OT: 25 November 1933 – A.K. Cameron – “The Music of the MacCrimmons”

The Oban Times, 25 November 1933

The Music of the MacCrimmons

 Cohagen, Montana, U.S.A., 14 October, 1933

Sir,–The remaining records of the music of the MacCrimmons should be collected and published as your correspondent Mr. Malcolm MacInnes suggested. Two hundred tunes–more or less–exist in their own notation, but the tunes, if published in their notation, would be useless, because the majority of pipers are unable to read this notation. There is only one piper living today that has been taught to play pibroch from both of their notations. He was also taught all of the rules which govern the notation in the time of the beats, depending on their position in a phrase, and in a measure. Due to the knowledge he acquired, from his father, who wrote many tunes for John MacCrimmon and Neil MacLeod of Gesto, and his tutor, he is able to translate the tunes from the old notation to staff notation, and do so accurately. I know for a fact that this piper is over eighty-eight years, and plays his favourite tunes on the bagpipes to this day.

I assume that the price of the translated tunes will be considered as very high, but what is the difference when every tune that was composed by a MacCrimmon is priceless to-day, although very few Scotsmen realise this; those that do have no money to spare, and those who have are not interested.

In order to preserve their music and notation from further mutilation in the future the vocable notation must be written underneath the staff notation. This method will preserve the traditional way of noting and timing the beats, which will be of the greatest value to the piper and the judge, and to those who have the traditional method already, but never had it, although it is “the order of the day.”

I assume the cost of publishing a book of their tunes in both notations will be exceedingly high, but nevertheless the MacCrimmons will never receive the full amount of credit due to them as composers, in the estimation of the public, unless this is done. Their tunes, as now played by many pipers is a pure disgrace–not to the MacCrimmons–but to those responsible.

If Mr. MacInnes is inclined to proceed further with the preservation of the music of the MacCrimmons in its original form–free from corrections and mutilations–we are with him. Of course, those living under Blue Eagle conditions are unable to proceed as formerly, due to the financial debacle, nevertheless the twenty tunes in “Gesto” of 1828 and several more tunes have been translated as outlined above, i.e., the vocables have been written below the beats as a text, which no piper can violate and play a pibroch as composed by a MacCrimmon.

The rhythm, time, and metre of every tune that was composed by the MacCrimmons, the MacArthurs, Mackays, and the MacDonalds were perfect. Why should we play a lower and degraded standard of their music, which is neither a credit to us who play it, nor to those who composed it? In order to remedy this state of affairs I suggest that we start on a memorial edition of MacCrimmon tunes.

I am, etc.,

A.K. Cameron