Càirdeas nam Pìobairean (Hamish Moore’s organisation, The Fellowship of Pipers) presents the 2016 School of Traditional Scots and Gaelic Song, Music and Dance in Barga.
I am very happy to be writing again for barganews and this time, a somewhat in depth article (full article can be read here) concerning the school which took place in the Conservatorio di San Elisabetta in Barga Vecchia on the 17th until 24th September 2016.
I established a similar school, “Ceòlas”, in the heartland of Gaelic culture on The Hebridean island of South Uist twenty years ago. The coined name, Ceòlas is a combination of two Gaelic words namely, ceòl which means music and eòlas which means understanding.
The Barga School is philosophically based on the principals of Ceòlas.
Over at least the last 250 years, social, political and religious forces damaged and or changed Scotland’s culture to such an extent that by the middle of the 20th century much had been lost or changed beyond recognition, leaving only unrecognisable remnants which came to be generally regarded but misrepresented as a true perspective of Scottish culture.
The fragments of the older culture were held on to in the geographical and social fringes of the country e.g. the Gaelic singing of The Western Isles and parts of The West Highlands, The fiddle playing of Shetland and Orkney, the Doric singing of the north east and Angus, the ballads of the Borders and on the social fringes, in the traditional singing and in some cases piping, passed on orally from generation to generation by the travellers of Scotland.
Much of what was left has been rescued and saved as a result of “The Folk Revival” which started evolving in the middle of the 20th century. One of the key figures in this vital process was Hamish Henderson, an academic, poet, author, song writer and literary scholar who lectured and worked in The University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies for most of his life. Hamish went out to these geographical and social fringes documenting and recording as much of this precious material as was possible. It is now permanently held in the archives of The School of Scottish Studies for the Nation.
The most extreme example, in my mind at least, of a geographical fringe is the isolated island of Cape Breton in the province of Nova Scotia in eastern Canada where, as a result of the infamous Highland Clearances, hundreds of thousands of Gaelic speaking highlanders settled at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. There were in fact 150,000 native Gaelic speakers in Cape Breton by the middle of the 19th century.
Their isolation, their faith, the hostile environment they encountered and their love of their culture were all factors in them holding on tenaciously to, and celebrating, their precious language, music, song and dance that they had brought from the Highlands of Scotland.
They preserved a fiddle and piping style, orally learned which is in complete sympathy with the rhythms and tempi of their hard shoe percussive step dance. Current research demonstrates irrefutably and corroboratively that these styles of dance and music existed in Scotland. Pat Ballantyne, one of our tutors at The Barga School, has recently completed a PhD thesis on this very subject. I am delighted, and it is a particular privilege, to welcome to the school, two of our Cape Breton cousins, Derrick Cameron who will be teaching guitar accompaniment to traditional music and his wife Melody who will be teaching Step Dance and fiddle.
Gary West – Pipes
Fin Moore – Pipes
Fiona Hunter – Scots song
Kathleen MacInnes– Gaelic song
Sarah McFadyen – Fiddle
Derrick Cameron (Cape Breton) – Guitar accompaniment
Melody Cameron (Cape Breton) – Step dance and Fiddle
Pat Ballantyne – Step dance
So – what of Barga and The School here?
Firstly we will eschew the stereotypical view of what Scottish Culture is – the parody of itself which was a politically motivated creation.
We will be rediscovering and celebrating with the help of the best of our tradition bearers our beautiful past traditions which have been saved for us, are now main stream, and represent a living tradition. The school in Barga is just a small strand of the exciting movement which has overtaken Scotland.
More than this we will be breaking down the artificially created barriers between the different elements of our tradition.
For this reason we study two disciplines, each interrelated and we come together at the end of each day for an integrated session. Each of these parts when re-united will support and enhance each other and the product will be greater than the sum of the parts. There will be tears of joy and sadness when alchemy is achieved.
Barga will provide the rest: – The Conservatorio, the wonderful welcoming people, the spectacular food, the beauty of the city where magic happens and the chance and random meetings will constantly take place in piazzas and inspire a tune or a song – living – soaring – maybe even to heaven.
SOGNI D’ORO. – Hamish Moore 09/09/2016
painter and photographer – started barganews.com, the first on line news site in Tuscany, Italy back in 1996