Cape Mabou Quickstep

The Genesis of the Tune

In March of 2015, Nuallan began a Kickstarter project to fund the final costs of their six-track EP CD, Nuallan. In the words of the project’s Kickstarter Page:

Nuallan is going to record! The project will be a six track EP and will be released officially on Saturday, July 4th at the gala closing concert of KitchenFest! 2015 at Colaisde na Gàidhlig/The Gaelic College. The funds raised with this Kickstarter will go towards studio time (Lakewind Sound Studio), hiring outside musicians (accompanists), CD manufacturing, composition mechanical rights, artwork/graphic design and some marketing material.

The formation of Nuallan was facilitated by Colaisde na Gàidhlig/The Gaelic College in the fall of 2012. The College wished to reinstate a piping group, following in the footsteps of the very successful Gaelic College Pipe Band. Nuallan and the College continue this close collaborative relationship in the pursuit of the fulfillment of their mission.

Nuallan’s mission is to represent, promote and explore the Gaelic-dance style of piping brought to Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland some 200 years ago through performance, education and collaboration with other musicians, dancers and singers. This project serves to capture the piping tradition as it exists in Cape Breton today.

The group is composed of three Cape Breton pipers: Keith MacDonald, Kevin Dugas and Kenneth MacKenzie. Piano, guitar and drum accompaniment and stepdancing provide any energy needed that three sets of bagpipes might miss!

The Gaelic-dance style of piping in Cape Breton was nourished and maintained to recent years through the playing of legendary players such as the Curries of Frenchvale, the Beatons of Mabou Coal Mines and the MacDonnells of Deepdale, among many others. This rich style of playing had a strong focus on the rhythm and musicality of the music. Nuallan’s members are known individually for their rhythmic, musical playing and are brought together to celebrate the importance of the connection between piping, Gaelic song and dance.

The Gaelic word Nuallan itself has two main meanings. It literally translates as the signature, vibrant droning sound of the Highland bagpipes. It can also describe the constant murmuring sound of the ocean. This provides this group with an additional link to its musical historical evolution since travelling across the Atlantic Ocean with the early Scottish settlers.

I was more than happy to contribute to this fine project: the now-released EP CD is indeed a great one! Among the other incentives was “a tune composed for you or a loved one by the members of Nuallan and sent to you with a copy of the CD”.

In May, I received a questionnaire asking “What would you like the name of the tune to be?”, to which I responded “Cape Mabou March”.

In August, I learned that Nuallan had chosen Keith MacDonald to write the tune, given his close association with Cape Mabou, and I received by e-mail the version on the chanter below, with the slightly altered title Cape Mabou Quickstep, which better aligns with its metre. Due to a misunderstanding, I did not receive the sheet music for the tune until the summer of 2016, when Keith gave me a handwritten sheet of music, a scan of which appears below, somewhat darkened from its actual state to make it more readable.

I asked Keith for permission to publish both the sheet music and the audio clip on my web site, which he graciously gave. All rights to the tune remain with Keith.

Cape Mabou is a large area, once described by a Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History page that is no longer on-line as as an outlier of the Avalon Terrane (the surrounding area all belongs to the Aspy Terrane) forming “a rounded knoll 15 km [9.3 mi] by 8 km [5 mi] which reaches an elevation of 335 m [1,100 ft] at the north end and 320 m [1,050 ft] at the south end”. I have no ærial photo showing all of Cape Mabou, but you will find many photos of various scenes within it in my several photo essays on this web site, especially Cape Mabou and Cape Mabou Highlands. I’ve spent many lovely hours hiking the trails of the Cape Mabou Trail Club and enjoying the fantastic views to be had from them. Cape Mabou Quickstep is a great tune that will be playing in my head on future hikes of Cape Mabou and I hope it becomes widely known and played. Enjoy!

Sheet Music as Handed Me by Keith MacDonald

Cape Mabou Quickstep by Keith MacDonald

Keith’s Solo Chanter Rendition