Dan Nevans reviews John Dew’s ‘Pipe Tunes’

Dan Nevans

It’s been a hell of a year for new music. This year, plenty of performers have released new records, new collections and performances on live streams and YouTube recitals. Just in time for Christmas, here comes a collection of tunes titled simply, Pipe Tunes. John Dew, one of our most exciting prospects, has  compiled this collection.

John is the winner of multiple online submission contests tis year, and in October performed R. S. MacDonald’s moving tribute to the late Alex Duncan at the Glenfiddich. A graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and double World Pipe Band Champion, an accomplished solo piper and trad musician, John Dew has a lot of experience and influences to draw from to produce this his first collection of tunes.

I was lucky enough to receive my copy in advance of the book’s initial launch last night, Friday, December 11. So, by the official release date I had acquainted myself with the book a little. Featuring a simple and clear ring-bound cover, Pipe Tunes looks friendly and appealing if somewhat ambiguous about what is inside. The book has quite a few adverts for things like ‘Flux Blowpipe’ and ‘G1 Reeds’, ‘The Tone Protector’ and ‘Pipe Tunes Online’ reminiscent of the Logan’s or Edcath collections which featured similar page-sized advertisements. It’s probably a sensible idea for a composer to seek sponsorship in this manner and my hat is off to these sponsors for supporting John in the creation and publication of the book.

An opening forward by Stuart Liddell (John’s Pipe Major at Iveraray & District Pipe Band) is a classy introduction to John from one of the unquestionable greats of piping. John’s brief welcome to readers sends a message that this book is more about the music than the man.

It’s hard to get a feel for any body of work after only a few read throughs. Like most pipers, I hummed my way through each page, selecting different pieces that caught my attention to be played through on the practice chanter, making mental notes for those I’d like to learn. I’m sure my current selection will differ from yours and, in time, will change anyway. Three tunes out of the 80-odd that stuck out to me were, Wilson Brown of Crieff, The Crieff Highland Games and Anne Spalding – a very Crieff-y selection indeed.

These, of course, are not the only tunes I enjoyed but if I list every tune I felt needed a second play through, we’d be here all day and I’m sure you’ve got something coming from Amazon you’ll need to listen out for.

All in all, what am I telling you here? If you are looking for new music from a new voice buy this book. If you want to support a young artist and help continue their development, buy this book. If you want to get a Christmas gift for your piping pal and you reckon another year of rubber ducks and piper hose will go down like a burst balloon, then buy this book.

In fact, buy it here from The Bagpipe Shop for only 15 quid.