OT: 17 April 1920 – H.S. Strafford “Bagpipe Musical Competition”



The Oban Times, 17 April, 1920

Bagpipe Musical Competition

Dunoon, 10 April, 1920

Sir,–Permit me, through the medium of your widely-read paper to answer the many enquiries that have reached me regarding the awards in this competition. The judging, as the competitors are already aware, is in the hands of the Scottish Pipers’ Society, and, in a recent letter from the Secretary thereof, I am informed that their decisions may be expected shortly. As I understand each member of the judging committee has gone through the tunes privately (over 200 in number), the task has been an arduous and painstaking one, and the thanks of all interested are due to the gentlemen who have shouldered so great a responsibility. Let me assure the competitors, at home and abroad, that the results will be sent to them by post card immediately they reached me, and will also appear in the “Olden Times” first issue thereafter. It will interest many of your readers to know that tunes have been forwarded from all overseas dominions –India, Canada, Africa, New Zealand, etc., and most of the best known pipe-majors in this country are represented.–I am, etc.,

H. S. Strafford

OT: 17 April 1926 – George S. McLennan [“Pipe-Major Gray on Mr. Grant’s Demonstration”]



The Oban Times, 17 April, 1926

[Pipe-Major Gray on Mr. Grant’s Demonstration]

 Aberdeen, 10 April, 1926

Sir,–in reply to the letter of Mr. John Grant in your issue of to-day’s date, please allow me to say that, after muddling and bungling the Toarluath and Crunluath question, he finds it expedient to try a fresh subject, Crunluath Mach, and demands of me to say why my father wrote this movement as he did. When I am satisfied that Mr. Grant has a thorough understanding of the subject of the present controversy, it will be time enough to seek fresh subjects. In the meantime, I refuse to allow him to side-track me in any such manner.

If Mr. Grant has now said all he can on the subject of Toarluath and Crunluath, then, obviously, he must stop. But he leaves the question of the movement on D in a greater muddle than ever. From the first, I have asked him to say why he omits the redundant low A when writing the movements from D. He has never replied to that question. Instead, he attempted to say how he wrote them. In doing this, he has made two completely different statements. He further adds to the tangle by blandly stating that when playing the movements he fingers it in quite a different manner to what he writes. Could anything be more absurd? No wonder he is anxious to change the subject.–I am, etc.,

Geo. S. McLennan

OT: 17 April 1926 – William Gray “Pipe-Major Gray on Mr. Grant’s Demonstration”



The Oban Times, 17 April, 1926

Pipe-Major Gray on Mr. Grant’s Demonstration

Glasgow, 10 April, 1926

Sir,–Relative to the above and in reply to your correspondent, Mr. John Grant, I have to state that I entirely disagree with his version of the demonstration as given in his letter in your columns. To begin with, Mr. Grant only monopolised and wasted time with matter entirely irrelevant. When he did attempt to demonstrate he did so on the practising chanter accompanied by his two boys and a youth, and not alone on the pipes as he previously promised in your paper. Mr. Grant says I failed to prove that he did not play the movements (Toarluath and Crunluath) as Mackay writes them. I showed Mr. Grant there and then that he attempted to play a themal note as a grace note. He replied that the A note at issue was so imperceptible that you could not hear it and he could not explain why Mackay wrote the same A as a themal mode. On this point alone my case is proven. Nevertheless Mr. Grant continues to suppose he plays exactly according to Mackay.

Mr. Grant says I did not look at his fingering. I did and observed same to be very incomplete and inconclusive. His attempts from slow rotation to quicker time were absolutely contradictory. Mr. Grant did not attempt to play the movements on “D” as per Mackay, but gave a rendering of his own, leaving out the redundant notes; again proving my case.

As the greater part of the evening was taken up by speechifying on the part of Mr. Grant, and having to catch the 9:30 p.m. train back to Glasgow, I concluded by asking him to play the Leumluath movements as given in “The Carles of the Breeks” and “The Glen is Mine,” where the very same redundant “A” is shown in all the diagrams accepting on “D” throughout Mackay. Mr. Grant’ s attempt was hopeless. I ask any piper to attempt this.

In his letter Mr. Grant also says he could have brought four or five first-class piobaireachd players upon the platform who were prepared to vouch for his correct playing, but that this would have been unfair to Mr. Gray. Decidedly not. I should have welcomed the opportunity and would like to know very much who they are?

Finally, Mr. Grant did not play the Toarluath and Crunluath movements on the platform in the Oddfellows’ Hall, Edinburgh, in perfect time and rhythm exactly as the MacCrimmons composed them in piobaireachd and as Angus Mackay wrote them.–I am, etc.,

William Gray

OT: 17 April 1926 – C.M.P. as Critic “The ‘Pibroch’ Controversy”



The Oban Times, 17 April, 1926

The “Pibroch” Controversy
—————
“C.M.P” as Critic
————
Variations of Pibroch

 

I wonder if the pipers who have been carrying on this controversy for some time back have any conception of the impression they are making on those of your readers who are not pipers, but still have some ideas concerning the music.

It could hardly have been other than a superfluity of imagination that made Mr. Grant believe he sounded the “A” in The Macintosh Lament at the Edinburgh discussion on “Toarluath,” which Mr. Gray and the assembled musical dons and littérateurs failed to catch up. Mr. Grant is entitled to put it the other way, if he chooses; but he is one against a number, if the newspaper reports are to be depended on. It is, after all, such an unimportant item in bagpipe music that it is hardly worth meddling with, and I would not meddle with it but to show its unimportance. What is “Pibroch,” in any case, but the vulgar section of pipe music? What is the quick finale in the exhibition dances we see nowadays on the platforms of Highland gatherings but a show of dexterity? It is not conceived in the spirit of art. Similarly, “Pibroch” is the outcome of the same spirit. It gives an opportunity to pipers to reveal their expertness in fingering the chanter. The variations of “Pibroch” are so purely mechanical that General Thomason has reduced them to a shorthand notation which, in recording them, makes an enormous saving and writing, engraving and paper. These various mechanical devices in “Pibroch” have their Gaelic names, which pipers never seem able to spell with correctness.

It is not generally known that the terms of “Pibroch” are just those of the Clàrsach as anciently practiced in Ireland, as far as they go. “Lúth” is the Gaelic for “activity” or “expertness,” and that term is subject to qualifying prefixes indicative of special characteristics in the expert movements alluded to. For example: Cruinn-luth (sometimes spelled creanluidh to reproduce the Irish pronunciation of cruinn, which is usually crinn); clia-luth; bárr-luth; glas-luth; leum-luth. Toarluath does not seem to be a clarsach term. I do not suppose the word is correctly spelled however. Angus Mackay and Donald MacDonald make sparing use of it, being content in most cases to use the word “variation” with a number following it.

Special Characteristics of “Toarluath”

One may ask what “Toarluath’s” special characteristic is. It seems to me to belong to certain “grace notes” used in its rendering. These so-called “grace notes” fulfill the purpose of preventing tunes from being single masses of slurs, and serve, through the fingers, to produce on the bagpipe the effect got by tipping the chanter with the tongue, namely, the separation of the notes. If we take the Toarluath of MacKintosh’s Lament and represent the half of the first bar, as written by Angus Mackay, in the solfa (scientific) notation, we can form a fair conception of the point of discussion between Mr. Grant and Mr. Gray. Let me put the notes of the Toarluath melody in capital letters and the grace notes in lowercase type, thus–/sL : -. SrsL : mL/. These grace notes have to be produced at lightning speed to be properly effective; and pipers vary in the degree of dexterity with which they produce them. If, therefore, we take from the time of the second L the proportion used by an inexpert fingerer to produce srs, very little time will be left to the production of the L which follows; and we can imagine readily that the tendency will be constant to shirk the striking of the L, and to imagine it done.

But note the unimportance of the thing–the L we are discussing is A of absolute pitch, and at the same time the soh of the bagpipe scale. That is to say, before the bagpipe can be made to play the MacKintosh Lament the lah of the tune must be put on the soh of the instrument so as to preserve an approach to right tonality; and the notes ti and fah must be avoided to obviate the bringing of the semitones in their wrong order.

And the Rev. Neil Ross, editor of “An Gaidheal,” calls this thing Ceol Mor–great music–and would have us believe there is a kind of heavenly inspiration behind it. He and his friends of An Comunn Gaidhealach should devote their energies to Gaelic orthography is that up to bagpipe playing, which is one of the most successful movements of the present day and needs not their help.

OT:10 April 1926 – John Grant “Toarluath and Crunluath Demonstration”



The Oban Times, April 10, 1926

Toarluath and Crunluath Demonstration

27 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh, April 2, 1926

Sir,–Much has been said about my demonstration on Thursday last, as being badly planned. But that, I can assure you, was not the case. I could have brought four or five first-class piobaireachd players upon the platform, who were prepared to vouch that I played the Toarluath and Crunluath correctly as Angus Mackay wrote them and in perfect time and rhythm; but that would have been unfair to Pipe-Major Gray, who proved nothing. He never looked at my fingering of the movements. He simply said that I did not play them as Angus Mackay wrote them; that was no proof against me whatever.

               The Chairman of the meeting gave, by special intimation, any person an opportunity to take part in the demonstration, either by discussion or otherwise, but no person took advantage of this opportunity. They have simply made valueless statements under “nom-de-plumes,” which conceals their names and have proved nothing. I played the Toarluath and Crunluath movements on the platform in the Oddfellows’ Hall, Edinburgh, in perfect time and rhythm exactly as the MacCrimmons composed them in piobaireachd and as Angus Mackay wrote them.

–I am, etc.,

John Grant

Relative to the above, however much opinions may differ on the particular point issue, it is scarcely necessary to point out, in view of Mr. Grant’s undoubted reputation, that he is a player of outstanding ability and practical knowledge. His book on Piobaireachd is considered a valuable compendium on the subject.—Ed., “Oban Times.”

OT: 10 April 1926 – John Grant “Toarluath and Crunluath and Piobaireachd”



The Oban Times, 10 April, 1926

 Toarluath and Crunluath and Piobaireachd

Edinburgh, 2 April, 1926

 Sir,–In Mr. McLennan’s letter of 27 March, says:–
Mr. Grant is above open competition as a means of proving his ability as a piper. Being a composer, he is on a plane by himself.

We agree on this point then. Nothing remains to be done now but for Mr. McLennan to leave out ancient history and answer my all-important question–Why did his father, the late Lieutenant John McLennan, write the Crunluath fourteen times on his work entitled “Piobaireachd as MacCrimmon Played It,” in the exact same manner as Angus Mackay, if you did not intend these movements to be played the same as Angus Mackay did?

Unless Mr. McLennan comes to the point and answers the above question, and that only, it is fruitless to carry this controversy any further.–I am, etc.,

John Grant

OT: 3 April 1926 – J. F. Farquharson “Toarluath and Crunluath and Piobaireachd”



The Oban Times, 3 April, 1926

Toarluath and Crunluath and Piobaireachd

27 March, 1926

Sir,–in reply to a letter of Mr. McLennan’s of the 12th March, I must inform him that the late Colin Cameron and myself were friends for over fifty years. Part of that time we spent over thirty years, off and on, together in London, when he was piper to the late Duke of Fife. During that time, when we had a chance, we spent hours together for pibroch practice. We both played the same in fingering and melody, and I do till this day, as Donald Cameron taught us.–I am, etc.,

J. F. Farquharson

OT: 3 April 1926 – George S. McLennan “Toarluath and Crunluath and Piobaireachd”



The Oban Times, 3 April, 1926

Toarluath and Crunluath and Piobaireachd

Aberdeen, 27 March, 1926

Sir,–With your kind permission, I should like to reply to the letter of Mr. Grant in your issue of to-day’s date.

In your issue of March 13, Mr. Grant says–”I have written Toarluath and Crunluath on D inserting a B in place of an A.” I pointed out that he did nothing of the sort, but inserted a B in place of the D, and showed no redundant low A. In your issue of to-day’s date, he says–”For Mr. MacLennan’s information I would again say (to make matters clear) that I wrote the Toarluath on D, as D B A melody notes, with a high g grace note on D, a low g grace note between D and B, and a low g grace note between D and A, and then e grace note on the A. I also wrote Crunluath on D, as D B E E melody notes, with a high G grace note on D; a low g grace note between D and B; another low g grace between B and E, and a group of a f a grace notes between the two E’s. This is surely now clear. Only one A is necessary in this movement in the Toarluath, and no A at all in the Crunluath, as I have explained it.”

This, presumably, is the nearest Mr. Grant can permit himself to candidly admitting that he does not show the redundant low A in writing these notes. I thank him for it, and would remind him that I also asked him to say why?

In the next paragraph, Mr. Grant says:–”But I was also taught to play these movements on D, as D A A melody notes and Toarluath, and D A E E melody notes in Crunluath in the same manner as those played on A B C E F G and high A. There are two methods of playing the movements, and it is for me to make a choice of which I am to write and play; although I favour the latter for performance.”

That is, Mr. Grant writes these movements one way and plays them another. What an admission from the one who, a few weeks ago, indignantly asks–”

Then, why did these men (Mackay, MacDonald, McPhee, etc.) write one thing and play another? The question Mr. Grant reminds me of was, I understood, set aside a fortnight ago as not being within the present controversy.

Mr. Grant is above open competition as a means of proving his ability as a piper. Being a composer, he is on a plane by himself. The Highland Society of London “hall-mark” was given to him, whereas ordinary pipers have to compete for it. In a very modest review of his achievements and honours, Mr. Grant tells us he has a “very valuable and comprehensive work on the art of Piobaireachd, which lies in the library of the War Office, and for which I hold an official receipt.” No doubt the receipt was intended as equivalent value. Then he says–” The Piobaireachd Society also accepted from my hand an original piobaireachd entitled ‘The Piobaireachd Society Salute’.” It is significant that although the Piobaireachd Society have at different times issued tunes of very doubtful merit, they have not, so far, issued their own Salute.

Having read all Mr. Grant has to say for himself, let me quote from letters which appeared in these columns some years ago on this subject. In May, 1912, Dr. Bannatyne wrote:–

Mr. Grants tunes, I am sure, will go down to posterity, though the point from which they are viewed may not be so appallingly high as that from which their maker regards them. If any of your readers would like to become pibroch composers a la mode, here is a recipe. Take phrases and cadences from every known pibroch, write them down on separate slips of paper, mix them up in a hat or other suitable receptacle, then get someone to draw them out separately. String these together as drawn, give them names, and print them; then pose. This is one method of composing. The other is born in the man. Although born pibroch composers are dead!

In September, 1912, Lieut. J. McLennan wrote:–

Mr. Grant plays on the bagpipes, but he is not a piper, and having no knowledge of the literature, poetry or songs of the Highlands, he is quite unable to compare the notes with the words of the Piobaireachd, especially as he has never been to a school of music. But to his credit, be it said, he has at immense labour gathered a great number of notes which form some twenty-one pieces–a creditable monument to his hard industry–but we can never call them Piobaireachd.

–I am, etc.,

Geo. S. McLennan

OT: 27 March 1926 – John Grant “Toarluath and Crunluath and Piobaireachd”



The Oban Times, 27 March, 1926

Toarluath and Crunluath and Piobaireachd

Edinburgh, 19th of March 1926

Sir,–For Mr. MacLennan’s information I would again say (to make matters clear) that I wrote the Toarluath on D, as D B A melody notes, with a high g grace note on D, a low g grace note between D and B, and a low g grace note between D and A, and then e grace note on the A.

I also wrote Crunluath on D, as D B E E melody notes, with a high G grace note on D; a low g grace note between D and B; another low g grace between B and E, and a group of a f a grace notes between the two E’s. This is surely now clear. Only one A is necessary in this movement in the Toarluath, and no A at all in the Crunluath, as I have explained it.

But I was also taught to play these movements on D, as D A A melody notes and Toarluath, and D A E E melody notes in Crunluath in the same manner as those played on A B C E F G and high A. There are two methods of playing the movements, and it is for me to make a choice of which I am to write and play; although I favour the latter for performance.

Let me bring Mr. MacLennan back to the important technical point. Would he answer my question “why did his father right Crunluath on A fourteen times in his book as Angus Mackay does if he did not intended to be played?”

In his closing paragraph Mr. MacLennan says:–”when Mr. Grant proves his ability as a piper in open competition, I may be inclined to act on his advice.” I can play the pipes, teach the pipes, and explain their music. I do not required to enter into competition to do that. I have composed and published many piobaireachdan, and laid them before Mr. MacLennan. Composition is the highest test of ability in the art of music. I have had the signal honour of having my original compositions and piobaireachd accepted by His Majesty the King, an honour of which I am justly proud. The Piobaireachd Society also accepted from my hand an original piobaireachd entitled “The Piobaireachd Society’s Salute,” as well as many others who are proud of our classical music.

I have also laid before the piping world a work entitled “Piobaireachd: Its Origin and Construction,” a very valuable and comprehensive work on the art of Piobaireachd, which besides being also accepted by His Majesty the King, lies in the library of His Majesty’s War Office, and for which I hold an official receipt.

I have also received from the Highland society of London a “hall mark” for ability in Piobaireachd and piping, of which I am justly proud, and fully appreciate in the highest sense.–I am, etc.,

John Grant

OT: 27 March 1926 – D’Arcy [“Toarluath and Crunluath and Piobaireachd”]



The Oban Times, 27 March, 1926

[Toarluath and Crunluath and Piobaireachd]

21 March, 1926

Sir,–In his letter in this week’s “Oban Times” “Is Fada Mar So Sinn” apparently wishes us to believe that the late Pipe-Major MacDougall Gillies played Toarluath and Crunluath with the so-called “redundant” low A. I had the privilege of studying Piobaireachd under Pipe-Major Gillies some years ago, four to be exact, and he taught that to put in the redundant low A in Toarluath and Crunluath was wrong. In fact, he both played himself, and taught, exactly as does Pipe-Major Gray in this matter. I do not presume to put forward any opinion of my own, but merely wish to record these facts.–I am, etc.,

D’Arcy

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