OT: 10 August 1912 – Fear aig am bheil fios [John Grant] “The Piobaireachd society’s New Collection”



The Oban Times, 10 August, 1912

The Piobaireachd Society’s New Collection

3 August, 1912

Sir,–when I wrote my letter of 23rd July I had no idea that it was to be followed up by another on entirely different lines, and that I would have to make good my plea. In Mr. MacLennan’s letter of the same date he is reviewing Part VI it is not out yet. It is part V. That I have got. Therefore, I must correct your critic of would-be perfection; he has got part V., and doubtless No. VI. will follow. There is nothing like correcting small errors, as this is the best means of avoiding greater ones.

Mr. MacLennan’s desire to tear the Piobaireachd Society’s work two pieces has got such a hold of him that it has become chronic. But nevertheless he has to make good his statements. Mr. MacLennan says–” Part VI. (V.) Of the Piobaireachd Society’s publication has recently been issued, and I regret to note that it is as great a failure as its predecessors.” The same may be said about Mr. MacLennan’s criticism. His fifth effort to pick holes in a texture that is too tough for him, or his usual cry for war against the peace-loving body like the noblemen and gentlemen of the Piobaireachd Society, is as great a failure as ever.

“MacDonald of Glengarry’s Lament”

Mr. MacLennan says: “This is a beautiful tune spoiled.” Yes–in his criticism. His main objections are as follows:

1. That there are two grace notes in the first and second bars turned into theme notes to fill in the time.–Not so.

2. That there are seventeen syncopated beats cut up into two beats.–Nonsense!

3. That the toarluath and crunluath are pointed and timed quite differently for the succeeding tune.–The one tune has got nothing whatever to do with the other, and if Mr. MacLennan cares to look, he will see that the two tunes are quite differently constructed.

My answers to his errors follow in each case, but to give him every opportunity of fair play, perhaps he will point out the notes referred to in No. 1 and the beats referred to in No. 2.

“Kinlochmoidart’s Salute”

Mr. MacLennan’s objections are:

1. That in the urlar there are no less than 18 notes belonging to one beat stuck onto the next.–As a matter of fact this urlar is timed to perfection, each beat stands on itself alone; but perhaps Mr. MacLennan will be good enough to point out the notes he maintains are misplaced.

“The Battle of Auldearn.”

The objections are:

1. That the urlar and its doubling have 64 beats each.–Quite correct.

2. That the siubhal, its doubling, and the dara-siubhal, contain 32 beats each.–Quite correct.

3. That the treas-siubhal goes back to 64 beats. This might be given better in 6-8 time with 32 beats.

4. That the toarluath and crunluath had 32 beats.–Quite correct.

5. That there are some notes in one beat stuck onto the next.–Not so, but perhaps Mr. MacLennan will point out those notes.

“The Battle of Sheriffmuir.”

The points at issue are:

1. That this tune sprang from, or is a variant of “The Battle of Vatternish.”–Mr. MacLennan and I sprang from Adam, but that is not to say that we are the same individual, or that I am a variant of Mr. MacLennan. All tunes spring or come from the scale, but in the eyes of broad-minded man they all differ.

2. That the second beat in each part of the ground and siubhal ordaig is A. Quite correct, and certainly not B, as can be seen by anyone with eyes.

3. For a wonder the beats are correct here, but some of the variations are badly tied, Mr. MacLennan says.–Where?

4. That the treas-siubhal is written wrong.–Not so, but absolutely correct. Mr. MacLennan says it and the same variation in the “Battle of Auldearn” are both broadly written, but he does not say what is the right way. We kindly do so?

“The Blind Piper’s Obstinancy”

is apparently a tune too deep for Mr. MacLennan to understand, because he finds so many faults with it. It is a very fine setting, and agrees note for note with the MS. Setting which I possess. There is no need to get a setting from anyone.

“MacLeod of Colbeck’s Lament.”

The objections here are:

1. That its composer stole it from other three tunes.–In imagination.

2. That the beats are badly grouped.–Where?

3. That the whole tune is badly timed.–Not so.

4. That the urlar and variations do not agree.–To the extent of 90 per cent they do agree, and where they do not that lay with the composer–not with Mr. MacLennan.

“Catherine’s Lament” and “the Rout of Glen Fruin” have apparently escaped Mr. MacLennan’s notice.

Finally, your critics says that the Piobaireachd Society should get their music written by a man who has “a thorough knowledge of the Gaelic language, its songs, literature, and music, as well as the fingering of the chanter, and who has obtained the certificate of a college of music for having passed in the science of music, harmony, counterpoint, and instrumentation.” Where can such a man be found? The following questions may in the same way be asked of Mr. MacLennan. Is he a thorough Gaelic scholar, a fascinating singer, a professor of literature, a professor of music, a professional piper, has he obtained the certificate of any college of music, has he passed in the science of music in the mastery of harmony, does he understand counterpoint, and how many instruments does he play?

In conclusion, if your critic possessed all those qualities above referred to, he would not have found so much fault with the Piobaireachd Society’s book.–I am, etc.,

Fear Aig Am Bheil Fios

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