Oban Times, 7 April 1911
The Royal Collection of Piobaireachd
Two years ago a book of original pipe music entitled “The Royal Collection of Piobaireachd was published by Mr. John Grant, Edinburgh. A the time of its first appearance the book was most favourably reviewed in the press and was cordially received by the public. Now a second and enlarged edition has appeared. There are fifteen additional and original tunes with Gaelic renderings of Prefaces and of the extended introduction.
The motive of the work is the revival of the ancient art of piobaireachd composition. There is an effort made to conserve the merits of this musical form of expression; the gladness of those who rejoice, as at the coming-of-age or marriage of the chief is here no less effectively represented then the grief of those who mourn the loss of the departed, while the martial spirit of the clansman is roused by an appeal conveyed an appropriate melodies.
The separate tunes are respectively dedicated to individuals to whom a copy of the respective tunes have been presented in illuminated form. The tunes have also been entered and protected at Stationers Hall. The work is entitled “the Royal Collection of Piobaireachd” because it contains several Royal tunes by special acceptance. Others have been accepted by Highland Chieftains and members of the Scottish nobility to whom it was customary in the olden days to dedicate tunes on special occasions. The composer has rendered those tunes in some instances in presence of those to whom they were dedicated who heartily expressed their appreciation, and rejoiced that their name should once more be associated with the revival of an ancient and neglected art.
There is one element and merit which are to be particularly observed, that is the fertility of the imagination that can create so many new melodies in the stir and bustle of a great city. If even in the olden times it was considered to be mysterious to produce fresh harmonies in the environment of corry and mountain and glen, with the sounds and suggestions of nature on every hand how much harder must it be to create original music in the distracted and confined surroundings of city life. The ancient composers developed their themes to the voice of the purling brook, or in the “rapture of the lonely shore.” But the author this volume has produced his work in his leisure moments in the task of a mercantile evocation, his attention being often absorbed in occupations which are not congenial to the development of a musical theme.
The work combines in itself an exposition of Highland musical art with Prefaces and Introduction in the Gaelic language. This is a new feature in books of piobaireachd. It is a welcome feature, especially in these days when so many efforts are put forth to preserve the old tongue.
In spite of the distinguished list of patrons contained in the end of the volume, the undertaking of such a magnificent scale was certainly a financial risk, but it is gratifying to think that the confidence and enterprise of the author are likely to be justified in this respect as in every other. The reviewer thinks such enterprise should be an effective call to those who are interested in piobaireachd to combine their efforts in order to encourage and preserve the noble and ancient art.
Another feature is the improved method (as we consider) of writing the toarluath and crunluath variations. Each movement or group of notes in these variations have really the value of a crotchet. There is usually more value assigned to each movement in the method that hitherto has been, and in books a piobaireachd, but Mr. Grant has widely departed from that misleading custom. Misleading especially to beginners. Instead of following the confused style in vogue he has given its exact musical value to every movement so that the real theme of the piece can be followed even in the variations from beginning to end. This is a striking novelty but it is one which does a new light on ancient piobaireachd, and introduces order and beauty, where formally there was undoubted confusion. Anyone who understands the relation between the ground of a piobaireachd and its toarluath and crunluath variations must honestly confess that he has been often provoked by and amazed at the perversity with which writers of such music have long adhered to an incorrect and fallacious method; and the measure of correctness which performers retained was certainly not found from books of piobaireachd in the past, but from tradition merely. This shows how tenacious an error may be, especially when sanctioned by conservative performers, who hereto an error just because others did so before them.
Finally the volume is bound in Royal blue with gilt title page and gilt-edged, and is one of the handsomest that has appeared in the history of piobaireachd. The title is surmounted with the crown, the emblem of Royal recognition. In this instance the modern accessories of printing and workmanship have been lavished to the utmost upon the presentation of piobaireachd in written form. All that is now wanting is the wholehearted enthusiasm and cooperation of all lovers of this accomplishment; so that its rendering on the national instrument shall be no less pleasant to the ear than this volume is to the eye. In the contemporary revival of interest in the musical and linguisti c love of our country both at home and abroad this new edition of Mr. Grant’s book is no small contribution; and it is to be ardently hoped that the merits of the work will be fully recognized, and that it may receive from the public the appreciation it so well deserves.