this tune is also known as Miss MacLeod’s Reel, Mrs. MacLeod of Raasay, and is posted here under the title "The Gray Old Lady of Raasay.
I wonder if this tune was composed to honour a specific person, and as the person’s state/status changed throughout her life, the title changed to reflect her new status?
The Chieftains often use a similar setting (in A) as a ‘grand medley’ in which various people step in and play solos on other tunes, in between the whole gang playing this one.
this tune is also known as Miss MacLeod’s Reel, Mrs. MacLeod of Raasay, and is posted here under the title "The Gray Old Lady of Raasay.
I have seen a 4-part setting of this tune credited to Niel Gow, the C19th(?) Scottish composer. Whether he composed the tune itself, or just that particular set of variations, I don’t know - it seems probable that the tune is older. However, this setting, which is in G, resembles much more closely the version now popular in Ireland, than the version posted here, usually considered the ‘original’.
As for who Mrs. McLeod, or the Grey Old Lady was, perhaps somebody on Raasay might know.
This is not the tune on Fiddler’s Choice by Jerry Holland
Check out ‘The GREY old lady of Raasay’ submitted by Dow
Mrs. MacLeod in A (Scottish?) vs Miss MacLeod in G (?)
My daughter learned this tune as Mrs. MacLeod in A at a summer Scottish fiddle camp. There were 2 instructors, 1 from the U.S. (Boston area), 1 from Edinburgh, SCO and 1 from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
She played the tune the other night at a session (she’s 13 so I get to drive/attend all her sessions), and was told that she was wrong to play it in A and that nobody outside of Scotland or Cape Breton plays it in A. She replied that she had learned it that way, and that since she was part Scottish, that’s how she wanted to play it.
Is there ever a ‘wrong’ way to play a tune? Or would it be considered a variation on a tune to play it differently?
I was a bit astounded to hear an experienced session musician telling a young fiddler that they were playing something in the ‘wrong’ key, just because it was uncommon to do so in a certain area. Is it strictly a difference in key or does it go deeper than that (Scottish style vs Irish style)? From what I could research, it’s originally a scottish tune written in A as Mrs. MacLeod of Raasay, but has been adopted by Irish and American fiddlers as Miss MacLeod’s Reel and played in G. Does that make it a different tune? Does that make it wrong to play it in A?
Has anybody run into this recently and how have you handled it? Just curious…
G or A?
A lot of people in England and North America play the original version in A as well as Scotland and CB. For someone to play it outside of Scotland isn’t wrong, but sometimes people in Irish sessions get a bit snooty if you play a version of a tune that differs from the one in their repertoire, and they’ll tell you "you’re in an Irish session, so play the Irish version". The solution is to learn both versions, and play the one that is most appropriate to the session.
G or A or anything else ~
I suspect it isn’t just the key ~ even in Scotland the styles one acquires can depend on the influences, which are many, not forgetting sylistic differences that can occur between areas and individuals. I would expect that the approach gained in a ‘Scottish Fiddle Camp’ would be strongly coloured in a particular way ~ and I do not mean this necessarily as a criticism… That difference, having some experience there, would stand out in a predominately Irish session, key not being the only thing contrary…
From session to session the welcome of ‘difference’ varies. That said, most sessions do not take kindly to interjection, meaning when someone shows up, new for example, and decides to play their party piece, or the latest thing they’ve learned ~ at least not without clearing it first with the regulars or an organizers, or without being asked… Sessions are ‘established’ in most cases and have protocal. While some may not realize they are ‘butting in’, as they say, ignorance is a poor excuse. You should know a session before becoming ‘active’ in it. That understanding is sometimes taken for granted and can result in what may be taken as ‘rude’ responses, which I agree could be better considered…
Some sessions have a good mix, even including the occassional Breton or other tune source, while others are adamant and emphatic, to the point of seeming rude, for example, "This is only a Welsh Session, Welsh Tunes Only!" This can be quite enforced, but not hidden. I’ve known sessions that have had an unspoken rule of, basically, REELS ONLY! It is usually evident if you practice good ettiquette, meaning that you use your ears first and listen and become familiar with the session and their ways and tunes first before deciding to start adding your own take on things, or new tunes. Know and play a significant number of that sessions regular tunes before adding things…and even then, show them respect by asking someone first, get some support if you can…
It isn’t hard to figure out who I think is being most rude, someone coming in and doing something out of the norm, or the person who reacts to this in a direct way. I have seen it as short in reaction as "F-OFF!" I don’t condone that, but I understand it. I prefer a little diplomacy, but that is also part of what defines a session. Some places they don’t beat around the bush. That doesn’t mean you aren’t welcome, but what you were trying to do isn’t part of THEIR session… Likely THEIR session has been established longer than your participation in it. Also, some sessions aren’t agist, they can be rude to anyone whatever their age or nationality… Mind you, I would prefer a little more patience for beginners and those under the age of 13 ~ since most 13 and up prefer to be treated as ‘adults’, whether or not they deserve that…
I have known session damned with one or more ‘precocious’ young-uns (or their pushy parents), desperate to show off and take up time, dancers and musicians. There are times I wish I were rude, though sometimes I do slip up myself… :-/
Be patient, if this isn’t the right session there are sure to be others to GET TO KNOW, and to eventually find an active part in… But give this one patience, don’t let one slap on the wrist put you off it altogether, be strong, but be patient and aware ~ with respect that wherever you go, there will be a ‘tradition’ established that predates your arrival…whether or not it agrees with you…
Best of luck, and may you have a Christmas full and rich with merriment and music… ‘c’
Hmm, yeah. ‘c’ speaks the truth. I have to say though, I mean… 13??! C’mon, I’d be encouraging a 13 year old to play whatever they did. At that age you’re so impressionable and self-conscious. Whatever you’re doing "wrong" at that age, it’s up to the others at the session to accept it and get on with it. Life is short. Good trad is thin on the ground. Live and let live. The sort of acute understanding of how sessions work and how people’s minds work that you talk of, ‘c’, that comes from years of experience, and the knowledge that can only come with old age and a bald head :-) You can’t expect a 13 year old to "know" in that depth. It’s up to the 13 year old to feel their way around it all for the coming years and gain that knowledge and experience themselves. And that will come from a natural inclination to sensitivity and openness, not from snooty comments made by their elders.
The “BUT” ~ (no, not butt!)
Yeah, so would I ~ encourage that is, without a doubt… BUT, there it is, the BUT ~ also I’d want to give them some tools to be able to survive the harsh bits, like the recent experience, to understand what happened. I have seen folks turned off completely from a single incident.
Locally there were some unclued up adults, post 30s, who attended their first ever session. They brought their music stands and sheetmusic. Before anyone reasonable could approach them and ‘educate’ them, a local character, one abrupt and pushy musically and otherwise, approached them and basically told them to "F-off", that and a few more choice words added. They have never been seen in another session since. That same group used to also attend a local dance class and were slowly getting to where they could play with their ears and eyes minus the sheet music and stands. But, another BUT, "POOF!" ~ That one experience and they were gone, disappeared… That was around 6 to 9 unaware (some less kind would say ignorant or thick) musicians…
So, yes, I believe in support and encouragement, but it needs direction. If that was the only thing you gave then the world would be overrun by those precocious young dancers and musicians who regularly arrive for a once off performance at sessions across the world. Alright, once in awhile is O.K., but at a recent one a whole bloomin’ (avoiding my want to curse) dance troop showed up and took 30 minutes out of the music, and used a really bad boom box and a horrible recording that featured synthesized bass and chords ~ AAAAAAA!!! No, I didn’t get rude, not verbally, we walked out in the middle of the thumetty bouncey-ringlet gaudy mini-skirted invasion…
Who’s old and bald?
"If that was the only thing you gave then the world would be overrun by those precocious young dancers and musicians who regularly arrive for a once off performance at sessions across the world."
But it *is*, isn’t it? :-)
I’m not saying anyone’s old and bald, I’m just saying.
Hey, are you saying 13 years isn’t enough to have matured enough sense that it include common courtesy? ~ maybe you’re right… :-/ But it has to start somewhere, though, speaking for both of us (HA!), we’d prefer that education was kind courteous and supportive…at least to start with… ;-)
Involved in teaching, I see too often when my own impatience is reflected back at me… That isn’t what I want to promote in ‘tradition’… ‘Patience’ & ‘Understanding’ are part of my hoped for results…for the tradition and for others…
Hmm, that’s getting into child developmental studies or something that I don’t know nuffink about. But I think my point is, that it’s not just about common courtesy. You know as well as I that people can be discourteous and clueless at any age. I think what I’m saying is that a knowledge of repertoire and versions of tunes, and social skills, and dealing with certain types of people, and session etiquette - all that comes with experience, and experience results from repeated interactions over a number of years, and that usually entails age, but not always. Young kids in Ireland who’ve been in the music scene for years can be pretty savvy. I’d just rather give kids the benefit of the doubt…
dot dot dot, he said, trailing off thoughtfully…
Definitely not age-specific ~
Any age ~ did you miss the earlier example, the post-30 crowd? Yeah, I think I was saying something similar, ‘the-benefit-of-the-doubt’ thing, but I don’t reserve that for just the young, of body or mind… You and I might be blessed with some understanding and patience here, which we might be able to share, but ~ there is the case of the rest of the world of sessioning and music making, and while it would be nice if we were always there to duck and parry and be ‘diplomatic’, or attempt that, we can’t. The best we can do is offer some guidance, and maybe someone will benefit from it, maybe not. Besides Dow (Mark), you told me you hate taking any responsibility like that…
I have been in a situation with a bunch of the old source type where a similar ‘ride-over’ was executed by the younger hot shot or hot shots present. These younger musicians, raised on competition and performance, didn’t have any time or patience for the older styles of playing and the tunes these elders wanted to play and were comfortable with. What was sad was that while the younger musicians railroaded things their way and took over the situation, the elder musicians, ALL names, sat back and gave in, decided not to fight it. Maybe that was their way of ‘giving-them-the-benefit-of-the-doubt’? Too bad it didn’t work both ways though. Worse, the younger invasion were just that, guests, invited to join in, not to take over…
I have known pre-teens that had more savvy than a lot of the so-called adults I’ve stumbled across over time in all sorts of situations. Given the choice I’d rather share tunes with considerate youth than inconsiderate old farts, however accomplished they might be or might imagine they are. Some of our best times have been sharing music or dance or other aspects of tradition with those much younger than us. There is no future without that being fostered, fostered as more than a tune, a step or a fancy twiddle… The tradition I know and respect includes courtesy as an important aspect of its community spirit, the craic…
It’s too bad this isn’t in the ‘Discussions’ section, but then, maybe that is good. It means just you and I are here trying to soften the blow and offer guidance and strength for any future run-ins with ‘the-way-things-are’ in some realms and under certain influences…
I am left a bit worried for you Dow, as it’s not like you to ‘trail off’ in waltz time?
I like that Kenny, a man of few words… :-)
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