OT: 13 March 1926 – John Grant “Toarluath and Crunluath in Piobaireachd”

The Oban Times, 13 March, 1926

 Toarluath and Crunluath in Piobaireachd

Edinburgh, 6 March, 1926

 Sir,–In reply to the letter of Mr. G. S. McLennan which appeared in your issue of to-day’s date, I never said a word about his father’s tuition in Piobaireachd. What I did say was that his father told me that he received Piobaireachd from the same source as the rest of us, but that he had cut out an A from the Toarluath and Crunluath without giving as his authority for such an act.

I know that I have not told Mr. McLennan by whom I was taught Piobaireachd. I do not play my cards until the game begins. But I am not the least ashamed of my instructor. He spoke for himself in his day and generation, and he has left a name behind him.

I have written Toarluath and Crunluath on D inserting a B in place of an A, because they can be played so, as they can also be played by putting an A in place of the B. Toarluath on D played as D A A with the appropriate grace notes, and Crunluath as D A E E with the proper gracing, gives the finer effect of the two. Both have been handed down traditionally correct.

I also said that in 14 instances Mr. G. S. McLennan’s father gave the plain Crunluath on low A as being in what is traditionally known as the Crunluath-a-Mach, in his book known as “Piobaireachd as MacCrimmon Played It.” Again I say there is no Mach on low A Crunluath.

In case that I have not made myself clear let me add that the late Mr. McLennan wrote down the words “Ceither-lugh-a-mach,” and under that title he wrote a plain Crunluath on A thinking that he had found out something new in Piobaireachd. In doing so he gave himself away. His knowledge of Piobaireachd in such an act was vague and shallow, as is proved by his next production in printed Piobaireachd, which was published after his death, as the Crunluath movement on A is therein corrected without comment. I know of no such words as Ceither-lugh-a-mach being ever applied to Piobaireachd by the old Masters, although mere words are neither here nor there.

Mr. McLennan says the Crunluath–a-mach is not disputed. No! I say, meantime, it is not; but it shall be. This is another nut for him to crack. If he goes back to his text book or to Angus Mackay’s book or his father’s book, or the Piobaireachd Society’s book, and makes a further examination he will find that it is this very Crunluath-a-mach which gives the show away.

In closing may I say that in all my piping experience I have never heard the poorest performer on the pipes play a low G wrongly. To whom, then, does Mr. McLennan refer when he says that low G is an ugly note when played by and “incompetent performer.” Could Mr. McLennan give me the name of the “incompetent performer” to which he refers. We want to get to the point when such a statement is made, as low G is a very simple, in fact the simplest, note which is played upon the chanter.–I am, etc.,

John Grant