14) The Cameron style player tends to play siubhal variations “up the way”. Phrasing such variations in fours or sometimes eights is an option.
Following are two versions of the first line of the siubhal variation of “The Little Spree”. The first is a straight forward rendering of the siubhal played “up the way”. The initial low A’s of each couplet has been presented as eighth notes (quavers) in keeping with the admonition to avoid clipped or “staccato” playing.
The second is the same variation but grouped in “phrases” of four notes. Connell’s instructional recordings will be the best guide to this interpretation. What appears below is my best rendering of Connell’s style, albeit not one of which he approved of. Think of this version as being in 6/4 time.
A side note: Gillies taught the suibhal of “The Wee Spree” could be played correctly either “up the way” or “down the way”. Piper’s choice.
According to Connell and Andrew MacNeill (referencing Reid on what Gilllies taught) his personal preference was to play “up the way”. According to James Barrie (referencing what his father said regarding Gillies’ instruction) his preference was to play “down the way”.
THE WEE SPREE: first line of suibhal variation played “up the way”
THE WEE SPREE: first line of suibhal variation with notes grouped in fours
Creative, flexible groupings of notes in these “pendulum variations “ ought to be thought of as interpretive options, not employed at every turn, but always an option. Iain MacLeod (Jersey), for example, whose piping pedigree is impeccable, subtly expresses this variation of the “Wee Spree” in groups of eight notes, instead of Connell’s four. The suibhal variation of “Lament for MacSwan of Roaig”, Reid plays in a regular fashion, William Barrie plays in groups of four notes like Connell’s “Wee Spree”
This level of flexibility and even adventurousness on the part of Cameron influenced pipes is also exhibited in hybrid variations that combine elements of the taorluath breabach and the suibhal. Hybrid variations of this type can be found in the following tunes:
“The MacFarlanes’ Gathering”
“The Bells of Perth”
“Lament for MacSwan of Roaig”
“The Battle of Auldearn”
“The Lament for the Earl of Antrim”
“The Prince’s Salute”
A single example from Connell’s instructional material for “The MacFarlanes’ Gathering” illustrates the pattern.
THE MACFARLANES GATHERING: line one of ground doubling
The broader point here is that the Cameron style piper has in his interpretive arsenal a variety of methods to express these rhythmic variations. Rhythmic flexibility and perhaps innovation are characteristic of the style.
15) Although it is controversial, most of my informants were comfortable playing an crunluath a mach variation in fosgailte tunes.
Below are two snippets of the crunluath fosgailte variation of “The Little Spree.” The first is a “normal” fosgailte in which the dre portion of the movement closes to low A. In the second example the middle notes, D, C or B remain open and the fingers off the chanter as the E and F gracenotes are sounded.
Historically, it seems that these were two technical options for the same embellishment. The piper played one or the other, but not both. By the end of the 19th century, some pipers, including those of Cameron background, had adopted the second form as an a mach version of the first and thus played them sequentially in certain tunes. Campbell list the tunes that he was taught to handle this way with the concluding remark: “Some people do not agree with this, but their dissent does not alter the fact that Alexander Cameron told the writer to do it” (1948, page 19).
Connell directed that this a mach was an interpretive option in all fosgailte tunes, added or omitted at the discretion of the piper.
16) Robert Reid had a signature approach to the timing of common a mach variations. He attributed it to Gillies (perhaps a Keith Cameron influence?).
Reid described the approach as a mixture of time signatures within the variation. The standard crunluath and taorluath movements he said were expressed in 6/8 time. Shown below is a sample from the crunluath of “Grain in Hides and Corn in Sacks” written in 6/8 time.
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