OT: 18 December 1915 – James Cameron [“The Bagpipe Chanter Scale”]

The Oban Times, 18 December, 1915

[The Bagpipe Chanter Scale]

Edinburgh, 4 December, 1915

Sir,–In reply to Mr. Grant I may say that no difficulties arise from “signaturing” pipe music. At this time of day pipe learners and outsiders want to know (1) the notes they are planning; (2) what can be played on these; and (3) what they are playing. Mr. Grant seems fearful of inquiring or disclosing these fundamentals.

I notice Mr. Grant to-day is silent about his low G, but maintains that his high G is sharp.

Would it be too much to ask Mr. Grant to get a report for the readers of “The Oban Times” from the maker of his G sharp chanter that is “key of A major” as he relies implicitly on the makers? This before he has to signal “abandon ship” and while there is still hope of a “life line” the maker, as his “bo’sun,” Mr. Sinclair, has “cut the painter” and the “Dreadnought” is badly holed and foundering.

I mentioned before that “minor” keys were common in pipe music, although I illustrated my remarks for the benefit of non-pipers by “Ca’ the Yowes.” A pretty pipe air in E minor is “Health and Prosperity,” MacPhee’s Selection, p. 10 (my company has got in 1884) called “Donald Blue” in Ross. A “wandering into several keys” is exemplified by “The Ewie wi’ the crooked horn,” MacPhee, p. 25, where we have first key of A major, then E minor, and the final ending in D major. Here are three parts! It is a “crooked horn” and no mistake and is more crooked in the last part ending in D when there is in itself a change of key. Again in “Blue Bonnets over the Border” in Peter Henderson’s Tutor, page 2, the first part of the tune is in A with flat G, and the second part changes into D major. This should convince anyone of the “several keys” of the bagpipe. “Dh’andeoin co theireadh e’”–I am, etc.,

James Cameron