OT: 13 March 1926 – Is Fada Mar So Sinn [“Toarluath and Crunluath in Piobaireachd”]

The Oban Times, 13 March, 1926

[Toarluath and Crunluath in Piobaireachd]

Montana, U.S.A., 10 February, 1926

Sir,–In reply to your correspondent William Gray and “Gille Chriosd” on the above subject, I adhere to what I stated in a previous letter, that the Toarluath, Toarluath Mach, Crunluath, Crunluath Mach and Crunluath Breabach are wrong. A note is omitted in each, as noted in Pipe-Major Gray’s Tutor. The Toarluath is also wrong. A note is omitted in Pipe Major Ross’s book. I still claim that the footnote on page 148 of Angus Mackays Piobaireachd book is the best authority we have to-day, and that all the above notes are to be played as they were are shown in Mackay’s book, and in all standard works except these movements on D.

All these movements on D are to be executed exactly as they are on A B C; D is the melody note and ought to be accepted, this is impossible if B is play before it. Besides, to play B before D melody note is playing off time, and is against all the rules of bagpipe music construction. The movement on B in Toarluath and Crunluath where it closes to low G, melody note is different from all the rest and does not require a low A. The reason it does not require a low A note out to be very plain to any Piobaireachd scholar. The Toarluath on E and F are executed exactly the same as A B C and D, although the grips are on different notes the art of execution is the same. They Toarluath and Crunluath on B to low G melody note, and on low G alone are the only exceptions. These appear to be different but are not as I will endeavour to prove.

The omitted note in the above movements, as they are noted in Mr. Gray’s book, and as the Toarluath is noted in Pipe-Major Ross’s book, in Logan’s Tutor, in Donald McPhedran’s book, in Pipe-Major Robinson’s book, and in all these movements, as they are noted in the Piobaireachd Society leaflets, ought to be heard distinctly for the following reasons. The Leumluath is one grip followed by a play on the fundamental and its fifth–A E. The Toarluath and Toarluath Mach have two grips, the Crunluath and Crunluath Mach three grips, the Crunluath Breabach three grips with an additional play on the fundamental and its fifth–A E. The Toarluath and Crunluath armload G melody note, and on B to low G have two and three grips respectively exactly the same as the rest. It is plain therefore that Pipe-Majors Gray, and Ross, and Robinson, and the others mentioned, as well as the Piobaireachd Society do not understand pipe music or its construction.

It is a great pity to see the Piobaireachd Society forcing bagpipe players to play the above notes as they are shown in their leaflets, and giving prizes to them for doing so. The mongrel notes that they write and would have others play, are not the Toarluath and Crunluath, etc., of the MacCrimmon’s. It is not complementary to the musical genius of the great musicians to call these fantastic and grotesque notes by the above names. Nineteen-nine per cent of bagpipe players execute the composite notes of pipe music wrongly, and this is due to the tutors and music books referred to above.

Can Pipe-Major Gray or any of the other pipers referred to above furnish a better authority than Mackay for the correct method of noting the Toarluath and Crunluath? Mr. Gray and “Gille Chriosd” claim that the footnote on page 148 of Mackay’s book refers to triplets in the second variation on page 146. The footnote on page 148 states clearly, that it refers to the notes in the two last variations, viz.:–Crunluath and Crunluath Mach. It further states, that the quavers A B C and D are held, while the 2nd and 3rd fingers (F and E fingers) perform the four small notes following, and that one move of each of these fingers produce two notes. How on earth can this refer to triplets? Does Mr. Gray or “Gille Chriosd” use the F finger to execute triplets? Did they or anyone else ever hear any piper worthy of the name play triplets with the F and E finger? All triplets are invariably played by the 1st, 4th and 3rd fingers (G D E fingers). There is one exception to this rule, viz., when descending from a high G to any of the lower notes a high A is used instead of high G, and the thumb performs the cut.

Mr. Gray also states that the footnote on page 148 does not agree with Mackay’s noting of the Toarluath and Crunluath notes in his (Mackay’s book), but corresponds to the noting given in his (Gray’s book). Will Mr. Gray tell us how this can be if the footnote, as he says, refers to triplets on page 146. And does one movement of each finger produce two notes in the Toarluath and Crunluath, etc., if executed as noted in Mr. Gray’s tutor? Mr. Gray’s explanation is very confusing.

For the benefit of your readers I insert Mackay’s footnote on page 148. It is as follows:–

The 2nd quaver in each triplet is held while the 2nd and 3rd fingers perform the small notes throughout the two last variations, always taking care that one figure is down before the other is taken up; by that means one move of the finger performs two notes; if the 2nd quaver should be A in the first instance it gives A* quaver E A F A by moving or raising the 3rd finger, then the 2nd. Then the 2nd four notes, if the second quaver should be C* it gives E C F C if D* this E D F D, if B* thus E B F B, etc.

The letters underlined are demi-semi-quavers. They are grace notes, and written with their pennants above. The words underlined by a double stroke [ed. Here indicated by bold print. AA] are the writers to make the meaning slightly clearer. The letter with a star attached, viz., A, C, D, B, R quavers, and each represents the note omitted in each composite movement by Mr. Gray and the other modernists.–I am, etc.,

Is Fada Mar So Sinn