OT: 7 June 1924 – Hold Fast “Piobaireachd Playing”

The Oban Times, 7 June 1924

Piobaireachd Playing

28th May, 1924

Sir,–It was with great interest that I read Mr. McPherson’s [sic] letter on the above subject in the “Oban Times,” and since this subject has been brought up, I should like also to add a few remarks with your permission.

It is indeed fortunate that we have at least one man of Mr. McPherson’s type left to “take up the cudgels” on behalf of those, like myself, who do not consider themselves sufficiently versed in the art of Piobaireachd Playing, to “open” the subject. Still, I hope, now that Mr. MacPherson has shown the way, that some of us who are interested may yet “do our bit” to save the Piobaireachd from the mutilation to which Marches, Strathspeys, etc. have been subjected from time to time.

Now, I am fairly “young” as expert pipers go, but what experience I have is good, “old, solid stuff,” administered to me by one who may lay a very firm claim to knowledge of the teaching and execution of the music as done in the old Boreraig School of the MacCrimmons. It is, therefore, with this little knowledge that I venture to write on the subject, and I hope your readers will consider my remarks as coming from a hurt Highlander rather than from an angry one.

With a view to attempting senior competition works, I have from time to time obtained copies of tunes required to be played by the Piobaireachd Society, and, on proceeding to try and render the pieces as required by our ancestors, I find just what Mr. McPherson points out. Old tunes have been so altered as to become degraded. Those placed as I am, away from tuition for the greater part of the year, feel therefore rather upset when endeavouring to put the genuine old interpretation on such tunes as those for this year’s competitions.

About this year’s tunes. The alteration for the worse in “Cumha Alasdair Dheirg” is truly terrible, and all sense of feeling has been obliterated.

Also, any novice who has been properly taught the principles of Piobaireachd work knows that to take “liberties and departures” such as done in the “Battle of Waternish,” is sacrilege and an insult to its composer.

The senior tunes are even more severely “massacred” then the junior ones, and I think it is time that pipers who truly respect the “Piob Mhor” should arise in protest against such work for competitions of premier status.

A machine may be made to “rest” at the discretion of its maker, the “rested” semi-quavers in the “Finger Lock,” but a man himself–never, unless by accident or extreme proficiency! I shall be interested to hear this tune played by performers at the competitions. “The Prince’s Salute” is just as Mr. McPherson says, an example of self-contradiction and a departure from “first principles” in tune building.

In the “Viscount of Dundee.” Most pipers have been taught the “Crunluath Mach ” movement so as there is only one way of executing it, and that being well known, why play a “Fosgailte” and call it a “Mach”? The “Mach” is a “crowning” movement, and the alteration a crowning effort at taking “licence.”

I will conclude by asking all just readers to help to protect our National Music, and endeavour to prevent further mutilation. The feelings of true Highlanders are strong when their character is at stake and our “Ceol Mor” is part of our character, so let us see justice done to it.

I make no mention of liability to printing errors in the music, as I know had these occurred, they would have been rectified ere now. Thanking you, Sir, for the space you so generously give to such letters. — I am, etc.,

Hold Fast