OT: 3 October 1903 – D. Davidson “The Passing of the Piobaireachd”

The Oban Times, 3 October, 1903

The Passing of the Piobaireachd

Duneira, Row, Helensburgh, 29 September, 1903

Sir,–Would you kindly allow me space in your valuable paper to reply to your correspondents in last week’s issue on pipe music? I think Mr. MacLennan’s letter should do something to stir up all who are desirous of getting the best, not only of piobaireachd, but of all kinds of pipe music. One cannot fail to notice nowadays how tunes are mutilated to suit the individual taste, and in some cases rendered almost indiscernible. Take, for example, “John McKechnie’s Reel.” As played by some pipers you with fail to recognise it.

I am sorry so many are led away by imitation, without musically discerning which is best. Of course, some will say it is a matter of taste; but I think at the root it is a matter of ease. Another example might be taken from the third measure of “Duntroon.” How many good players will go on snap, snapping the C.A’s, whereas, if the old style of C.A. and B.A. alternately were used with good accent, the tune would have a finer effect.

I agree with Mr. MacLennan that some authority should take the matter up, and fix the best and only recognizable setting of each tune.

Your correspondent, “H.L.I.” says “that the toarluath is the only means of cutting the other notes”–(What other notes?)–when it is impossible to sound two consecutive E’s on the pipes. I think this must be a mistake, as two consecutive E’s could be detached by either a top G, or low A, grace note. As to “physique” and “carriage,” with these in combination with good playing the piper is ideal, but the playing is of the first importance.

I agree with “H.L.I.” when he closes by referring to the usual ignorance of judges. This ignorance, or favouritism, whichever it may be, is becoming very common, as evidenced by the Highland games season just closed. The time has come when competence and unbiased judges will need to be selected if progress is to be made. No wonder the bagpipe and its music have no “further future” predicted when the men who are to give life and the stimulus to them are killing them. Hoping some better authority will take the matter up,–I am, etc..

D. Davidson