The Piobaireachd Society
Patron HM The Queen

Judges notes for Gold Medal Tunes 2012

Set Tunes for the Gold Medal Competitions in 2012

The following notes are from the piobaireachd judges’ seminar held on 27 November 2011 to discuss the set tunes.   They are published in the hope that they will be of some interest to competing pipers and others.   They should, however, be regarded only as the output from an informal discussion and neither as a complete and authoritative analysis of the tunes nor as a set of directions on how they should be played.   Likewise, the sources listed should not be taken to be comprehensive.

There are sound clips of some of the tunes, illustrating possible ways of playing them, in the members’ section of the Piobaireachd Society’s website at

Alan Forbes

Music Committee Secretary

The Daughter’s Lament                                             PS 6 p184; K p66; Binneas p73

A beautiful but demanding tune, requiring strong top hand execution and an excellent high G.   It was thought that most pipers would play according to PS and Kilberry, which are similar.

Farewell to the Laird of Islay                                                PS 9 p266

Composed in 1840, this is said to be the only complete piobaireachd by Angus Mackay.   Although it does not appear in Mackay’s MS Volumes 1 and 2, it is included in his ‘Kintarbert’ MS, in his own handwriting, which is contrary to the note in PS 9.   There are a couple of differences, the only significant one being low G instead of low A as the first note of bar 3, line two of variation 1.   The low G is consistent with the rest of the tune and so is acceptable.

(There is another error in the notes in PS 9, where it states that Ceol Mor has two crunluaths – breabach and ordinary – which is not the case in some versions.)

The tune is fairly straightforward.    In variation 1, the couplets at the ends of bars 1 and 3 of lines 1 and 2 and bar 1 of line 3 are shown as even quavers, which is how Donald MacLeod played them, rather than cut and dotted, which is more common.   Either approach is acceptable.

There is a G grace note missing on the third low A in bar 2, line 1 of variation 1.

A crunluath a mach is required in this tune.

The Black Wedder’s White Tail                                PS 11 p334

An attractive, fairly straightforward tune with no technical difficulties.   There are clear similarities with The MacGregors’ Salute.   The only source is the Campbell Canntaireachd, so the timings and cadence placements are those thought appropriate by the editors of PS 9.   Other timings and cadence placements are possible.   For example, the couplets shown as even quavers C/A and B/A in the ground and thumb variations might be played either with the first note cut, or, as in The MacGregors’ Salute, with the first note lengthened and the second cut.

The taorluath and crunluath singlings are unusual, in that the cadences are placed on the third beats. It might be thought attractive to omit the cadences and, if this were done, the couplets could either be played evenly or with the first note cut and the other lenghtened.

A crunluath a mach is required in this tune.

My Dearest on Earth give me your Kiss                  PS 11 p352

PS 11 provides concise notes on this tune.   The main differences between the PS version and the ones contained in both Ceol Mor and Glen’s Mss  are in the first phrase of the ground, and in bars four and five of line two, as described in the notes.

The tune seems similar in style to the tunes of John MacKay, Raasay.   It is long, at some 14 minutes in duration.   The siubhal and variations are not dissimilar in style and content to the Lament for MacLeod of Colbeck and the ground also has similarities to this tune.   In recordings of Pipe Major Donald MacLeod and of Captain John MacLellan, both play the first note of the couplets in the siubhal singling and doubling quite evenly, so that the first note loses the dot in value.   It is perhaps likely that present day competitors will play these with more emphasis on the first note.

There will be the usual differences in stylistic approach to cadences, etc.   Donald MacLeod plays the cadence E and then the first note of the cadence long – about the same length – followed by a slightly shorter second note.   John MacLellan plays the cadence E shorter and the following two notes quite evenly.   He also reverses the ‘dot and cut’ in the first couplet in bar 4 of line 1 of the ground.   Bob Brown played the initial E cadence significantly longer than might often be heard nowadays, then rolled down through the C.   In the suibhal he showed phrase endings clearly by not staying too long on the low A/low G of the three note group at each phrase end.   James Campbell gives the first E of the tune more length than the other E cadences, and none is short.   He allows the short notes in the suibhal to be well sounded, and his timing of the 3 note group is similar to that of Brown.   Brown’s long initial E cadence was also a feature of his playing of other tunes with the same beginning – Colbeck, Melbank, MacRae’s March, etc.

In PS 11, In bar 1 of line 2 of the ground, there should be a D grace note on the second B.   There is also an obvious error in the instruction for playing the doubling of variation 1 – the low A-C at phrase endings is written short-long, whereas it should be long-short.

A crunluath a mach is required in this tune.

Mackintosh of Borlum’s Salute                                PS 12 p376

An attractive tune, with distinct similarities to Black Donald’s March, and presenting no technical difficulties.      It differs from Black Donald’s March in that it falls into a mixture of two-bar and one-bar phrases, rather than two-bar phrases throughout, making it more of a challenge from a musical point of view.    Another challenge of the tune is the timing of the short notes before the cadences in the ground.   It was thought that these notes would probably best be treated as connecting notes, with more emphasis given to the theme notes.

The last phrase in line 1, and elsewhere, in the ground is thought to be unique to this tune, and may be timed in various different ways – the first B might be cut and the low A lengthened, or the final B played short.

In the thumb variation, there can sometimes be a tendency to rest too long on the high As, whereas they should generally be no longer than the notes in the ground which they replace.

In the taorluath singling it was felt that the short connecting notes before the triplets should be given full value and not rushed over.

NB   There were errors in the first (1970) edition of Book 12, corrected in later editions.   These were as follows:

Taorluath singling:

bar 6 lines 1 and 2:  B should have D grace note, not E

bar 2 line 3:   last note should be low A not low G

Taorluath doubling:

bar 6 line 1:   second note should be  B not C

Crunluath singling

bar 6 line 1:   B should have D not E grace note

bar 3 line 2:   last two notes should be low A and low G.  not B and low A


Lament for King George III                                        PS 14 p461

A long tune, composed by John Mackay, Angus Mackay’s father, and with similar touches to the Lament for MacLeod of Colbeck and other John Mackay tunes.   It has a musical ground and straightforward, but lyrical, variations.

Minor stylistic variations are possible, for example, the E/F couplet at the start of bars 2 and 4 of each line of the ground might be played ‘dotted and cut’ instead of ‘cut and dotted’ as shown.   Also, variation 1 and doubling could be played with the cuts and dots reversed.   It would also be possible to ‘run up’ to the cadences in variation 1, as is sometimes done in Colbeck.

The Gunns’ Salute                                                     PS 15 p518

A long and quite repetitive tune with some similarity to Kinlochmoidart No 1.   The challenge will be to keep it interesting throughout, with good crisp execution and variety in tempos.

Lament for Captain Donald Mackenzie                   PS 15 p505

An attractive long tune with some similarity to the Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon.   The notes in PS 15 cover the main points of interest.   David Glen has a thumb variation, and Glen and Ceol Mor omit variation 2 and its doubling.

For those who play a taorluath movement from low G with the D grace note on a second low G, rather than coming to low A with the D grace note, such a movement can be played in bar 3 of the first and third lines of variation II.