Robert Wallace: One of my prized possessions is a copy of the original manuscript of George S. McLennan’s celebrated 2/4 march ‘Inveran’. Written in 1924, possibly when recuperating from illness, the tune is dedicated to Angus MacPherson, Invershin, proprietor of the eponymous hotel. Isn’t it wonderful to see the great man’s handwriting?
The original has clearly been done on a landscape-shaped manuscript book, judging by the gap between staves five and six on my A4 copy. The gimlet-eyed among you will spot quite a few differences between the MS and the printed version which appeared in the edition of GS’s 1929 book re-issued by RG Hardie & Co in the 1960s:
1 The MS has no dots and cuts; the book has a few (e.g. bar 4, first part). According to the late P/M Joe Wilson, GS was of the view that this ‘dotting and tailing’ should be left to the piper to decide, and many of his tunes (Mrs MacPherson of Inveran, Little Cascade) are portrayed thus in their original form. Joe knew what he was talking about; his tutor had been P/M James Robertson, Banff, who knew GS and strenuously defended his legacy after his mentor’s premature death.
2 In the book there’s an E gracenote on B, 3rd bar, 1st part (possibly a typo); in the MS it’s G.
3 The book has a double E at the end of the 4th bar, part 1; the MS has a plain E.
4 The final bar of each part in the MS has a grip to E, not a doubling as per the book; both have the characteristic gracenoted birl.
5 The MS has a doubling on the 2nd F in the 2nd bar, part 2; the book
a G gracenote.
6 There’s a grip to E in the fourth bar of the 2nd part; doubling in book.
7 The same bar has a doubling on high A which is scored out in the MS. This makes it consistent with the start of the bar. The book has the inconsistency.
8 There’s a half double C at the start of the 3rd part and at the end of the 4th bar; the book has a full doubling both times.
9 Both book and MS confirm E gracenotes on B in the four note groupings in the 3rd part. Today we often hear the incorrect G. Not to be tolerated! It gives a different character to this part of the tune and why anyone would think they knew better than the genius composer is beyond me. We also hear G gracenotes on short rising Cs such as those throughout the tune. This was anathema to my old tutor RG Hardie. If there was to be a gracenote on a short C then it had to be D, and for sound musical reasons too. The G gracenote is more piercing. Its overuse is distracting and unpleasant. It is one of the weaknesses in the Scots Guards books and in Willie Ross.
To what extent should we follow a composer’s original score? Why is it okay in light music but not in ceol mor? Why do so many self-appointed arrangers of tunes think they know better than the composer? These are all points worth pondering but for competing pipers they are important issues. Some judges simply will not tolerate deviation from the original – expecially when it does not improve on what the composer has written.
But let us not be swayed away from considering afresh this marvellous melody that GS McLennan has left us. Anyone wishing to learn the tune could use either of the settings above but I know which one I prefer. Here is a video of Willie McCallum playing it. If anyone has any thoughts on GS or on his compositions, legacy etc. please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone wishing to learn the tune should click here.
David Naill Bagpipes, DN1 model: