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 a band.
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.

Here 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 could read.)

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.

Sliding By 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 the bagpipe.

Jill's Endeavor 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 like it.

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 bagpipe.

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 back.

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:

Montie's List of Pipe Band Web Pages

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