Original Piobaireachd Society Series – Volume 3

Volume 3 continues the “hit parade” of pibroch as we know it today.  It should be clear that the effort by the Piobaireachd Society to re-introduce “the playing of Piobaireachd not now generally known, or at anyrate [sic] not heard at competitions” was a “successful” one, insofar as the effort at shaping the competition repertoire remains with us.

At the time, however, serious grumblings continued to be heard among the competitors.  Their  voices would grow into a significant chorus, impacting future volumes and eventually the structure of the Piobaireachd Society itself.  At the time of this printing, they were loud enough that the editor(s) felt the need to publish an extract from The Northern Chronicle defending their position.

The editor(s) mention, but do not reproduce, MSS from Dr. Bannatyne.

Among the interesting features of this Volume continue to be the rhythmic variability of crahinins, and the rhythmical integrity of hiharins.  This latter is particularly striking in the case of The MacLeod’s Salute and The Unjust Incarceration, whose later typeset editions by the PS have corrupted the power of the hiharins in their compositions, reducing them to light-music birls.

And, as noted before (and will be noted again): traditional full taorluaths and crunluaths maintain their rightful place.

Lament for the Children – The editors state they are drawing from Dr. Bannatyne’s (vandalized) John MacKay manuscript, which compares favorably with a manuscript from Cpt. Colin MacRae.  As is typical with these attributions by the Piobaireachd Society in general, that attribution suggests more than may be accurate, as a look at the JK manuscript will quickly show.

The differences between Series 1 and the later version (Book 3) are generally quite minimal: a slight change of expression in measures 7 and 8 of line 2; the crahinin on D uses a traditional strike to C rather than low-G; the Siubhal is more pointed in Series 1, and no crunluath a mach exists in Series 1.  Both series chose to write the Urlar in 6/8 time, whereas the earliest manuscripts favor Common Time.

The MacLeods’ Salute – Another MacRae MS, this version, as with the later series in Book 9, does not include Donald MacDonald’s Taorluath a mach but includes his Crunluath a mach.  It differs from both the later PS version and from MacKay by holding the B in what was otherwise transcribed as a MacCrummen’s cadence run to low-G.

Unjust Incarceration – While it is not clear whether the notes mean to suggest this version came from MacKay’s manuscript, even if that were true (they both omit Campbell’s line 4), it is by no means identical.  That said, the hiharin rhythm is musically superior to both MacKay and the later PS Book 2 version. It is otherwise unremarkable.  Later, PS Book 2 included a Crunluath a mach that is unsupported in the primary sources.

Ronald MacDonald of Morar’s Lament – Editors drew from MacDonald, though, again, it is not exact and in ways that continue to show the dominance of post MacKay-style performance.  The later version in Book 8 shows the standardization of crahnin rhythms and familiar grace noting of movements otherwise shown as thematic elements in the Series 1.  Both Series 1 and the laster PS version are identical in the number and types of cycles, including the crunluath a mach which does not exist in the earliest manuscripts.

My King has landed in Moidart – Purpostedly coming from Bannatyne’s John MacKay MS, which, interestingly, doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Rhythmically, its urlar is different from any of the extant primary sources for this song*. However, the structure follows Donald MacDonald’s manuscript and Angus MacKay’s book (without reprinting either).

Lament for the Harp Tree – Perhaps the most significant editorial decision with respect to this song* is that “[t]he Siubhal has been punctuated in accordance with some authorities,” namely, MacDonald (and Peter Reid), “and slightly differently to that given by Angus MacKay.”  The later edition (Book 12) reverts to MacKay (and include Campbell’s variation).

Once again, take a look for yourselves.  Feel free to comment.


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