OT: 8 November 1932 – Mach ” Piobaireachd: the Mach Beats”

The Oban Times, 8 November, 1932

Piobaireachd: the Mach Beats

 27 September, 1932

Sir,–it is reported in your issue of the 17th instant, referring to the gold medal competition at the Argyllshire Gathering, that the judges were of the opinion that one of the players finished his tune with a Crunluath-a-Mach not in the orthodox form. I learned the unorthodoxy consisted in playing the beat with the accent on the first note. If this is so, one might justifiably ask the judges the grounds of such an opinion.

It must be admitted that present-day practice accentuates, in some cases, the second note of the beat (which is still themal) and in some cases the last E (which is not themal), but this should not condemn a player who accentuates the first note as unorthodox. There is little doubt, and many to-day entitled to express an opinion strongly support the view that the old practice was to accentuate the first note, and, indeed, this is borne out by Donald MacDonald and Angus MacKay (also by William Ross, the Queen’s piper), for their beats clearly show this. In fact, they are shown as accented in the same way as the closed beats, on the first note.

Angus MacKay certainly shows his Toarluath-a-Mach beats accented on the last note (which is still themal), but Donald MacDonald accents them as he does the closed beats, on the first note. In any case there can be no justification for the Piobaireachd Society writing the Crunluath-a-Mach beat with the accent on the last E, for the note is not themal, and surprise might be expressed that they should go so far from what undoubtedly was the old practice.

Judges take upon themselves a serious responsibility in turning down players who accentuate the first note in the Mach beats or who play the disputed A in the closed beats, because, after all, it may be correct, and many were taught, and are still taught, by experienced teachers to play this way. Indeed, surprise might be expressed that the Piobaireachd Society, which could do such valuable work, should go so far in an extreme direction rather than admit that such points are open to differences of opinion.

This is written in no spirit of carping criticism, but rather in the hope that the point raised may be ventilated and that judges will always keep in view the fact that there may be ample justification for some players not being what is so inaptly termed “orthodox.”

I am, etc.,