Bagpipe Music by Ned Smith:
But first, just a bit about our band, the Northern Border Caledonia:
I've been playing the Scottish bagpipe for 40 or
so years. I learned at the Gaelic College of Celtic Folk Arts in Cape Breton,
Nova Scotia. I used to go there for 6 weeks every summer in the early to
middle '60's. The instructor at that time was Seumas MacNeil, who I actually
liked a lot. His no-nonsense approach was not something that everyone appreciated,
but provided excellent instruction for those who were serious.
In the mid 1970's I had been giving lessons to a
few folks in this area and met a gal, Anthea O'Neal, who had been a drummer
in a pipe band in the Detroit area. So, it seemed only logical to start
Our area is not hugely Scottish, and is not hugely
populated in general, but we gathered some interested folks together and
did it. Over the years I have been very proud of our band; we have competed
successfully at major highland games in the Maritime Provinces and New England.
We ended up in 4th place in the 1994 North American Championships in grade
4. Not bad at all for a group made up mostly of people who learned the instruments
as adults in a rather secluded area.
After I retired from the band, various members decided
to go their own ways, some of them merging with another band in the area
to form the Maine Saint Andrew's Society Pipe Band, and some forming a new
band called The Waterworks Pipes and Drums.
is a page that we used for beginners to show the notes of the bagpipe scale
and the correct fingerings.
One of the things that our band became known for
was the originality of our arrangements and the unique content of our competition
medleys. Some purists (including some judges) didn't always like our material,
but most found it quite refreshing.
Here are some samples of tunes that I wrote:
(The tunes have been scanned and converted into GIF or JPEG formats,
since I couldn't think of any other way to get the music files that I created
with an old, old copy of Deluxe Music Construction Set into a form that all
Running in the Rain
is a hornpipe that has been very popular. It was vaguely inspired by Duncan
Johnston's tune "The Streaker," and depicts the attempt to scurry through
the rain drops while avoiding a soaking.
Busride to Calais
is a jig that was inspired by the band's trips across Route 9 from Bangor
to the Canadian border. Route 9 is called "The Airline" since it provides
the most direct route to the Maritime Provinces. It is now under almost
constant reconstruction, but is still filled with unexpected ups, downs,
and twisty turny bits.
Donna's Right Hand
is a jig written for our medley a couple of years ago. One of our pipers
(Donna, obviously) was having a lot of trouble with the bottom hand fingering
in the jig that I had originally written for the medley, so I wrote and substituted
this one for for the other.
is a waltz that came along a couple of years ago. I often think that pipe
bands play too many tunes that are fast and aggressive as opposed to slowish
and pretty. (Listen to some Scottish fiddle music for some great tunes which
can be adapted to the bagpipe. I've used tunes by Neil Gow and J. Scott
Skinner in medleys.)
The Eider Duck Bounce
was written after sitting and watching young Eider Ducks in the middle of
July as they learn to swim through breakers and bounce back for more. There
is a protected Eider Duck nesting area on Kent Island- near our cottage on
Grand Manan, New Brunswick.
The Castle Adamant
takes its name from Princess Ida by Gilbert and Sullivan and the
ending phrase of each part of the reel is based on the opening few notes
of the overture from that operetta. The strathspey seemed a logical next
step and the tunes seem to work well together.
The Midnight March
is a tune that came along when I was messing around with putting the march,
"The Pibroch of Donald Dhubh," into the minor mode. I like the lift of 6/8
marches, but wanted one with a somewhat "darker" sound.
On the non-traditional side of things, I have enjoyed
writing tunes for the bagpipe that are not in any way Scottish or Celtic
in their styles. I see the bagpipe as a real, legitimate instrument capable
of playing a variety of musical styles. I've adapted passages from such
things as "The Entrance of the Peers" from Iolanthe by Gilbert and
Sullivan, and the Shaker hymn "A Gift to be Simple" for use in medleys.
On the other hand, I hate hearing pipe bands whining and thumping down the
street with "Yankee Doodle" or "The Marines Hymn." Tunes like that certainly
can be played on the bagpipe, but, I think, sound terrible. These tunes
below, while not in the Scottish tradition, do, I think, sound "right" on
is a calypso tune that I wrote for Jill Goldthwait, a piper with our band
for several years. We play it with a lot of percussion: bass and tenors
keeping a stong calypso beat with sides accenting the rythmn. I think the
tune sounds best played at a moderatedly slow and sexy calypso tempo.
The Northern Border Rag
is, as you may have guessed, a ragtime tune in the style of Scott Joplin
and others. We never got around to learning it in our band, but I still
The following are traditional tunes that I arranged for our band:
Gift to be Simple
is the old Shaker hymn presented first in rather an up-tempo style and then
in a more stately form. No, I didn't come up with the basic idea. I got
it after listening to Aaron Copeland's Appalacian Spring.
The Four Maries
is based on the Child Ballad of the same name. I thought it would make
a good pipe tune after hearing a brass band arrangement.
Morag of Dunvegan
is a Scottish waltz. I like it played with a strong emphasis on the first
beat of each bar almost in the style of a waulking song. I heard the North
River Singers do it that way years ago on Cape Breton Island and thought
it was great.
Lament for Donald MacPherson
is a Scott Skinner fiddle tune that we played in one of our medlies. It
is a beautiful, expressive slow air that I think goes very nicely on the
I hope you piper-types and other musicians enjoy
the tunes. I plan to put more on this page over the next few weeks, so check
Oh, and what about links? Well, this one
will take you to a very substantial list of pipe bands, with links to just
about anything piping related you might think of:
List of Pipe Band Web Pages
to Ned Smith's Moderately Cute Home Page