Piping Scots Culture into a Little Bit of Italy

They say that in the Tuscan hill town of Barga, near Lucca, anyone who speaks English does so with a Glasgow accent, such has been the degree of emigration to the west of Scotland from the area.

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This may be an exaggeration, but it is entirely true that on Wednesday the town will resound with the strains of Scottish traditional music.

The pealing bells of the medieval town’s duomo will mell with the strains of Scots and Italian choirs to introduce a line-up of visiting singers and players, including singer and piper Ken Campbell, pipes and fiddle duo Fin Moore and Sarah Hoy, The Cast (Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis, who found themselves unexpectedly in the limelight when the Sex and the City film featured their beautiful rendition of Auld Lang Syne), traditional singers Scott Gardiner and Loreen Merriman, fiddler and pianist Fiona Moore and the “folk choir” Sangstream.

The event, which may well become an annual event in the town’s 17th-century theatre, has been organised by Hamish Moore, the Dunkeld pipemaker and piper (and father of Fin and Fiona), who has been Barga’s musician-in-residence since the beginning of the year.

He first visited the place in May last year, having heard the Scottish painter John Bellany, who now lives there, extolling its merits on a radio show. “Barga is full of artists and musicians and creative people of all sorts,” says Moore. “One of the local bars, Aristo’s, is the unofficial cultural centre (site here), and I got involved with music sessions there with my small pipes.”

During such sessions, he fell in with the editor of the English- language online journal, and they came up with the idea of an artist-in-residence. Next thing he knew, Moore was summoned to the mayor’s office and officially offered the post. He has spent this year installed in a rent- and rates-free studio in Piazza Angelio, the main square of the old town.

Leaving his flourishing pipemaking business in Perthshire in the charge of his son, Fin, Moore currently makes the chanters and their reeds in Barga, dispatching them back to Dunkeld for finishing the pipes. He describes his residency as “one of the most enjoyable and privileged experiences of my life. The old town is just magical. Because the streets are too narrow for traffic, for the most part everyone walks everywhere, so there is always communication between people on the streets.”

While he reports that there is no tradition of the zampogna – the big Italian bagpipe – in the area, he was invited to the province of Iserna, where zampognas are still played, and gave workshops in the Italian Spring Piping School there.

Nothing prepared him for Barga town centre at the height of the summer season when, he says, “it’s like walking down Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday afternoon”. (articles here)

“It is estimated that 60 per cent of the population of Barga have relatives in the west of Scotland, mainly in Glasgow, Paisley, Largs and Saltcoats.” Of the three Italian women Moore has recruited to act as MCs for Wednesday’s concert, one used to run a cafe at Bearsden Cross while another comes from an Italian family in Dumfries.

Barga already hosts a jazz festival (site here), an opera festival (articles here) and, of course, its unique Sagra del Pesce e Patate, a celebration of that decidedly non-Italian concoction that nevertheless made the livings and sometimes the fortunes of its enterprising immigrants – fish and chips. Now it seems on the way to boasting its own Scottish folk festival as well. What more could a place want?

By Jim Gilchrist (source Scotsman)

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“THEY say that in the Tuscan hill town of Barga, near Lucca, anyone who speaks English does so with a Glasgow accent.”

Ecco. Now I know why nobody understands me.


I understand you M, except when you’re talking about bus schedules. Welcome back db.

Jack Nannini
Jack Nannini

… been wondering when you’d stop swanning about the place and get back to work!
– welcome back on-line Mr. Baaganews!


hey – fucking brilliant to see it up and running again after all you hard work and effort