OT: 22 March 1924 – George G. MacKay “The Prince’s Salute”

The Oban Times, 22 March, 1924

Edinburgh, 12th March, 1924

“The Prince’s Salute”

Sir,–In justice to the composition of a great Piobaireachd Master, and in view of the fact that the above tune is to be played in the forthcoming competitions at Oban and Inverness, the time is opportune for pointing out a grave error in that part of the piece known as the “Singling” of the “Taorluath,” and also the “Crunluath.”

The mistake, although confined to the “singling,” has also affected the “doublings” by throwing the latter out of perspective and destroying the fine contrast between them. The striking feature of these “variations” is the fine effect produced by the one section operating on the other. Deprived of this, it is no longer necessary or even desirable that both parts be played, as the one becomes merely a tiresome repetition of the other.

This “singular singling” is neither a “singling” nor a “doubling,” but a curious combination of both, and this accounts for the difficulty players are familiar with in their endeavour to render the part intelligently. This is not surprising when it is realised that they are trying, unconsciously, to play both variations in one, and with a laudable desire to assist them in this strange performance it has been found necessary to remove, or to ignore, the cadence notes, so essential to the measure, it being assumed that these were superfluous. The assumption that the “cadences” were at fault has much too readily been taken for granted. These notes are not the cause of the trouble, and their removal has only acted as a palliative in making the parts more playable.

A simple method of clearing up the confusion, and incidentally proving the truth of all that has been said on the subject, is to write dots in the first line of the “doubling,” using only the four main notes of the melody, around which the whole tune revolves. Stripped of all detail, this consists simply of four bars, each containing four crotchets. To convert this into the singling, all that is necessary to do is to reverse the last two notes in the second and fourth bars. It will thus be seen that by a perfectly natural reversal, the one “variation” has reverted to the other in a very simple, and the only possible, way–the way of the composer.

Much might be said in regard to the rest of the tune; the “ground” and its counterparts being so weak and featureless. But these cannot be dealt with now. It was once a thing full of much time, full of light and shade, and fine contrast; but it has lost much of its attractiveness since the ‘45, and as is often heard nowadays is merely tiresome. I am, etc.,

George G. MacKay