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Senior Set Tunes – 2015
Notes from previous judges’ seminars.
Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon PS2, K
John MacDonald played the ground and first variation quite briskly – a ‘forceful lamentation’. It was noted that the initial E was not too long, the weight being on the following low A. Different timings of the first variation can be expected. The variation should not be too slow. Some players will slightly stress the second note of each group; others will play the first and second notes fairly evenly.
In bar 6 line 1 of the taorluath and crunluath variations, and corresponding places, the theme notes can be transposed: F,E instead of E,F. This derives from Thomason’s Ceol Mor.
Lament for the Duke of Hamilton PS3, K
This tune requires a good top hand. The similarity between the ground and the first and second high G variations was noted, and it was felt that the second high G variation should be played considerably faster than the first.
In bar 5 lines 1 & 2 and bar 3 line 3 the low G in the second half of the bar might be played long, to balance with the earlier low As, or short as written. In bar 4 line 2 the cadence E (marked 7 in PS 3) can be played long, with the cadence E (marked 4) played shorter.
The suibhal variation may be played ‘up’ or ‘down’.
Lament for the Children PS3, K
Various differences in settings are possible. In particular, John MacDonald’s (and RU Brown’s) last bar of line 2 of the ground, with a G grace note on the F before high G, instead of on the E, appears only in Binneas is Borreraig and not in the other usual sources. Similarly, the high G grace note on the last B in the last bar of variation 1 instead of the GED cadence.
Kilberry’s ‘Sidelights’ contains an extensive note on different styles.
John Garve MacLeod of Raasay’s Lament PS5, K
The attractions of the Donald MacDonald version of the tune were compared to Angus Mackay’s setting. While it is accepted that, in Mackay’s setting, the first line need be played only once, it was recognised that repetition of the line probably represented the correct form of the tune.
The question of ‘mixing’ of settings was discussed, with reference to Donald MacDonald’s E echo beats in the second and third lines of the ground. It was agreed that, provided players gave advance notice of their intentions, settings which represented a ‘mix’ of authentic settings would not be regarded as unacceptable, but would be considered on their musical merit.
Lament for the Earl of Antrim
The ground may be played in single or two bar phrases. Brown and Nicol inserted a G grace note on the last E in lines 1and 2 of the ground, as taught by John MacDonald.
Variation 1 is sometimes played in 5/4 timing, that is, with a full crotchet for the second E. Different timings might be heard in variation 3, for example distinct couplets or a more even treatment.
Kilberry’s ‘Further Sidelights’ contains a useful note regarding different styles of playing the tune.
Mrs MacLeod of Talisker’s Salute PS11, K
It was noted that Angus Mackay wrote F instead of E at the 4th and 12th beats in line 1 of the taorluath and crunluath, and at the 4th beat in lines 2 and presumably 3. (There is no line 3 in Angus Mackay.) A cadence is sometimes played on B, the first note of the last bar in each line, as in Angus Mackay.
An a mach may be played although it is not in any of the sources.
MacLeod of Colbeck’s Lament
The C in bar 2 of the ground has no G grace note in Binneas is Boreraig. The G grace note appears in Angus Mackay’s book and in PS book 10. The corresponding C in the first variation is plain in Angus Mackay, but it has a G grace note in the tripling variation.
The first edition of Binneas reproduces what is thought to be a misprint – D instead of B in bar 10 of line 1. The second edition has B.
Different timings, all attractive, are possible in the singlings of variation 1 and the tripling.
A more detailed note on this tune, prepared by Colin MacLellan for the judges’ seminar, is attached.
Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon
Two basic styles were identified, distinguished by the treatment of the notes at the ends of each phrase throughout the ground, the doubling of the ground and the singlings of the variations. These notes may be treated as ‘passing notes’ or given their full note value according to taste. Care should be taken, however, not to make them too long.
John MacDonald played the cadential Es longer in the ground than in the doubling. This places the beat on E, which is not the theme note.
“The Lament for MacLeod of Colbecks” – John MacKay, Raasay
Sources: Angus MacKay 1838 p149, Ceol Mor 1893 P163, David Glen MS, Piobaireachd Society Collection, Book 10, p 292,
Binneas is Boreraig . All of these settings are very similar, with minor differences.
Angus MacKay has an error in the 10th bar of the first line of the ground, first note D, which should be B. Ceol Mor has a similar error in the same place, except here it is a C which should be a B, and this is repeated in the corresponding places where the phrase re-occurs in the ground. Binneas has no G grace note on the second C in bar one of the ground. This grace note appears in Angus MacKay and the PS.
There are differences in time signatures (2/4, 4/4) in the triplet variations amongst these settings, although this would not affect the style in which these would be presented.
It is unlikely that competitors would present anything else other than the published Piobaireachd Society setting. The other settings are essentially the same with minor notation errors.
Stylistically, interpretations are likely to be quite similar. The ground is fairly straightforward, although it is quite possible that players will experiment with the timing of the B and C quavers in bar nine, they are written the same but could easily be played with emphasis on either the B or the C or even as written. Most likely, players will play the cadences in the ground and also the variations with the emphasis on the first note, although some would play these as even, which would be perfectly acceptable.
It is quite possible that more significant stylistic differences may be heard in the presentations of variation one. Most players now copy the style attributed (I believe) to Malcolm R MacPherson of Invershin, that is treating the first two notes of the second bar of each phrase as even, thus creating a run-up effect to end each phrase. It would be quite acceptable to hear the variation as it is written, although in the present day this would be the exception rather than the rule. I have heard Malcolm MacRae, P/M Brian Donaldson, and P/M Donald MacLeod all play it this way written in the PS setting.
The tune is usually played without a Crunluath a Mach variation, although it would be quite acceptable to add this if it were the taste of the player. It is a long tune, of some 18 minutes, with the variations being identical in note structure and phrasing. I would imagine that judges would be looking for interpretations which feature contrasting tempo changes and well-presented transitions between variations.
The tune was composed by John MacKay, Raasay. It was composed for John MacLeod whose father, also John, emigrated to Colbecks in Jamaica in the mid 1700’s, and who made his fortune as a planter, having an estate at Colbecks. (The MacLeod’s – Genealogy of a Clan, pp 15-16). Colbecks is a small community situated some 30 kms east of the capital city, Kingston. Colbecks Castle was built in 1680 by the English as a defence against Spain and now stands as a ruin. It is interesting to note that it appears that the place was actually called Colbecks, and not Colbeck, so the more correct title for the tune might be “The Lament for MacLeod of Colbecks”.