Set Tunes for the Senior Piobaireachd and Clasp Competitions in 2010
The following notes are from the piobaireachd judges’ seminar held on 22 November 2009 to discuss the 2010 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.
Note that, for the purpose of the competitions in 2010, only the first line of the urlar need be repeated at the end of each tune and this will be regarded as part of the performance for judging purposes.
Music Committee Secretary
The Sister’s Lament PS 4 p109; K p41
There are four sources for this excellent tune – the Campbell Canntaireachd (where it is known as The Daughter’s Lament), Donald MacDonald’s published book, Angus Mackay’s manuscript and Henderson’s manuscript. The main differences are listed in the notes in PS4 page 110. There are similarities between this tune and ‘The Brother’s Lament’. The tune is also in Binneas is Borreraig, again with a few minor differences.
The last variation, the suibhal, is shown as being played ‘down’, but is also attractive if played ‘up’. Slightly different timings are possible in variation I.
Nameless (Angus Mackay’s MS) PS 4 p111; K p42
This tune appears in the manuscripts of Angus Mackay and Angus MacArthur and the settings are similar. The main differences are in the grace-noting of the MacArthur setting, which is most attractive.
The Battle of Glensheil PS 4 p124
Three sources for the tune, PS, Binneas is Boreraig and Ceol Mor, are all fairly similar. Variation I is shown as being played up, but might also be played ‘down’ and is shown as such in Colin Cameron’s manuscript.
A Glase PS 11 p320
This attractive short tune is seldom heard, so there is scope for different interpretations.
Duncan MacRae of Kintail’s Lament PS 4 p121; K p40
There are several versions of this well known tune, and these are mentioned in the notes in PS4 page 122. Most competitors will probably play it as written in PS4, probably with the additional ‘high A’ variation after the urlar, as mentioned in the notes. The final phrase of the urlar may be played by cutting the first C and first B as shown (RU Brown used to cut these quite sharply), or by gliding down from them to the following low A and low G (as played by Donald MacLeod). Other timing differences may be heard, such as shortening the low A crotchets in the first three bars of lines 1 and 2 of the ground and lengthening the E cadence note at the start of line 3.
Nameless (Colin Campbell’s Canntaireachd MS) PS 4 p124; K p43
The setting published in PS4 is from the canntaireachd but with cadences inserted and other minor differences. There is the possibility of playing the tune without cadences and with slightly different throws to high G, as in the canntaireachd. There is scope for different timings of the Bs and low As in line 1 of the urlar. In bar 5, line 1 of variation II, Kilberry has a grip to high G, rather than a chedere movement as in PS4.
The Old Woman’s Lullaby PS 4 p113; K p39
This tune is recorded in John Mackay’s MS, in Angus Mackay’s MS and in William Ross’s book. It is a popular tune and has been recorded many times. Volume Two of the ‘Masters of Piobaireachd’ series includes a recording of RU Brown playing the tune, preceded by an interesting introduction in which he states that John MacDonald thought that William Ross had a particularly good interpretation of the tune. The Ross version is an accurate copy of the Angus Mackay setting.
There are many different ways of timing and expressing the tune. An interesting and detailed article by Roderick Cannon on ‘The Old Woman’s Lullaby’ was published in The Piping times in 1982 and a copy of this is available here, courtesy of the Piping Times. There is also a recording of the tune played in this manner by Andrew Wright here. If you would like more info on the Piping Times, go to this link.
The Aged Warrior’s Sorrow PS 12 p360
This tune is recorded in Donald MacDonald’s book (1820) and, in a similar form in Angus Mackay’s MS. The PS version has been modified to make it regular, to correspond with the variation. It is an attractive short tune.
Lament for Red Hector of the Battles PS 4 p111; K p42
The William Ross version of this beautiful tune is probably better known as it has attractive taorluath and crunluath variations. The first and second lines of the urlar of the two versions are almost identical, but the third line differs. The variation is quite different from the William Ross version.
The Middling Spree PS 11 p322
One of the three ‘Spree’ tunes. The source is Angus Mackay’s manuscript.
Structurally it is simple and technically it is straightforward. The ground resembles, to some extent, the first variation of ‘The Big Spree’ with the first two notes played more or less evenly and with E and F the dominant notes. It also resembles ‘The Men went to Drink’ if played with the first couplet dotted and cut. It is similar in construction to these tunes.
The first couplet in bar 2 of variation II is shown as cut and dotted, whereas all other first couplets are even. This is probably an error.
The Park Piobaireachd No. 1 PS 4 p113; K p46
There are differences in the timings of the urlar and variation I between the PS and Kilberry settings. In bar 3 of the urlar, and elsewhere, K has the first B played short, as a quaver, presumably following a longish E cadence note, whereas the PS has it as a full crochet, presumably preceded by a shortish E. Both ways are commonly played. Another example of different timings is in the grips to F, high G and high A in lines 2 and 3 of the variation. These are usually played with a long note preceding the grip, but may also be timed with a short preceding note and a longer note after the grip to balance it out. Other variations of timing throughout the tune are to be expected, provided, of course, that they are musically consistent within the performance. Well thought out phrasing is essential to a good performance of this tune.
The Pretty Dirk PS 11 p318
A relatively straightforward tune which should pose no problems. Slight stylistic differences are in the notes in PS11 page 319.
Nameless Lament (MacArthur MS) PS 13 p420 or 421, but not p423
This tune appears in Angus MacArthur’s and Angus Mackay’s MSS, the latter being derived from the former. A performing text, with the original grace noting and ornamentation, is also included in The Music of Scotland Volume 01: The MacArthur MacGregor Manuscript of Piobaireachd, tune number 20. These versions of the tune may, of course, be submitted by competitors provided that the judges are advised in advance. The only version not permitted for the 2010 competitions is the edited setting on PS13 page 423. The tune has similarities with Nameless (Cherede Darievea) and it is possible that one is derived from the other.
This excellent tune is technically demanding, with some difficult and unusual top hand fingering, and is musically challenging also.
There is an editorial note in PS13 page 424 which suggests that the complex fingering in bars 7 & 8 of the urlar may represent what we refer to as a ‘darado’. This now seems unlikely as it would be inconsistent with MacArthur’s representation of that movement elsewhere in his MS.
Mackay’s setting differs from the original in two main aspects. There are E cadences inserted in bar 6, line 1 and bar 4 line 2. The second phrase of line 2 appears to be Mackay’s own composition and there is a similar alteration later in the urlar. Some of Mackay’s timing differs; in particular, the dotted B at the end of line 2 of the urlar adds to the attractiveness of this uniquely grace noted phrase. Note errors occurring in Mackay’s MS have been corrected in the PS setting.
Lament for the Bishop of Argyll PS 15 p509
Thought to be a tune written for the fiddle, or possibly the harp. It was felt to have the character of a piobaireachd and arranged for bagpipes. The urlar and first two variations are fairly straightforward and technically undemanding. Variation III however, contains some tricky fingering, especially the throws to high G followed by high A grace note on G, and also gives scope for variations in timing.
Salute on the birth of Rory Mor MacLeod PS 4 p121; K p38
A very beautiful and well known tune. K setting is quite different from the PS one. RU Brown ‘stretches’ the timing at times eg in variation I he plays the notes after the grips long but treats the corresponding notes without grips as short linking notes. There is much scope for different timing and expression throughout the tune.
Left Hand PS 14 p489
This tune has seldom, if ever, been heard. It was probably given its name because of the extensive top hand content in the urlar. It may have been a composed by Colin Campbell. The tune is curious in that the final variation is similar in style to an urlar and it could be that this was intended as the ground. The urlar is more like a first variation. In view of this, If desired by competitors, the final variation may be played as the urlar.