The Music of the MacLennan Scottish Group

The musicians of the MacLennan Scottish Group have always been an integral part of the group. From its inception the Group has had a small musical group of pipes and drums, led for many years by Pipe Major Bryan Bredin. From time to time, other musicians have played for the Group, at demonstrations, at the MacLennan Festival and at festivals abroad, but the pipers and drummers have been a constant presence.

The Scottish bagpipes are perhaps the most dramatic and warlike example of an instrument which occurs in most countries across Europe, from Estonia to Ireland, from Scotland to Bulgaria. The Scottish pipes have traditionally been a military instrument, and pipe bands follow a military style in performance. The music ranges from traditional tunes through to modern tunes.

Scottish dance music includes reels and jigs, rapid tunes whose tempo is also found in many other countries. Unique to Scotland, however, is the Strathspey tempo, a slower tempo featuring the Scotch snap which has occasionally been drawn on by classical musicians, such as Malcolm Arnold in his Four Scottish Dances. Hornpipes and marches also feature in the repertoire, along with slow airs and laments.
Piping for dancing is a particular skill, since it is, of course, necessary to maintain an even tempo, and to ensure that the tunes match the dances in terms of numbers of bars. The best military pipers do not always make the best dance pipers, since an understanding of the progress of a dance, and the ability to increase the tempo for some steps, and slow it down for other steps, all help to improve the partnership between pipers and dancers. Originally, many of the dances performed to the pipes would have been Highland dances, solo dances such as the Highland Fling and the Sword Dance (Gillie Chalium) performed by men.

The accordion and the fiddle are two other instruments to which Scottish dancing is traditionally performed, and these produce a much more gentle sound, appropriate both for country dancing and for some Step dancing.

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