The Oban Times, 14 May 1921
Pipe Major John Grant
The Highland Society of London’s medal was some little time ago awarded to Pipe Major John Grant, 24 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh, for his work in the interests of piobaireachd, and his services to piping during the great war 1914-1918. The Highland Society of London gives a medal for piobaireachd playing every year at Oban and Inverness, but they have recently instituted a new medal as an award for objects, which from time to time they wish to foster, and Pipe Major Grant was the first to receive its special award.
Pipe Major Grant is author of “the Royal Collection of Piobaireachd,” “Piobaireachd; Its Origin and Construction,” and joint author of “The Pipes of War.” He is presently engaged on another work, “Tutor and book of instruction in piping,” primarily meant for those who have not the opportunity of personal instruction.
He was appointed an Instructor of Piping during the war for the Army. He received his early training under the late Pipe Major Ronald McKenzie, Seaforth Highlanders, and piper to his grace, the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, Gordon Castle, Lochabers, and can trace his tuition back to the great MacCrimmon school.
As a member of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion Seaforth Highlanders Pipe Band Pipe Major Grant won the championship gold medal for piping, open to the band, with a membership of thirty-two pipers. He was piper to Captain Home Drummond Moray, of Abercairney, Crieff, for a period of three years.
For about twenty-five years Pipe Major Grant has devoted much time to the study of bagpipe music, and almost exclusively to piobaireachd, the classical music of the Highland bagpipe. As a composer of piobaireachd his efforts have been crowned with success, in that his first composition was accepted by his late Majesty King Edward VII, and another “Royal Salute” has been accepted by His Most Excellent Majesty King George V. He is also the composer of “The Piobaireachd Society Salute,” which is a most beautiful tune.
“Piobaireachd: Its Origin and Construction,” is a valuable work, which deals extensively with the art of piobaireachd, and piping in general. It has been much appreciated by pipers all over the world:–India, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt, America, France, Belgium, and even the far away Fiji Islands. This work has been accepted by His Majesty the King, the War Office, the Royal School of Music, Knellar Hall, Twickenham, and many others.
Pipe Major Grant is an efficient and successful Instructor of Piping, and conducts “The War Memorial School of Piping,” in which many young boys are taught piping, in theory and practice, free of charge, under the patronage of Mr. W.G, Burn Murdoch, J.S., Arthur Lodge, Edinburgh. Each boy is taught to understand thoroughly, piping, in all its stages, and after a period of instruction, is examined by examiners, and it qualified receives a certificate of efficiency.
The certificates are specially drawn by Mr. W. G. Burn Murdoch in Celtic art design, and being the first certificates ever presented to young pipers, they are very much appreciated by the recipients.
The manner of instruction is here based on a scientific and fixed system, and out of the numerous pupils taught by Pipe Major Grant, he has got now a full band of twelve young pipers, all of his own tuition.
Edinburgh Evening News, 29 July 1911
“The Queen’s Pibroch.” The Queen has been graciously pleased to accept a piobaireachd entitled “Her Most Excellent Majesty Queen Mary’s Welcome to Holyrood Palace.” The tune was executed in illuminated Celtic design and ornamented with thistles, the Royal badge, water colour drawings of the Scottish regalia, Holyrood Palace, ancient targe, crossed swords, and bagpipe also adorned the “Royal Salute.” By command, Her Majesty’s thanks were conveyed to the author for his kind thought. Her Majesty also expressed admiration at the manner in which the work was executed. The composer who was present at the inspection by the King on 20th inst., is piper John Grant of the National Reserve, and author of the “Royal Collection of Piobaireachd.”
The Northern Scot, 15 April 1911
The second edition of the “Royal Collection of Piobaireachd” has just been issued by Mr. John Grant, Edinburgh, and is a production of which any Highlander might be proud, not to speak of any Highland piper. Mr. Grant is well known as the composer of great merit, and we noticed that the King has been pleased to accept to special compositions entitled: “King George Fifth’ s Salute,” and “Lament for King Edward Seventh.” This is an honour which Mr. Grant naturally values very highly. The Gaelic translations given in this issue have never before appeared in a book of bagpipe music. It is a matter worthy of special notice is that the “toarluath and crunluath” variations appear as they have been written for the first time in the history of piobaireachd exactly as they are played. By timing those variations as Mr. Grant has done the piobaireachd, which is written from end-to-end in the same time is a perfect tune, and the only means by which the theme can be followed entirely in all the variations. The tunes contained in the volume are of the highest order and have all been accepted personally by those to whom they are dedicated, who have expressed themselves as highly pleased with the melodies.
The People’s Journal, 15 April 1911
Lovers of Highland music will welcome the publication of the second edition of “The Royal Collection of Piobaireachd” issued and published by Mr. John Grant, Edinburgh. Every loyal pipers should possess a copy in this the coronation year, because it contains a new “Salute to King George Fifth.” No Highland celebration will be complete without the stately and beautiful piobaireachd. It has been graciously accepted by his Majesty. A reproduction of the Royal letter is given in the volume. Another attractive feature is a frontispiece “the Pibroch” reproduced from the painting of a famous artist, and depicting a Highlander playing the bagpipe with poetic ecstasy. It is of special interest to pipers to know that the toarluath and crunluath variations of the tunes are written for the first time in the history of piobaireachd exactly as they are played. By timing these variations as Mr. Grant has done, a piobaireachd which is written from end-to-end in the same time, is a tune perfect in construction, and follows the theme in spirit and sympathy. The tunes are all of the very highest order, and have been accepted personally by those to whom they are dedicated. It is interesting to note that Mr. Grant was requested to appear before the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton to play his Grace’s Salute, and was awarded their complete praise of satisfaction with the melody. Their Grace’s instructed the author to prepare a copy of the Salute in illuminated Celtic design in form for framing, which was accordingly done and sent to Hamilton Palace in an oak and gilt frame for preservation. This new edition is worthy of the widest publicity. It will be welcomed by the old pipers, and to the rising men it should prove a means of inspiration and education in the art of ancient piobaireachd.
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.