OT: 17 May 1924 – Angus MacPherson “Piobaireachd Playing”

The Oban Times, 17 May, 1924

Piobaireachd Playing

Inveran Hotel, Invershin

Sutherlandshire, 9th May, 1924

Sir, Now that the Piobaireachd Society has issued the tunes for this year’s competitions I should like to make a brief comment on each of the tunes. I take it that, so long as this is done in the spirit of fairness and a desire to help if possible, they Piobaireachd Society will welcome such criticism. I am sorry to see that discrepancies and errors have crept into the tunes. This may be the fault of the printers; if so, the Piobaireachd Society should have the matter put right; if not, I consider that the tunes as published will not help towards good Piobaireachd playing.

Firstly, take “Cumha Alasdair Dhearg.” This is one of the tunes I learned many years ago. It was a great favourite, in the old days, with the Cluny MacPherson family, and was pretty often on the piper’s programme. When I, however, compare the tune given by the Piobaireachd Society and what I learned there is as much difference as between the “Psalms of David” and the modern “Fox Trot.” The setting and notes with the exception of the last bar of the ground are as I got it, but I cannot accept the punctuation. From the second bar of the second part of this tune, where you find four crotchets of equal length, the first and third crotchets should be dotted, and the second and fourth made a quaver. The same in the first bar of the third part, and in the third bar, the third crotchet should be a quaver, and the fourth crotchet dotted, and the first and second crotchets of the last bar in like manner.

Secondly, take the “Battle of Waternish.” Who would ever think of playing this beautiful tune, the shuibhal and the first bar, second note, by coming down to the low G. This should be an A, and a taorluath and crunluath in like manner, otherwise the tune is spoiled. The second variation as given will bear this out.

Thirdly, “Weighing from Land.” This tune was published by the Piobaireachd Society some years ago, and in contrast with the setting given, the shuibhal began correctly on the E note and in accordance with the ground.

Take now the senior competition tunes:–

Firstly, “The Finger Lock.” This is one of the best Piobaireachds and a correct setting with the exception of where you find in the 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th bars of each part of the ground two semi-quavers with a half moon circle above, denoting prolongation of sound. It is incomprehensible to me how anyone can strike those notes as semi-quavers with this mark above them. Take this half moon circle away and you have proper punctuation and time.

Secondly, “The Prince’s Salute.” The punctuation given in this tune contradicts itself. Note the third bar of the last part of the first variation. Compare this with the same bar in the “Doubling” and you will find the one in contradiction with the other, while here the punctuation if written consistently might be left to the discretion of the performer. It certainly is not, though easier to play, as it was done by the older school and as taught to me.

Lastly, “The Lament for the Viscount of Dundee.” This is a fine soon and a good setting, but who ever heard of a “Crunluath Mach” being put on a “Crunluath Fosgailte”? This tune, like “Weighing from Land,” has a Crunluath Fosgailte and nothing else, and can be played either with the grip, which sounds so much better, or open, and, again, might well be left to the discretion of the performer, but to play it with the grip and then tack on the “Doubling” of an open crunluath and term it a “Crunluath Mach” is entirely wrong. Neither the Piobaireachd Society nor any other body can bring forward any Piobaireachd book ever written prior to the formation of the Piobaireachd Society to contradict my statement.

In conclusion let me say that I put forward these remarks not in any dogmatic spirit, but simply with a desire to help what should be to the heart of every true Highlander, “the finest and best music in the world,” and in such a spirit I trust my remarks may be accepted.

With my personal appreciation, Sir, for all you do through your esteemed paper for the cause. –I am, etc.,

Angus MacPherson