OT: 2 January 1926 – William Gray “Toarluath and Crunluath in Piobaireachd”

The Oban Times, 2 January, 1926

Toarluath and Crunluath in Piobaireachd

Glasgow, 23 December, 1925

Sir,–In reply to the letter of your correspondent, John Grant, on the above subject in your issue of 19th inst., I still adhere to what I have stated in my previous letter. If Mr. Grant once more convincing evidence, let him turn to the last publication of the Piobaireachd Society, in which there is the following note on notation viz.:–

Staff notation came into use for piobaireachd music in the latter half of the eighteenth century. In the early nineteenth century the Highland Society of Scotland offered prizes for writing piobaireachd in staff notation, or “scientifically,” as they called it. Previously, the only notation written, or more commonly verbal, was canntaireachd.

The earlier collections printed on staff notation professed to be suitable for instruments other than the pipe, and it is thought that the dual-purpose accounts for some cases in which a movement, if played as written, is played wrongly, according to the great body of traditional teaching. One example of this is the Toarluath grace-note, in which a low A is printed in the middle of the movement as a melody note. It is believed to have been so printed to enable other musicians to get the general effect of the Toarluath grace-note movement by sounding two low A’s after the melody note. Thus, we are more or less driven to prefer traditional teaching as opposed to recorded staff notation when the two are in contradiction.

We are reassured in doing this by the unanimity which exists among the players who have inherited the traditional teaching at the correct way of fingering these movements in spite of recorded staff notation.

Referring to the movement on “B” closing to low “G” in Toarluath and Crunluath in Mackay’s Book, the question is not why is there no redundant “A” in them, but why is there no redundancy at all as shown in the other notes. The answer to this is similar to the one referring to “D.”

Your correspondent refers to “Macintosh’s Lament.” There is no more difference in performing the Toarluath and Crunluath notes in this tune than in the “Massacre of Glencoe,” or any other lament.

According to Mr. Grant, I cannot play piobaireachd, and must have obtained all my prizes by playing piobaireachd the wrong way.–I am, etc.,

Wm. Gray