OT: 6 January 1934 – Feadan [“The Music of the MacCrimmons”]

The Oban Times, 6 January, 1934

[The Music of the MacCrimmons]

 16 December, 1933

Sir,–The letters in your issues of 25th of November and 2nd December, the first from Mr. A.K. Cameron; the second for Mr. A. McPherson, are interesting.

Mr. Cameron apparently suggests that the music of the composers should be published in both staff notation and canntaireachd “in its original form–free from mutilations and corrections.” Perhaps Mr. Cameron is unaware that much of the MacCrimmon music has reached us in a mutilated condition, both in staff and canntaireachd (especially some of the tunes in Gesto’s pamphlet), and how much music can be published free from mutilations and corrections seems a puzzle.

He suggests that much of the music as played to-day is a disgrace, not to the MacCrimmons, but to the players. While this may be true in some cases, even with some gold medallists, it should be realised there are in this country quite a few really good players, whose rendering is almost all that can be desired. At the same time it must be admitted many good players play mutilated versions, not knowing or realising they are mutilated! For this, perhaps, some blame may attach to the Piobaireachd Society, for they themselves published mutilated versions, perhaps not knowing they were mutilated. This Society could really do much for the music, but, perhaps, more by publishing the second volumes of MacDonald and Mackay than by publishing unknown tunes, some of them of little value.

Mr. Macpherson seems under some misapprehension regarding Mr. Cameron’s letter, as Mr. Cameron writes from Montana, U. S. A., and not from Australia. His references to Australia, therefore, seem beside the mark. Pipers, as a rule, are not given to much investigation of the music they play. They are inclined to accept what is told or taught them without thought or question, and this accounts for mutilation being passed down unquestioned.

It would be interesting if Mr. Cameron or Mr. Macpherson were to give us in canntaireachd or staff the first line of the “Lament for Rory Mor” (1626) free from the mutilation shown in Mackay; or free from the correction in the Society’s version. The Society’s correction is certainly better than the mutilation in Mackay, but is it likely to be correct, and, if so, why? The words of the lament are, of course, no guide, for they must have been composed long after the time itself.

I am, etc.,