Play It Like You Sing It, Volume Two cover


Volume Two is now out of print. We suggest to try purchasing from Northwest Bagpipes in Tigard, Oregon, USA.

October 2018
9 x 12 inches
288 pages
ISBN 978-1-988747-03-3
$69.99 CA / $54.99 US / £39.99 UK

(Volume One: History, Culture, and Images sold separately.)

Play It Like You Sing It, Volume Two: The Music

This groundbreaking Canadian collection from Cape Breton piper Barry W. Shears features history, culture, images, bagpipe and fiddle sheet music, and Gaelic puirt-á-beul songs from the piping tradition of Nova Scotia. Each volume is sold separately.

The history of the Great Highland bagpipes in Nova Scotia began in the 1750s. Scottish and Highland piping traditions continued in Nova Scotia for over 250 years, through periods of immigration, community building, Confederation, economic out-migration, and two world wars. In Gaelic communities of the mainland and Cape Breton, throughout the 19th century bagpipe music was interwoven with fiddle music, Gaelic singing, and traditional and evolving dance traditions. A unique form of dance music emerged and flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, characterized by lively jigs and rousing strathspeys, reels, and quicksteps. Many of these tunes existed in multiple regional variations before the modern standardization of piping. Many also had corresponding Gaelic words known as puirt-á-beul or mouth music, which were often used to teach and transmit pipe music within in families and communities, as well as providing enjoyment in daily life.

Volume One: History, Culture, and Images, sold separately, tells the story of the many families and individuals who maintained this important aspect of Nova Scotia Gaelic culture despite adversity. through history, culture, and over 100 images of pipers and their instruments in 19th and 20th-century Nova Scotia.

Volume Two: The Music presents bagpipe arrangements and their Gaelic words as they were played and sung in Nova Scotia. The book contains 230 settings of pipe tunes, 19 fiddle tune settings connected to the piping tradition, and over 85 sets of port-á-beul lyrics. It is illustrated with 75 images of Nova Scotian pipers. Each volume is sold separately.

“The historical importance of this collection is immense in the vaunted and sometimes misunderstood world of traditional piping. The first of the two volumes contains the cultural and personal histories of the pipers and the communities in which they lived, with discussion of personal and regional styles, and the environment of song and dance. The many photographs in both volumes are worth the cover price alone. The second is filled with 249 tunes, which are accompanied by more photographs, context and history.

Many of the tunes will be new to the vast majority of pipers in the Scottish tradition. Shears also includes variants and unique settings of well-known tunes, like “The Devil in the Kitchen,” “Cha Till MacCruimein,” “The Reel of Tulloch” and “Caber Feidh.” Comparisons reveal rhythms that don’t exist in or have been cleansed from 20th century Scottish tune books. Many of the tunes are also accompanied by their puirt a beul (mouth music) equivalents giving insight into the interior rhythms of the tunes. The references, appendix and indexes of source material are much more extensive than anything I have seen in books of pipe tunes. The introduction to the second volume, “Revitalizing a Tradition,” covers the history of the MacNeil manuscript, puirt a beul, an explanation of transcription and traditional technique, and types of pipe music and dance in their cultural context. […]

Every new publication by Shears is greatly appreciated in a world where graduates in traditional music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland might play “Cha Till MacCruimein” more in the style of Kenny G than Rory MacKinnon. Venturing outside tradition, playing film themes while riding a unicycle in costume, for example, may be clever but it is ultimately unsatisfying for piper and audience. These two volumes of massive research are a refreshing return to the well of tradition.”

—John Dally