The Great Highland Bagpipes of Scotland have a mighty voice. Something mystical in them resonates in the Earth and air and reaches miles across the countryside. For this reason, the bagpipes were originally an instrument of communication and war: a signal to your troops and cry of terror to the hearts of the enemy.
Long ago, when battles were still met by great armies on foot, the pipers would lead. Such was the advance at the battle of Vittoria in the Napoleonic wars, when the British commander, the Marquis of Wellington, won a great victory. Still preserved by the Scots Guard today, the musical piece "The Heroes of Vittoria" commemorates that day. It's musical form is a retreat, once used to signal troop movements, but later becoming a nostalgic form to honor the fallen. Retreats are always written in 3/4 time.
In military life, retreats were often played in the evening. They signaled a quiet time, perhaps a call to bed. I will play "The Heroes of Vittoria" for you now (thanks to technology, a duet with myself). Close you eyes and imagine the twilight. Think of great deeds and loss. Think of the tragedy of war.
CLICK TO PLAY
(Played on the John Walsh Shuttle Pipes--an experiment with new audio mixing software)