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Donald Maclean's Farewell to Oban

A free bagpipe lesson by Pipe Major Bill Robertson

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Donald Maclean's Farewell to Oban

The composer for Donald Maclean's Farewell to Oban was Archie McNeall. A Scotsman, born on the island of Gigha. Known as the Blind Piper.

He became progressively blind as a result of a accident at the age of 10. One of his first instructors was John Wallace an officer on the C.T.S. Empress, a ship that housed boys from unfortunate backgrounds, which had a pipe band (as well as a brass band). He wrote for the Piping Times and taught at a College of Piping Summer School in the early 1950's. He was a prolific and highly respected composer. Reputed to have employment at the Henderson Bagpipes workshop, after WWII, testing drones and chanters.

He was the father of Alex MacNeill (who emigrated to Canada) and gave his set of pipes to student Jimmy McMillan of B.C., Canada. he spent his final days in a blind asylum in Helensburgh.

The above information was sourced from Andrew Lenz's Bagpipe Journey, a very and good informative website.

Archie McNeill

Lesson Pointers

In this fine popular competition type March, I have set out mainly to explain and show how to get the clarity of execution necessary in 2/4 marches, yet maintaining the expression and lift of the music. Sadly I have found that some pipers of promise, and some of the higher levels, tend to crush some of the execution and neglect the important upbeats.

The clarity comes down simply to the point where two very short notes (32nd notes) appear together in cuttings and tachums that the first of these two notes is subtly more open/lengthened so that the high G grace note can be clearly heard on the next short note.

One must remember that the remaining value of the longer note of the upbeat or the downbeat must be controlled within the rhythm, i.e. in the first part see the short leading in note E, last note of the first bar that leads onto the next bar short note C with the high G grace note clarity. Also found in the third and fourth bars – and so on.

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