The Campbell Letters – a new publication


Piobaireachd enthusiasts need no introduction to James Campbell and to his father, Archibald Campbell of Kilberry, the compiler of the Kilberry Book of Ceol Mor and editor of Books 2 to 10 of the Piobaireachd Society Collection.

Before his death in 2003, James Campbell had given a collection of his own, and of his father’s, letters to Malcolm McRae, a former President of the Piobaireachd Society and, until recently, a member of the Society’s Music Committee, who has now published an edited selection of the correspondence in book form, supplementing the letters with related articles and historical material.

The letters deal with many of the most important aspects of ceòl mòr technique, interpretation and transmission – and expand upon James Campbell’s belief that some methods of writing piobaireachd on the stave have led to misinterpretation of the scores; he emphasises the distinction to be drawn between styles of writing and styles of playing.

The correspondence between one or other of the Campbells and John Macdonald of Inverness, Sheriff Grant of Rothiemurchus, Neville McKay, Norman Matheson, Archie Kenneth, Robert Brown and others illustrates the depth of the writers’ understanding of the art of piobaireachd, and places much of James Campbell’s thinking into the public domain for the first time.

McRae, pictured, told that in making the material available, his aim was to arouse renewed interest in many aspects of the music which are as relevant today as when the letters were written, and to encourage a deeper understanding of Piobaireachd in light of the traditional principles espoused by Archibald and James Campbell.

The book will be of interest to everyone with an interest in ceòl mòr, whose afficionados may well view it as a companion publication to the Kilberry Book of Ceol Mor and to Sidelights on the Kilberry Book of Ceol Mor.

The book, A4 size with soft covers, contains 243 pages and is available from The Bagpipe Shop, priced £25 (plus shipping).