Manuscript and illuminated Ancient Piobaireachd to the tune of Catherine's Lament

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written by John Grant, Edinburgh, 1905

Postcard of Manuscript and illuminated Ancient Piobaireachd to the tune of Catherine's Lament.
© National Museums Scotland

Manuscript and illuminated Ancient Piobaireachd to the tune of Catherine's Lament

Manuscript and illuminated 'Ancient Piobaireachd', the tune Catherine's Lament, originally dating to the 17th century. Written by John Grant of Edinburgh, 1905. It consists of 15 lines of music set within a rectangular decorated border of thistles, stars and crown in green, violet and red. With the superscription 'Very Old / Cumha Cateriona.' Subscribed in cipher 'J.G. / 1905'.

Piobaireachd, a Gaelic term meaning literally 'piping', is used for a form of classical music for the Great Highland Bagpipe. The tunes in extended form developed the air, known in Gaelic as ├╣rlar ('ground'), in a series of variations with increasingly elaborate but formulaic gracenoting. This style of composition probably preserves musical conventions of earlier centuries and required the player to be strictly trained. It is essentially the instrumental 'praise' music of Scottish Gaelic society, composed to commemorate great events, and the lives, achievements and deaths of clan chieftains and leaders of society.

The pipers themselves were often of high status and occupied an official position in the clan hierarchy. Many of the tunes belong to the late medieval period in the Highlands and were passed on by word of mouth and taught verbally before written notation was introduced. Tradition suggested that the leading exponents of piobaireachd such as the MacCrimmons and MacArthurs in Skye sang and recited the tunes in a syllabic language or canntaireachd. The collecting and study of piobaireachd began in the closing years of the 18th century on the instigation of the Highland Society of London to preserve music and an ancient tradition which was perceived as then dying out. The earliest surviving piobaireachd in manuscript was written down about 1760 and the printed collections began with Donald MacDonald's in about 1820 and Angus Mackay's in 1838. The Piobaireachd Society was founded in 1902 and it flourishes today. The Society is dedicated to the preservation and transmission of the classical music of the Great Highland bagpipe and has published most of the corpus of known piobaireachd music.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-579-829-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0869: The Bagpipe Collection
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  K.2002.1344
Date: 17th century (date of tune's origin)
1905 (date of inscription)
Material: Paper and card
Dimensions: 781 mm L x 576 mm W
What: Manuscript
Who: John Grant (scribe)
Where: Scotland, Edinburgh (place of inscription)
Description: Manuscript and illuminated Ancient Piobaireachd of 15 lines of music on heavy paper mounted on green card.
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