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Old 08-14-2006, 12:25 AM   #1
Roger Huth
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Default John Grant's 1915 Origin and Construction of Piobaireachd

Hi.
I was asked to review this book and as it is no longer available I have posted here rather than on Reviews.
Cheers

----------------------------------------
Piobaireachd Its Origin and Construction by John Grant 1915

John Grant lived and breathed the land of Craigellachie. He was part of its fabric and not an outsider looking in. The air and sky in his native land were unpolluted by car exhaust nor aeroplane’s roar. The mountainsides were unscarred by debris from Ski and Chair lift. His was a pristine Scotland. When he walked his hills and took in his view he looked back to through the years to when MacCrimmon ruled supreme in Skye under their Lords the MacLeods.
The MacCrimmons full time employment at their College in Borreraig was the creation and teaching of Scotland’s own music. The Piobaireachd. They enhanced the Piobaireachd Highland bagpipe to compliment their compositions and such was their intellect this classical music is still enjoyed by enthusiasts of their Great Highland Bagpipe.

It is soon apparent when reading through the pages of his book, that John Grant was also a man of considerable intellect. His knowledge appears to be no shallow pool as he explains to his reader the poetry of Piobaireachd as well as how the MacCrimmon Clan and others through the years constructed their compositions.
He also explains the theory of music as it appertains to the Scottish Bagpipe and I strongly suspect that those who created their own Bagpipe Schools during the 20th Century, including the Army at Edinburgh Castle, leant on this book heavily.
Certainly I recognise work in this book that I had to study when I was on my Senior and Pipe Major Courses there.

When describing Laments, Salutes, Welcomes, Gatherings etc. John Grant breathes life into chosen pieces.
He transports us to ancient battlefields where the Clan Chieftains personal pipers encouraged and supported the men at arms who were about to do and receive death on cold boggy moor.
We walk among the fallen and hear ancient battle strains.
We stand at the shore and watch families leave during the Highland Clearances.
Each Piobaireachd composition is actually telling us a story. Sad, jolly or otherwise.
They were composed especially to tell a story or record an event for prosterity.
We are marched with bagpipe music five miles to the top of a hill to witness the piper having his fingers cut off for warning his master.

There are one or two surprises in this book.
Two high A’s should be separated by controlling pressure on the bag and certainly not by thumbing the high G grace note. I think here, he means to cut out the chanter briefly as in a choke.
Marches, Strathspeys and Reels are in danger of being over embellished to the detriment of the music they are ornamenting.
Pipers should stand still and not bob about like corks on a stormy sea.
Piobaireachdan.

Apart from being an interesting and fulfilling read it is, in my opinion, an important book.

Roger Huth
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Old 08-14-2006, 04:21 AM   #2
Stig Bang-Mortensen
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Default Re: John Grant's 1915 Origin and Construction of Piobaireachd

Quote:
Originally posted by Roger Huth:

Marches, Strathspeys and Reels are in danger of being over embellished to the detriment of the music they are ornamenting.
The Ross collection has indeed changed a lot of things.
Compare Cape Breton S/R to a performance from Willie MacCallum or Jack Lee.

I have a recording of John MacColl. He doesn´t embellish the way his tunes are embellised today.

I have checked "The Web", Grants book is avaliable from one or two sources.
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Old 08-20-2006, 03:31 PM   #3
Tim
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Default Re: John Grant's 1915 Origin and Construction of Piobaireachd

It is an interesting book. I picked up a copy a few years back from abebooks.com. There is a copy listed there now for $150, which is close to what I remember paying for my copy.
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Old 08-20-2006, 09:20 PM   #4
maitland
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Default Re: John Grant's 1915 Origin and Construction of Piobaireachd

"Each Piobaireachd composition is actually telling us a story. Sad, jolly or otherwise.
They were composed especially to tell a story or record an event for prosterity." wrote Roger Huth.

This idealized vision (of Grant's) of the origin of the music shows an active imagination at work, untrammeled by evidence. Many tunes have several versions and different names, and others are clearly based on a shared musical idea. For example, I was recently looking at 'The Rout of Glenfruin' and discovered the Nether Lorn version ( which differs from the others) is called 'Macgrigor's March'; and that the tune has a lot in common with 'Fair Honey', including an identical thumb variation. Another which springs to mind is 'MacCrimmon's Sweetheart' - there is a tune in the MacArthur-MacGregor MS called 'The Battle of Maolroy', the ground of which is the siubhal variation of 'Sweetheart'.
Then there are the nameless tunes, neglected by many because they lack the romantic aura Grant and others were wont to conjure up. For all the inspiration such collectors contributed, there is this other side of perfectly good music lacking 'credentials' and passed by.

"His was a pristine Scotland. When he walked his hills and took in his view he looked back to through the years to when MacCrimmon ruled supreme in Skye under their Lords the MacLeods."

A Scotland also pristine of the sort of scholarly work which has elucidated our scanty knowledge of those earlier days, when MacCrimmon was not the only name in the front rank of pipers. What has Grant to say about the emerging view that piobaireachd has its roots in the extinct music of the clarsach, now being assidously revived? or its links with other European music? I feel his book is like Tequila, best taken with a pinch of salt.
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Old 08-30-2006, 11:34 PM   #5
maitland
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Default Re: John Grant's 1915 Origin and Construction of Piobaireachd

"John Grant was another of the same. He was an Edinburgh
advocate or something and published a great deal of very thick books about piping and
piobaireachd; but he didn't know anything about it. His credentials were sufficient, however,
for him to be appointed the first instructor at the Army School of Piping, when the
Piobaireachd Society had the place still in their nomination.
He began the course with "Drizzle on the stone," and his method of teaching it was to go
outside the classroom window with a pitcher of water and solemnly pour it on the ground.
The pipers on that first course took the unprecedented step of writing, all of them, to his
commanding officer requesting to be taken off the course. The authorities took the hint and
Grant was dismissed. Bob said, " He was just so bloody bad . . . "

From the final installment of Dr. William Donaldson's recollections of lessons with Robert Nicol ( see 'Piper and Drummer' features.)
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Old 08-31-2006, 07:15 AM   #6
SgtMac
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Default Re: John Grant's 1915 Origin and Construction of Piobaireachd

Maitland,

His writing seems kind of lofty about the teaching methods of old.. This way have been his attempt to try teach something that he didn't fully understand.

Could he play a piobaireach? Maybe he just couldn't teach very good.

Thanks for the info!
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Old 09-01-2006, 07:07 AM   #7
John Pratt / Abington Highlander
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Default Re: John Grant's 1915 Origin and Construction of Piobaireachd

Thanks for the review Roger,

I'll be looking forward to reading the book. I'm sure the Clan Historians will want to get a copy.

John Pratt
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Old 09-10-2006, 09:06 PM   #8
Ed Grundy
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Default Re: John Grant's 1915 Origin and Construction of Piobaireachd

i pinched an autographed copy of his royal collection of piob from the glasgow library in 1963.
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Old 09-10-2006, 10:55 PM   #9
maitland
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Default Re: John Grant's 1915 Origin and Construction of Piobaireachd

"i pinched an autographed copy of his royal collection of piob from the glasgow library in 1963." wrote Ed Grundy

Is this a confession? Isn't there an extradition treaty (assuming you're in the USA)? Have you decided to return it? This forum must be surveyed by law enforcement operatives (LEO's)who may start sniffing, cold though the trail may be.
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Old 09-11-2006, 05:33 AM   #10
CalumII
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Default Re: John Grant's 1915 Origin and Construction of Piobaireachd

I would imagine that amongst the pipers on that course, there would have been at least a few with the Gaelic who could have translated the original tune title for themselves...jugs of water indeed.

Cheers,
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