OT: 27 July 1912 – Fear aig am bheil fios [John Grant] “The Piobaireachd Society’s New Collection”

The Oban Times, 27 July, 1912

The Piobaireachd Society’s New Collection

23 July, 1912

Sir,–Lovers of Ceòl Mòr cannot but rejoice at the appearance of this magnificent work. The first four parts are all of a very high standard of perfection, but part V. entirely eclipses them all for choice selection of tunes and technical correctness. Half a score of years ago I felt that piobaireachd was on the wane, but at last I can see the dawn of a new era when we can bid adieu to “the passing of the piobaireachd,” and roam through an elaborate collection full of charm and pathos, bathing our aspirations in long forgotten themes once more brought before our mind’s eye by the energetic Highland noblemen and gentlemen of the Piobaireachd Society.

In by-gone years the members of the Society have had for their reward only adverse criticism, but through it all they have this year produced their work without a flaw, thus rising above all imaginative barriers which have appeared in the eyes of narrow-minded critics. My motto is “Forward” and “Fear-not,” and as a lover of Ceòl Mòr I consider it is my duty to reflect the highest praise and credit on the Piobaireachd Society and let their admirers see the beauties and usefulness of their arduous labours in the true mirror of a genuine Highland heart, and to throw aside petty jealousy and unbecoming rivalry. To give a minute description of each tune in this year’s volume would be quite impossible, because of the limited space in your columns, but by craving a little indulgence a few words may be said without trespassing too far.

The title page of the book contains the names of four “Kings of Pipers,” viz., Pipe-Majors W. Ross, J. McDougall Gillies, John McDonald, and A. Cameron. This alone is an assurance that every piobaireachd player can rely upon what I have already said–technical correctness. The book is published by Mr. Peter Henderson, bagpipe maker, 24 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, at the small some of 2s 6d per copy. The publisher’s name itself is a sufficient assurance that only work of the highest quality is issued by such a long-established manufacturer of the instrument on which Ceòl Mòr is played.

The editorial and traditional notes are both useful and most interesting, and the music itself is bold, clear, and effective. The headings or titles of the tunes appear in beautiful Old English type, and the titles of the variations are given in the genuine language of the Gael. This in itself is gratifying to lovers of an ancient Celtic music and an ancient Celtic language. Here the music and language of the real Gael are blended in an attractive harmony as pleasing to the eye as it is to the ear.

In the classification of the tunes you find one Salute, three Laments, three Battle tunes, and one miscellaneous piobaireachd.

“Cumha Dhomnuill an Lagain”

is a scene of a very touching nature, and is given here in a fine setting in,-time from beginning to end of the tune, and is studied it can be seen that it is prepared and set by skilled masters of piobaireachd.

“Failte Fir Cheann Loch Muideart”

is given as a salute and most certainly is more of that nature than a lament. In the past pipers stuck to what appeared before them, whether it was right or wrong; but fortunately for Ceòl Mòr the Piobaireachd Society had departed from old glaring errors and adopted learned and sound reasoning. This is a beautiful theme. It is both effective and inspiring and is also written in common-time from beginning to end, which shows a marked improvement in its rendering as well as its recording.

“Blar Allt-Eire”

is a fine specimen of the real battle tune, and creates the feeling of olden times when the “fiery cross” when round. This theme has a rather pleasing melody, and the more one plays it the more he comes to like it. Its theme and doubling are both written in common-time, its siubhal and doubling in two-four time, its second and third variations in common-time, and as toarluath to doubling of crunluath in six-eight-time. The method of writing the crunluath and its doubling is also a marked improvement on the old way.

“Blar Sliabh an t’Siorra”

is also a very fine specimen of the battle tune, and its theme has a very pleasing melody, written in three-four time right until we come to the third variation, which is written in nine-eight time to the end of the tune. This is rather a long tune; but it has got very nice melodic variations, and can be played right through without the monotonous feeling which is to be found in some tunes.

“Trosdachd an Doill”

is a rather uncommon theme, and very pleasing to the ear of the cultured piobaireachd player. One can see the blind piper, as it were, arguing the point on his great Highland war pipe, and this piobaireachd shows how effectively the composer could imitate a quarrel on his piob mhòr. The theme is written in common time as well as the siubhal, its doubling in three-four, and its trebling in common-time, also its crunluath, and its doubling and three-four, and traveling in common time. All the changes in time are quite in keeping with the variations a melody.

“Cumha Chatriona”

though quite a short tune, is one of the finest melodies in the book, and to those who have felt the burden of sorrow over the departed, those doleful notes alone can tap the fount of tears. Here we have a good specimen of the lament. The theme is written in common-time, the siubhal and doubling in two-four, and toarluath to the end of the tune and six-eight time.

“Ruoig Ghlinn Bhraoin”

is suggested of such an occasion. Its theme has a fine swell of harmony about it. It is a good tune for competition, pleasing to the competitor and the listener alike. It is another tune written and performed in the same time from beginning to end, viz., six-eight.

“Cumha Mhic Leoid Cholbees”

is also a very long tune, but has its good qualities, viz., a good melody and a means of a thorough test of the competitor’s pipes, because many pipers get their pipes to keep in tune for a short piobaireachd, but are found at fault with an exceptionally long one. The theme, she will, and doubling are written in two-four time, while the second variation and doubling are given very effectively in common-time, thus distinguishing this variation from that found in the salute and gathering. The toarluath to the end of the tune are written and performed in six-eight time.

With the exception of a cover showing a beautiful Celtic art design, this terminates a brief description of the Piobaireachd Society’s book. Many men criticise other people’s work whether they are capable of judging it or not–but I am, etc.,

Fear Aig Am Bheil Fios [John Grant]