Friday, December 16, 2011

... RIP... The Gaelic College, St. Ann's, Nova Scotia

The Gaelic College, St. Ann's, Nova Scotia
The Gaelic College in St. Ann's has been the centre of Cape Breton teaching for almost 2/3 of a century. Some of the best pipers, drummers, fiddlers, dancers, Gaelic educators and more have taught students from far and wide. I spent many summers myself there as an instructor... many happy weeks each year soaking up the ambience of the Cape Breton culture. Piping flourished. It is not a stretch of the truth to say that almost every piper of note from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick most likely attended a session or two at the venerable institution. Enough said glorifying its past!

Highland Piping has just been removed from the curriculum to be replaced by Cape Breton (kitchenpiping) ! What next?

Thinking of its future as a bastion of piping excellence is more like preparing a eulogy for a close friend.  I have been following the thread in and I just shake my head. One responder was bold enough to infer Cape Breton piping as the only true form from centuries ago. He cites Barry Shears' book on the topic, which reads as a mythical fable for those who couldn't make it in the bigs! I have read the book with an open mind... and there began my problem...the author and his sources are totally polarized on this other (older) style of piping and imply heavily that competitive styles have all but completely divorced themselves from the tradition. There is no hint of a liberal opinion on all forms of piping. Hogwash!

Tradition or more aptly, living traditions evolve. There is a need for sound technical and rhythmic tuition in the present sense to effectively play styles like that found historically in Cape Breton. To stop one in favour of another is a huge regressive step.  The administrators of the College must be reminded that the Shears book is based on ill founded assumptions! Piobaireachd was the music of the Highland pipe at the time of the clearances in the 1700's when immigration started... there was also light music for the dancing.... competitive light music evolved after the fact. The short sighted College admin has chosen to single out only one branch of the great music at the exclusion of all others. If they were true to their mandate, it would be piobaireachd rather than kitchenpiping to survive these troubled times.

For Shame...  I fear they will live to regret it.

Before I close, have a look at Michael Grey's Blog on this site or found at Dunaber Music.

Mike is worthy of the following quote:

"There’s great glory and tradition and, dare I say, Gaelic-ness to today’s “competitive” bagpipe music. It’s a rich, lively tradition with huge vibrancy. It evolves. It moves forward. It influences, even CB fiddlers – whether they know it or not."

.... a full shillings worth, don't you think?

You might consider going to PipesDrums as well. Pay special attention to the comments of others.

Of note, I was asked to join the faculty for 2012. NOT! I am not qualified to teach Cape Breton piping, assuming it is defined as being aligned with the fiddle... nor are 99% of all the pipers in existence today. Unfortunately, to wish them well in this misguided adventure would imply there was a realistic opportunity for success. So let the College RIP.