A phrase I’ve heard many times and always makes me laugh a little bit. As a bagpiper in Tampa Bay I’ve played many surprising tunes for weddings and funerals like the Star Wars theme (I am serious the groom wanted us to play it and the bride wasn’t too happy when we did). Now I don’t suggest playing anything just random because its funny for such special events without being asked to. Now I’m not going to talk about just any tunes but 3 very famous ones I am asked about at almost every gig I pipe at.
That Scottish song…
It’s Scotland the Brave is the unofficial national anthem of Scotland (as well as The Flower of Scotland). Originating around the tune of the 20th century Scotland the Brave or Alba an Aigh in Gaelic, it has become very well know throughout the world. Scotland the Brave was voted 2nd to The Flower of Scotland as the unofficial national anthem in 2006 by the people of Scotland. The original lyrics are:
Hark! When the night is falling Hear, Hear! the pipes are calling, Loudly and proudly calling, down through the glen. There where the hills are sleeping, Now feel the blood a-leaping, High as the spirits of the old Highland men.
Chorus (Towering in gallant fame, Scotland my mountain hame, High may your proud standards gloriously wave, Land of my high endeavour, Land of the shining river, Land of my heart for ever, Scotland the brave.)
High in the misty Highlands, Out by the purple islands, Brave are the hearts that beat beneath Scottish skies. Wild are the winds to meet you, Staunch are the friends that greet you, Kind as the love that shines from fair maidens’ eyes.
Far off in sunlit places, Sad are the Scottish faces, Yearning to feel the kiss of sweet Scottish rain. Where tropic skies are beaming, Love sets the heart a-dreaming, Longing and dreaming for the homeland again.
What’s that one song with the Cathedral?!
One of the newer tunes that has become a staple in the piping tune book, Highland Cathedral, was written by 2 Germans for a highland games in Germany and the lyrics by a Scotsman later. A very pretty tune and one I’ve started to enjoy playing, Highland Cathedral is an amazing tune for weddings to pipe down the bridal party or bride. What about funerals? Why yes it is a great tune for funerals to greet the mourners because of the beautiful melody and flow. It isn’t a traditional tune for funerals but I have played it a lot and it is always received well in the area. Weddings and funerals on the surface are extreme opposites but if you go deeper then you will see many similarities (no, that isn’t a joke about your live ending after you are married guys). The lyrics:
There is a land far from this distant shore Where heather grows and Highland eagles soar There is a land that will live ever more Deep in my heart, my Bonnie Scotland
Though I serve so far away I still see your streams, cities and dreams I can’t wait until the day When I’ll come home once more
And so Lord keep me from the harm of war Through all its dangers and the battle’s roar Keep me safe until I’m home once more Home to my own in Bonnie Scotland
Everyone remembers this tunes name so I never have an issue with people on this. The lyrics were written by a slave trader after he survived a horrible storm and asked God to forgive him for his sins. The man who wrote it, John Newton, left this world as a loved minister and wrote many more hymns. Now the melody is taken from a negro spiritual (appropriately enough) even though many argue it was a melody from a couple celtic tunes. Now I’ve played this near every wedding I’ve done and near every funeral because this is a tune that strikes every feeling. Some have only heard this at funerals and just the thought of Amazing Grace on bagpipes makes some people cry but I challenge you to read the lyrics to see the versatility of this tune:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
Shout, shout for glory,
Shout, shout aloud for glory;
Brother, sister, mourner,
All shout glory hallelujah.
Now this is the original lyrics and many people have done this tune over and over again, some great and some not so much. This is another tune I always go back and forth on because I play it so much with my bagpipes. Though I sometimes start to get tired of playing this tune I reflect on how is came around and how it affects so many people. I’ve had these tunes requested most of all, not just in Tampa Bay or Sarasota but also out towards Lakeland and of course Scotland! There isn’t anything like playing Amazing Grace went its 40ish degrees with 30-40 mph winds and a slight drizzle of rain… makes it perfect!