George Moss - Scottish Tradition 15: Pibroch

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Born in Strathglass in 1903, son of an estate worker, it was while his father was working on an estate in Glengarry that George Moss, not yet in his teens, began serious study of the repertory and traditions of the Highland bagpipe.

He competed on occasions but spent a lot of his time studying and playing pibroch (piobaireachd), also known in Gaelic as ceol mor or the great music.

This collection provides invaluable evidence of an earlier, truly Gaelic style of piping, which began to change in the years around World War One when George found that “the Gaelic style was falling out of fashion”.

Dr Peter Cooke, now retired but then of The School of Scottish Studies, first came to know George Moss through an article he had contributed to the journal Gairm on Gaelic terms in piping. When he first visited George the latter had not played his pipes nor even the practice chanter much for many years on the advice of his doctor. Peter found George very ready to sing examples from the pibroch repertory in his own canntaireachd and to share his deep knowledge of piping.

On subsequent visits George played examples for Peter on the practice chanter which the School’s technical department had equipped with a foot pump and bladder. To give some idea of how his style sounded on the great pipes, Peter later recruited the aid of piper friends who blew up the bag while George fingered the chanter. When his health improved sufficiently, George was later able to blow the chanter and do some teaching.

What is presented here is a distillation of many hours of informal discussions and playing recorded during a number of different visits over eleven years by Peter Cooke. It provides valuable evidence on the piping tradition during the hey-day of the Cameron School and illustrates the underlying principles that guided pipers in producing different types of variations from pibroch grounds.

Some aspects of George Moss’ style are certain to sound unfamiliar to today’s pipers who will note differences from present-day piping styles. It was important that this style of playing was archived.


Review by Iain Campbell

 George Moss was born in the early 20th century in Strathglass. He was not into his teens before he began studying the pipes and learnt in particular from Alex (Sandy) Cameron, piper to Cameron of Locheil. This was a time of change in piping styles and George did not take to the newer style, rarely competing as a consequence.

This fascinating CD is a re-issue of the last of a set of four cassettes showcasing a particular aspect of the pibroch repertoire of the Highland bagpipes and is a distillation of hours of discussion and playing between George and Dr Peter Cooke of The School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University. The School of Scottish Studies and Greentrax are to be complimented for issuing such important historical recordings.

It provides an important insight into a style of playing that differs from that played today and consequently will be of interest to students of the pipes and their history. There is discussion on the structure of the tunes, canntaireachd, and played examples on the practice chanter and pipes. At the time, George was not able to play because of illness, but with great resourcefulness the School equipped a chanter with a foot pump and bladder. Later Peter recruited the aid of piper friends who blew up the bag while George fingered the chanter.

The notes issued with the original cassette can be obtained online and contain transcriptions of the discussion and detailed notations of the tunes.

This product was added to our catalog on Monday 22 August, 2016.


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