make a general commentary on life.  As such, each tune has a unique story behind it and the names are often very descriptive.  Here’s a list of some of my favorite piobaireachd names, in no particular order.  Tunes that I play are marked with an asterisk (*).

  • The Unjust Incarceration
  • The King’s Taxes
  • The Red-Speckled Bull
  • The Rout of the MacPhees
  • Lament for the Only Son
  • The Blind Piper’s Obstinacy
  • Lament for the Dead
  • The Massacre of Glencoe*
  • The Finger Lock
  • The MacKay’s White Banner
  • Scarce of Fishing
  • Lament for the Union (the Union being between England and Scotland)
  • The Vaunting
  • A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick
  • The Bicker
  • The Bells of Perth
  • Too Long in this Condition
  • The Glen is Mine
  • The Little Spree (A spree in this context refers to a drinking binge.  There are also tunes called The Big Spree and The Meddling Spree)
  • The Old Men of the Shells
  • The Desperate Battle of the Birds*
  • A Piper’s Warning to His Master

These are my favorite piobaireachd names; do you any others you like? 

2 Thoughts on “The Mysteries of Piobaireachd Volume 1: What’s in a Name?

  1. I’m a pipe beginner, I’ve started learning bagpipes last year and since some weeks, I’ve began my first piobaireachd….. and I’m fall in love with them :-)

    My first tune was glengarry’s lament and now I work on massacre of glencoe – the sweetest tune of the world ;-)

    ok ok, my crunluath is a strange thing, but I work on it ;-)

  2. Jim Roberts on October 15, 2008 at 10:17 am said:

    “The Sound of the Waves against the Castle of Duntroon”

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