Sunday, March 29, 2009

Highland Cathedral 3/28/09

Highland Cathedral 

Bagpipe music is unique in all the world. It is something that you either hate or love without reason and without excuse. For me, bagpipe music is a direct link to my inner-self, to my most primitive being. It reaches into my chest and grabs my very soul, bringing a familiar burning to my nose which is a prelude to the tears running down my face.

This is a totally irrational response to a noise that can drive normal people out of the neighborhood when a piper is practicing. I have no excuse for this behavior nor any apology. Somewhere in my DNA there is a Scottish gene that was introduced to, or reminded about, this music. It is that gene that controls this response and I thank God for it.

When I was young, my grandfather told me that our name was not always Simmons. He claimed that it was McSimonds and that we were descendants from a family who escaped into southern Scotland, fleeing the taxation and tyranny of Edward Longshanks, King of England. They became septs of the Fraser Clan. The Frasers later joined in the rebellion against England and were instrumental in driving the English out of Scotland.

Edward I (17 June 1239 – 7 July 1307), popularly known as Longshanks, the English Justinian, and the Hammer of the Scots was a Plantagenet King of England who achieved historical fame by conquering large parts of Wales and almost succeeding in doing the same to Scotland but failed, partly due to William Wallace's uniting the clans against the English invasion.

Whether or not Grandpa Simmons was right, I cannot tell from the records we have at present, but the signs are there. The last relative I can track in America was born in Ireland and that matches the history of the Frasers who migrated to Northern Ireland during the time that England offered cheap land to the Scots to colonize Northern Ireland and make it a Protestant enclave. The pictures here are of the red "dress" tartan and the green "hunting" tartan of the Frasers and the ruins of the ancestral home and abbey. The coat of arms uses the six strawberry blossoms and crowns of Simon Fraser, the most famous clan chief of the Frasers.

For LDS people, they owe one of their most sung hymns to a Scottish tune, "Scotland the Brave". That hymn is "Praise to the Man" dedicated to Joseph Smith, his life and martyrdom. It is a stirring melody, especially when played by passed pipes and orchestra. It is also the Scottish National Anthem. The link to that is here. 

However, my favorite is the final link. The link below will take you to a 4 minute version of "Highland Cathedral". I once tried to write new words to this melody, but they never came. Maybe another time. The link below takes you to a performance of this beautiful song by the massed pipes and orchestra of South Australia Police Band, German Army Band,

Owl Town Pipe & Drum Band (Germany), Koninklijke Militaire Kapel, Upper Austria Army Band, Portuguese Navy Band, Royal Swedish Army Drum Corps, The Vanda Miss Joaquim Pipe Band Singapore, The South African Navy Band (bet you didn't know South Africa even had a navy), US Army Europe Band, and the Belarus Army Band.

The fact that all of these bands are massed to play this tune is a tribute to it's popularity. Interestingly enough, Highland Cathedral was written by German musicians Ulrich Roever and Michael Korb. In this performance the Conductor is Captain Lutz Bammler, director of the German Navy Band "North Sea" and the 10 year old drummer boy is Kes Kunze from the Owl Town P&D Band.

Now you are asking yourself, "Why in the world did this guy write this blog?" I'll tell you, I have been trying to convince the young adults who come to a Fireside at our home each Sunday how music is all around them, how it influences them, and that music can transport them to a new place. I have been showing and playing for them different forms and strengths of music. Tonight I played some Handle and "Scotland the Brave" because they chose "Praise to the Man" as the opening song tonight. After playing that one bagpipe song, I was hooked for the whole night on bagpipe music.

Sorry for the diversion.

This is the link


Shannon Simmons said...

That was truly beautiful. Music is so powerful! There is some strange allure to the bagpipes in our family....Trish and I like them too...and I stop everytime I see a piper or hear the music -- you've taught us well!!

Trisha said...

Okay Shannon, take my thunder. Yes dad I too love the bagpipes. I could listen to them all day. If I had to choose one form of music to listen to for the rest of my life that is what it would be. Thank you for the lessons you taught me on our many road trips for your work, they still stick with me to this day. Like the seasons of the song.

Marilyn said...

Doug, I love the new blog format! By the time you get home you will be the computer wizard in the Stake. Just look at all the new things you are learning. And the big picture of you and Cindy is great! Tomorrow is April Fool's Day, but I'm expecting no foolishness from you - they probably don't do April Fool jokes in Russia - too serious a people?

Melinda said...

Elder Simmons,

The blog looks great. You have music, a follower box, a nice new header, and links. I am impressed. Keep up the great work. I love reading about your mission experience. I love bagpipes too. How could someone not like bagpipes??????