Ceòl Mór – The Great Music

The Highlands

The first time I heard Piobaireachd, I recognized immediately why it is considered ceòl mór, or “great music,” as compared to the popular Scottish music of dances, reels, marches and strathspeys, which are called “little music” or  ceòl beag. I was captivated by the measured, stately flow of music that offered subtle variations in note duration and tempo.

Piobaireachd is played on the Highland bagpipes by a solo piper.  One of the most complex and difficult genres in the piping repertoire, it has a meditative solemnity that is suitable for profound occasions. It is used to draw members of the clans together at gatherings, to recall an event in history, or to lament the passing of a loved one.

Piobaireachd comes from the heart of the Highlands, the origins of which are shrouded in legend dating back to the fifteen hundreds.  It is said that it was the MacCrimmon family of pipers from the Isle of Skye, who gave us the highly developed tunes.   You will recall that Queen Victoria’s piper Angus MacKay was the famed composer of pipe music that brought together a collection of Piobaireachd music.   After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, Piobaireachd continued to be played but there was a time that it fell into decline.  Even so, there has been a modern revival and renewed interest.  Music finds a way to survive.

This is the Lament for Kinlochmoidart, one of my favourite Piobaireachd tunes. Macdonald of Kinlochmoidart was a respected poet and soldier who fought on the Jacobite side.   These are the words (translated from Gaelic) that expresses the thoughts of his clan on his passing.

The sun is clouded. The hills are shrouded;
The sea is silent, it ends its roar.
The streams are crying; winds are sighing,
Our Moidart hero returns no more.

24 Comments

  1. billgncs says:

    you take the high road…..

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Slainte mhor agus a h-uile beannachd duibh
      Good health and every good blessing to you!
      A Gaelic Prayer

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      1. billgncs says:

        I get it… the “Clan”….. 🙂

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  2. arjun bagga says:

    Most stuff that goes around in the big big world, I know of them through my passion for movies. Bagpipe music was a surprise coincidence and a beautiful memory forever since. I noticed Alec Guinness in The Lawrence of Arabia as Prince Feisal and I was in awe of his performance. Back to back I sourced all his movies, is when I came across Tunes of Glory. I hope…someday….

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you, Arjun! I did not know about this movie!!! That is the beauty of blogging…the knowledge sharing is extraordinary. I have already located the movie and will be watching it this week. Sir Alec Guinness is always magnificent. I agree – movies open the doors to what is going on in the world around us. I fell in love with Shakespeare after watching “The Taming of the Shrew” with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

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  3. friendlytm says:

    Beautiful video, music and post! Thanks, Rebecca!

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you, my dear friend, for all of your support and encouragement! 🙂

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  4. Gallivanta says:

    No one else does a Lament as well as a lone piper.

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Well said! Especially when they stand on a hill at sunset!

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  5. cindy knoke says:

    Love this haunting music~

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Every time I hear the laments, I feel history unfolding. Thank you for your visit. I marvel at how you are able to keep in touch when you are on the move!! 🙂

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  6. ladysighs says:

    We/I am listening to a recording and a performance. And that is more than I thought I would ever be doing. I suppose most people hear the bagpipes while at a get together at a tourist thingy. Sitting in an audience. The sound is solemn and moving. You feel mesmerized somehow.

    What I am trying to say is: (yes I am getting there lol )
    I wonder what the feeling would have been like to hear it in the real instant of clan calling. It would have been important. You just would not have remarked: How nice.
    It would be part of who you were. 🙂

    Rebecca, you always seem to figure out what I mean. lol

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I know exactly what you mean! Vancouver has a Piobaireachd Society that meets ever 4 -5 months. They are very serious in persevering the spirit and intent of this musical genre. It is a night where bagpipers only play Piobaireachd. The first time I went, I was so moved by the music. People listened intently, some closing their eyes. And it does put me in a meditative state. Each tune has a history behind it which makes the music even more meaningful. For example ‘The Lament for the Children” is about a man who lost seven of eight sons in the course of a year to an unknown scourge. It seems that music is a way to grieve and heal. Thank you so much for your comments!

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  7. Lovely post and the video was the perfect ending

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you! There is so much more to discover – and it is so much easier when we can connect over the blogger miles.

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  8. Doris says:

    Indeed great music…this music is so relaxing and the video is so beautiful showing us the beautiful vistas in Scotland

    a friend always said this quote to me…
    “Twelve highlanders and a bagpipe make a rebellion.”
    -Scottish Proverb

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    1. Clanmother says:

      One thing about bagpipes – you can always count on hearing them from miles away. I love that quote!!! Have added it to my list…. Thank you!!

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  9. What a fabulous clip to showcase this beautiful and haunting music, and I love Doris’s Scottish proverb – so true!

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I do love piobaireachd. The music is rich in history; I confess I have not yet begun to understand the nuances. And that makes it even more exciting.

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  10. Lori Lipsky says:

    Informative post, touching music, Rebecca. Thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I knew you would like Piobaireachd. To me, it is poetry via music.

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  11. Ms Frances says:

    Great comments. There is no other musical instrument that can imitate the sound of the bagpipe. No wonder it is so popular.

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I couldn’t agree more!!! I love the bagpipes. 🙂

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