Published: October 31, 2001

2002 Set Tunes Series by Dr. William Donaldson

We announce the second, exclusive series by Dr. William Donaldson of Aberdeen, Scotland, examining piobaireachds set for the major competitions in 2002. The unprecedented success of the first series, “18 Tunes: an exploration of Piobaireachd,” has opened the door to further objective study of settings previously unavailable to pipers.

Entitled, “‘Entirely at the pleasure of the performer’: a further exploration of piobaireachd,” Dr. Donaldson has painstakingly researched numerous manuscripts currently available only through the collections of various Scottish universities and museums. While the previous series covered only the tunes set for the Gold Medal and Senior competitions, the 2002 articles will also examine many of the tunes set for the Silver Medal events.

“The continuing aim of this series is to give the player access to the whole stylistic range of the music,” Dr. Donaldson comments. “The second series builds on the experience of the first by giving fuller musical examples, including at least one complete setting, for a selection of the 2002 Gold and Silver medal tunes.”

The title of the series refers to a quote from David Glen’s Collection of Ancient Piobaireachd (1880-1907), and Dr. Donaldson writes in his introduction to the series, “The phrase was used in conjunction with cadence movements, indicating that the timing of these was a matter of context and individual taste and that the performer need not be governed by the time values of the book. This was in keeping with the ethos of performer choice that prevailed in piping at the end of the 19th century.”

“We` are thrilled to be chosen once again as the outlet for Dr. Donaldson’s truly groundbreaking work,” said Andrew Berthoff, editor. “We firmly believe that there is a new enlightenment in piobaireachd today, where pipers welcome ‘new’ interpretations of ‘traditional’ tunes and judges are willing to accept them in competition. In truth, these new interpretations are really older than the accepted renditions of what are mainly heard today. No matter what one’s stance, there is much to be gained from Dr. Donaldson’s series.”

Colin MacLellan, president of the Competing Pipers Association, and winner of both Gold Medals and the Silver Chanter, said of the previous series: “As piobaireachd playing takes a step back from the grind of almost total standardization, along comes this series which points out to pipers the different settings and sources, presented in a scholarly and unbiased forum.”

Dr. Donaldson has volunteered to respond personally to queries from readers about particular tunes or settings.

The first installment of “‘Entirely at the pleasure of the performer’: a further exploration of piobaireachd” will appear in the next few days, beginning with Dr. Donaldson’s introduction to the series.

William Donaldson is a lecturer in history with Scotland’s Open University and was for many years a pupil of Robert Nicol, one of the famed “Bobs of Balmoral.”

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