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Duncan MacRae of Kintail's Lament

A short introduction to the idiom of piobaireachd

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Duncan MacRae of Kintail's Lament

Duncan MacRae of Kintail's Lament is a short piobaireachd introducing pipers to the idiom of piobaireachd with a rather simple short piece.

I have transcribed the piece to as near as normally played and by taking some liberties in the note duration values. In the popular music books of Piobaireachd the timing (relative duration of notes) is not clear enough with some misleading abbreviations and apparently by keeping too rigidly to the time signature, as you can see when/if comparing. I have noted under the music of the Urlar and the Variation the time taken to play as a guide to the rate of the music other than when listening to the audio demonstrations. Generally, beware of playing Piobaireachd too slowly.

In essence, a songlike approach should be in mind. Piobaireachd provides a good diversion from the light music.

In the Piobairechd Society book 1, variations I and 2 are shown. On good authority and my preference too you may omit variation 1 and play only variation 2 as written next page. I think the reason for this is because the two variations are so similar. The variation may be played marginally faster, not slower, although I think the different rhythm imparts reasonable variation of tempo.

Remember to repeat the Urlar as required if in competition, or wishing to complete as directed. The repeat of line 1 once through might be preferred for your own playing, or when in a recital.

Lesson Pointers

The two more strange embellishments to those not aware of how to play them are: The Little finger movement, and the trills on F. These are shown broken down and as played in the relevant videos.

Grips on Cs should be sounded relatively strongly. The preceding note short C is meant to be almost as a grace note yet a fraction more open, hence showing as a short melody note that must not be too open before the grip.

The structure classification of this piece is essentially “Even–lined” with in this case each line of four bars with the addition a bar in line 3 that has the little finger movement. The first line is repeated. Knowledge of structures helps with phrasing and memorisation.

Phrasing (the division/clauses of the melody) as we know it in Piobaireachd in this case is every half line subtle feeling/duration as shown with a pause mark above the last longer note in the bar. There are other pause marks to denote a subtle extra feeling on the third pulse of certain triple time bars yet without being too noticeable – like a tiny comma in your mind. The .mp3 audio of the piece is slightly preferable to that of the .mp4 video.

Beware of dragging the music. Maintain a certain momentum. The title of many pieces can be misleading especially when the word “Lament” is shown. You might think that means to play very slowly, when musically that is not often the case. Remember as noted above in the second paragraph to keep a song-like approach in mind.

Good correct mental practise can be very helpful in one's performance of music, especially Piobaireachd where there are many subtlties/nuances. A well balanced, steady, rich sounding bagpipe is essential, even more so.

A Historical Note

Duncan MacRae, IXth Chieftain, was known as Duncan of the Silver Cups, a name that was attached to him because of his magnificent table service. Although he was well known in the Highlands for his engineering and mechanical skills his renown stemmed from his poetry.

He published, circa 1688–1693, the Fernaig Manuscript, a collection of Gaelic poems many of which were his own; all were of a Jacobite bent. The Fernaig Ms is recognized as a valuable source for the study of Gaelic literature written in the ‘old’ Gaelic; publications in the ‘old’ Gaelic are very rare – many were destroyed by Cromwell during the Civil War. The ‘old’ refers to Gaelic before it became contaminated with English.

Duncan's wife Janet was a niece of Iain Garbh MacLeod, VIIth of Raasay. Duncan came to a tragic end. He drowned, circa 1704, when attempting to cross the River Conag which was in flood. Many poems and elegies were composed on him after his death. The composer of this piobaireachd is unknown but the probability is that it would have been one of the MacRae piping family. A variation on this tune is called Lament for Colin MacRae of Inverinate. Colin, a descendant of Duncan, was born in 1776.

Note; Some of the melody in the Urlar of this piobaireachd is akin to some of the ancient Irish and Scottish harp music. I have edited a part of the above to fit the page. The historical notes and stories we have are by Ronald Macleod Officer of Order of Canada, Vancouver BC, Canada –with his kind permission.

Download The Music Notation.

Click to download the tune notation for Duncan MacRae of Kintail's Lament

Listen To Bill's Audio Instruction.

Trills on F

Little Finger Movement

Duncan MacRae of Kintails Lament

Watch Bill's Video Instruction.

Trills on F

The Little Finger Movement

Duncan MacRae of Kintails Lament

Duncan MacRae of Kintails Lament Variation

Watch the video on YouTube

If you have any questions or comments, please use Contact Form to contact Bill.

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