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The variation set is a form which has fallen into total disuse in Scotland, though judging by the number of copies that exist in manuscript from the 18th century, must have been very popular then. (For the fiddle, David Johnson's Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century reprints a few; the form was developed actively to the present day in the repertoire of the Northumbrian pipes). The sources suggest these fell into two classes: the tunes where there is only one variation, which seem always to have been played more or less as originally composed, and the longer sets, where players felt free to add or substitute variations of their own, maybe passing them on to other players in manuscript; a folk composition process, but one essentially involving notated music (and one that I hope users of this book will continue, rather than treat these pieces as fixed compositions). I have illustrated this by giving alternative variation sets on some of the tunes, spread over a timespan of up to a century. Much of this music has never been published before.
Buy a Broom is a simple variation set on an English tune popular in Northumbria and used by Burns, from the manuscript book of G. Wade (NLS MS 21769). Most of Wade's tunes are dated; this is from 1843.
Moggy Lawther is from Bremner's Delightful Companion for the German Flute.
The Blossom of the Raspberry is from the Caledonian Pocket Companion; it was copied almost without change in the Knox Manuscript. Several other variation sets of the period have a final jig like this. The tune is also known as Miss Hamilton's Delight.
The Lowland Lassie, a variation set on the tune now known as Kate Dalrymple, comes from a manuscript compiled by Ian Doig in 1780, in the Moir Collection in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow. It sounds like Doig had heard too much Haydn for his own good; there isn't any other Scottish tune arrangement quite like this.
The Northumbrian tune The Morpeth Rant is still often played by Northumbrian pipers as a variation set; this version comes from the Gows' flute Repository of 1812.
Rural Felicity is from Tapp. The basic jig may have been written by James Oswald, who published it first as The Small Pin Cushion; it's known today as Haste to the Wedding and in the 18th century as Carrick Fergus (no connection with the well-known song of that name, an Irish version of the Scots Waly, Waly).or Trip to the Dargle; it got the name here from its use in a ballad opera, obscenely parodied in The Gentleman's Bottle Companion. The set is incomplete in the manuscript, with the first four bars of another variation given.
Paddy O'Rafferty is a longer variation set on the an Irish tune popular in Scotland in the late 18th century, also from Lieutenant Tapp. The first three parts were written a few pages apart from the others, but they seem intended to go together.
Bannoks of Bear Meal is from the Caledonian Pocket Companion; I have given a duet arrangement of the same tune in the duets section here.
Fairly Shot of Her is best known today as the tune for James Hogg's fake Jacobite rallying song, The Highland Muster Roll (or Donald Macgillivray. This variation set is from the Gows' flute Repository of 1812.
To Daunton Me is a well-known and powerful strathspey, originally the song An old man shall never daunt on me, later adapted as a Jacobite piece. The variations are from the Caledonian Pocket Companion.
The Tears of Scotland is a complex slow air with only one variation, from the Caledonian Pocket Companion. It was written by James Oswald in 1746, to a text by Tobias Smollett lamenting the victims of the Duke of Cumberland after Culloden.
Magie Lauder is from Andrew Small's book, decades after Bremner's variation set on the tune was published and substantially more complicated.
The beautiful and staggeringly complex set of variations on The Lee Rigg, also known as My Ain Kind Dearie, is from Andrew Small's manuscript. There are several extant variation sets on this tune dating back to the McFarlan Manuscript of the early 1740s, but I have not seen anything this intricate anywhere else.
Reel of Tulloch with variations is taken from J. Crichton Donaldson's manuscript of 1853-1855, but it is a transposition for the flute of a set for the fiddle published by Robert Bremner a hundred years earlier. Other variation sets on this tune were written, including an often-played one by Scott Skinner; this is the most dramatic by a long way. It's the only piece in this collection that uses a low C.
Johnny Cope was a tune that attracted variation writers; I know of four different sets based on it. Perhaps the best is Charles Maclean's set in G minor for the fiddle, probably composed not long after the song. Johnny Cope with variations seems to be derived from that; it's from the National Library of Scotland flute manuscript book MS.21733, compiled by at least three different people around 1820.
Hei tuti teti was a drinking song, now best known as the tune used by Burns for Scots Wha Hae. Burns selected it for a reason: there is a tradition that it was used as a battle song by Bruce's army at Bannockburn. It was formerly known as Now the day dawis, under which title it is mentioned scornfully by William Dunbar in his satire on the merchants of Edinburgh of around 1500 as the sort of thing a one-tune singer would perform. Dauney in Ancient Scotish Music suggests that it was a reveille tune - exactly what Johnny Cowpar would have been playing before dawn in the streets of Aberdeen in the sixteenth century, and the kind of tune that every city-dweller without exception would know. Since civilian tunes have often been appropriated for military use - and would surely have been so even more often in the days before standing armies with a musician corps existed - the two are not exclusive. This variation set is by James Oswald, from the Caledonian Pocket Companion.
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Old Scottish Flute Music Copyright © 2003, Jack Campin