Back to Scotland...and the Penny Whistle!

Written by: Denise Stewart

HEY!! I found the penny whistle!!! Well, in actuality it wasn’t completely gone, but it is BACK!!

And when I say the penny whistle is back, I mean we're back!! We are back.  You know what I mean.  Think about those days when you get all dressed up to go to a wedding or that elegant restaurant and you are having a great time....then you start to feel uncomfortable.  The shoes don’t feel so good.  The body support system you put in place to have everything fit just right is on your last nerve. And the music has just become too loud. So you go home, rip off said bindings, put on your sweats or pjs, brush your teeth and prop your feet up with your remote to watch your favorite show.

Ahh, now we’re home!

.....After the Jump

That’s how I feel about this second part of Outlander Season 2. Don’t get me wrong.  It was nice to be in France. The clothes were extravagant.  The sets and settings were opulent with the grand homes and the beautiful gardens. The experience was different than anything we had encountered so far.  And it was all fun and games….until it wasn’t. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. It began to feel like when you go to your great aunt’s house for a visit, everything is new and different, but it’s not yours. It’s fun to explore her rooms and closets, but soon you want to go home and be in your own bed.  I began to long for those Scotland feels, sights, and sounds!! I wanted those warm wools and a dram of whisky. But more than anything, I longed for  the penny whistle, the bodhran and the bagpipes in full force!

I have enjoyed so much of the score that Bear has provided for us in the first seven episodes much more than I expected.  I think back to the scene when Frank is burning Claire’s 18th Century clothes and the complete symphonic tones from the violins and full orchestra that rose in the air much like the smoke from the fire.  It was a hauntingly beautiful piece.  Then when the Comte was introduced, the viola da gamba was used. Now it is played in Scotland as well, but not in such a regal manner.  The piano and flute were introduced and used most beautifully for Faith’s theme. Those sounds were all wonderful, but they weren’t always comfortable. They didn’t feel like home.

Bear McCreary has had a challenge in his composition of this season.  In his own blog Bear stated,  “I increased the size of my string ensemble, and added violas da gamba, harpsichord, baroque lute, baroque trumpets, timpani and percussion. I wanted the music to drop us headfirst into a regal, unique soundscape.”  And that he did.  All the acting and set designs attribute so much to this show, but the score adds the final layer to the experience.  It does it in a way most times that we are unaware of it’s presence.  I have had to go back and watch scenes, emotional ones, just to hear what the music sounds like.  Usually the first time through it blends so well with the scene that I barely hear it.  It completely stirs the emotion. That is great composing!

Honestly, I truly was surprised that Bear was able to incorporate so much Scotland into the Paris episodes. But he did so very strategically.  Whether it was the lone penny whistle playing the “Claire and Jamie Theme” or when Jamie was showing himself a warrior ala chasing Fergus in their first encounter, the musical styles merged and transposed beautifully. I truly got excited when I heard the use of the bodhran and the bagpipes.

I am looking forward to reading about how Bear was able to accomplish such a task. Because he also writes that,  “One of my favorite experiences as a composer is working on a project that allows (or forces) me to learn a new musical language. My crash course in French baroque music, performance, and history, will always stand out as one of the most exciting creative times in my career. Shockingly, the sound of the score is about to change once again, to a style both familiar and new at the same time. I’ll be back to blog about that in the near future.”

But, we no longer have to wait for that change in score, it is here!

Don't worry!  You'll get this reference in a sec . . . 

The score for the title card for episode 208 reverts back to the solo penny whistle.  It made me feel like I was settling in for that comfortable, familiar place, like a big comfy couch with a warm cup of cocoa.   And then we roll into the grandeur of the bagpipes and drums while looking at this beautiful long shot of the Scottish mountains in all their glory!  I’ve watched this episode a few times, and I’ll tell you how it felt to me.  Have you ever visited The Bridal Veil Falls at Niagara Falls?   You are able to walk up to the falls to the closest point called the Hurricane Deck. When I have gone there, I felt like I could not catch my breath! And the beauty is astounding. This was the feeling I first felt when watching this episode and seeing this panoramic shot of Scotland with the majestic score behind.   Absolutely breathtaking!

Throughout the episode again and again we are reintroduced to the familiar sounds. The penny whistle is played when Jamie and Claire are shown in intimate moments. And when Jamie is with the wee lass, talking to her in Gaelic, the penny whistle appears again, ever so softly. This helps to stir such emotion for such a touching scene.  The Scottish fiddle and the viola da gamba play many of the tunes behind the speaking lines during so many of the scenes.

Can you pass me the throw? I’m getting cozy here!!

We aren’t limited to just the instruments of Scotland either! Of course, as I have already mentioned, we hear the “Claire and Jamie Theme” throughout this episode.  When Jamie and Claire are traveling to see Lord Lovat, the “Dance of the Druids” plays much like it did when they set sail for France in the last shot of season one.  This song has become one that we hear when Jamie and Claire are setting out for a new adventure and I couldn’t be more excited! It fills me with the thrill and anticipation much like it did in S1E1.  We see the dancers at Craig Na Dun, clueless regarding what we were about to face when we first hear it.    

So we are back!!

Like those comfortable old sweats, we are able to sit back and feel at home again.  Let’s relax and take in all that is Outlander! The soft tones, the moving melodies and the blaring scores.   I am sure we will be hearing more of the warrior type music with the drums and the bagpipes.  The Great Highland bagpipes were used to call the Clans to battle.  And it is no secret that we are heading into some intense battle(s). I say, if we are to face adversity, at least we will do it with the familiarity of what we have come to hear as Outlander!

Lone Piper Would Call For Battle

So settle in; pass a dram, or two; and  Fàilte!!

Are you ready for the return to Scotland? 
What did you miss most of Scotland while we were in France?


  1. Music has such a powerful, emotional impact. The music on this series is magical!

  2. Lovely piece, Denise! The music REALLY stood out for me in Episode 2.09. Another tour-de-force by Bear. Thanks for breaking it down!!!! More Bear and more Penny Whistle (and drums!)

    1. Thanks, Anne!! I have truly enjoyed this second half of the season. And I have always enjoyed the Scottish score!!

  3. Thank You Denise,loved this ep.& the music Bear just so talented!

    1. Thank you for reading, zsuzsip!! I just can't get enough of Bear! Add on this last episode 209 and I'm even more giddy!


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