Simon Chadwick's
Early Gaelic Harp Emporium

CDs featuring Barnaby Brown


Delphian DCD34171, 2016
Barnaby Brown has been studying the Cambell canntaireachd manuscript for his PhD studies. This substantial collection of pibroch or ceol mor, set for the bagpipes and compiled in c.1797, is not as widely known as it should be, thanks to being written in a unique written notation system based on vocal canntaireachd (chanting).
As part of his PhD work, Barnaby has co-ordinated this collaboration between himself on pipes and voice, Bill Taylor on harp and lyre, and Clare Salaman on fiddles. The booklet expresses a desire to “break out of the piping ghetto”, and the combination of the big pipes contrasting with lyres, harp, fiddle and hurdy-gurdy certainly does that, representing a great illustration of ceol mor as a shared tradition between pipes, fiddle and harp.
From a historical point of view some of the juxtapositions seem a little incongruous, such as playing a fairly close reading of the 1797 score on a palaeolithic flute, or an early medieval lyre, or using the Norwegian hardingfele (hardanger fiddle) instead of the baroque Italian violin which would have been common in Scotland in the late 18th century. Having said that, the fiddle versions of these tunes are just beautiful, magnificently played, and the hardingfele’s tone is just right for the gestures and drones. Bill Taylor’s small, modern wire-strung “Highland clarsach” speaks more thinly than a replica early Gaelic harp, and I would have liked to hear the unison strings of na comhluighe, and the idiomatic contrast between right hand bass and left hand treble in these harp settings. Bill’s 11 minute solo performance on early medieval lyre is quite superb though.
Barnaby’s big pipes with the replica of the 17th century Iain Dall chanter sounds just wonderful and I’m sorry we only get one track of his marvellous playing on it. Barnaby sings on two of the tracks, though following the theme of staying very close to the manuscript notations, he sings the written notation rather than picking up on any Gaelic song traditions associated with any of the tunes. In some ways, there is quite a tension here, between the adventurous instrumentation and the very tight adherence to the notated text.
This is a very scholarly and thoughtful recording, with the performances tightly controlled and arranged by Barnaby to ilustrate his deep knowledge and understanding of the manuscript and the related traditions. And it presents a varied and lush contrast of the sounds of pipes, harps, fiddles and voice to really try to show off the grandeur and majesty of what really is one of the world’s almost lost classical music traditions.
£15 +


In Praise of Saint Columba
Delphian DCD34137, 2014
Subtitled “The sound world of the Celtic church”, this unusual and interesting CD by the choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, directed by Geoffrey Webber, is an exploration of different repertories connected to St Columba. Seventh century hymns from Iona, tenth century chants from Irish monasteries in Switzerland, and fourtheenth century antiphons from Inchcolm. The singing is very clean, as you would expect from a Cambridge college choir; more unexpected and unusual is the inclusion of instrumental accompaniments and vignettes. Barnaby Brown accompanies a number of the chants on either triplepipes or lyre; Simon O’Dwyer and Malachy Frame play a pair of wooden horns, and we also hear a bit of drum, bell and crotal. The musical influences are deliberately wide, from the mainstream notated chant of European monastic tradition, to the traditional psalm-singing of recent Hebridean oral tradition. The booklet includes all of the texts and translations as well as some insightful commentary on the sources and working methods.
£15 +

ceol na pioba

Ceòl na Pìoba - Pìob Mhòr
This compilation presents live recordings made during a concert of pìobaireachd at the 1999 Edinburgh International Festival. Most of the tracks are in standard modern styles, played by Roderick MacLeod, Robert Wallace, Allan MacDonald, William MacDonald and William McCallum, but of greatest interest are two tracks played by Barnaby Brown, using a replica 18th century set of pipes and playing music taken from the oldest manuscripts of written pibroch music. Barnaby's historical style is very beautiful baroque music, quite different from the modern voice of the Scottish bagpipes.
£13 +

For other piping CDs see Allan MacDonald and Jimmy O'Brien-Moran. For piping books see Hugh Cheape. See also other CDs featuring Bill Taylor.