The Little Cascade reel

By G.S. MacLennan

There are 31 recordings of this tune.

This tune has been recorded together with

The Little Cascade has been added to 9 tune sets.

The Little Cascade has been added to 196 tunebooks.

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Two settings

X: 1
T: The Little Cascade
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Edor
|Beeg geBg|geeB gBeg|Beeg geBg|fdAe fagf|
Beeg geBg|geeB gBeg|Beeg geBg|fagf fe eg|
|:fBgf egbg|fBag gffg|fBgf egBg|fagf fe eg:|
G2 Be Bege|g2 fg egBe|G2 ce cege|fdAd fagf|
G2 Be Bege|g2 fg egBe|G2 Be geBg|fagf fe ef|
|:gefg efge|fdef defd|gefg efge|fage fe ef:|
|:Begf e2 fd|Bedf edBA|Begf e2 fd|Bedf fe eg:|
GdBe df e2|gfge Bega|GdBe df e2|Bedf feeg|
GdBe df e2|gfge Bega|gfge eded|Bedf feeg||
X: 2
T: The Little Cascade
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Amix
|e|B>ee>g g>eB>g|g>fe>B g>Be<g|B>ee>g g>eB>g|f>dA>d f<ag<f|
B>ee>g g>eB>g|g>fe>B g>Be<g|B>ee>g g>eB>g|f<ag>f f>ee3/2||
|:g/|f>Bg>f e<gB>g|f>Ba>g g>ff>g|f>Bg>f e<gB>g|f<ag>f f>ee3/2:|
g/|G2B<e B<eg>e|g2f<g e>gB<e|G2B<e B<eg>e|f>dA>d f<ag<f|
G2B<e B<eg>e|g2f<g e>gB<e|G2B<e g>eB>g|f<ag>f f>ee3/2||
|:f/|g2(3efg e>fg>e|f2(3def d>ef>d|g2(3efg e>fg>e|f<ag>f f>ee3/2:|
|:g/|B<eg>f e2f>d|B<ed<f e>dB<A|B<eg>f e2f>d|B<ed<f f>ee3/2:|
g/|G>dB<e d<fe2|g>fg>e B>eg<a|G>dB<e d<fe2|B<ed<f f>ee>g|
G>dB<e d<fe2|g>fg>e B>eg<a|g>fg>e f>de>d|B<ed<f f>ee2||

Twenty-four comments

Little Cascade

A long but really nice tune. Originally scottish I guess.
Third part is really nice when this low G is stressed.
Ronan le Bars (Breton piper) plays it at the uillean pipe in Dan Ar Braz’s “Keltic Heritage” .

Little cascade

Quite right, Robinson. It was composed by George “G.S.” McLennan, a piper from Aberdeen, whose “greatest hit” was the much-maligned “ Jig Of Slurs“. You would think that the title refers to a small waterfall, and in fact I have on video ex-Battlefield Band member Iain McDonald playing in such a setting for a TV programme on piping from a few years back. Unfortunately, the story goes that “G.S.” composed it in a German prisoner of war camp in the first world war when he couldn’t get to sleep because of a dripping tap ! True. Seems nobody told the programme’s producer.
This tune has been recorded many times , and seems to also go well on the harp/clarsach, judging by the number of times it apears on Scottish clarsach recordings.( Billy Jackson, “Sileas”, and Wendy Stewart, to name but 3).
A great tune, and doesn’t it go well on the uillean pipes too.

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It’s funny how the most annoying things can inspire the most beautiful tunes. I was listening to Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham yesterday on BBC Radio 2, live form the celtic connections festival. They played a slow air, written by Phil Cunningham, called ‘The Gentle Light that Wakes Me’. The inspiration behind it was a hotel in St. Sebastian(?) where he had trouble closing the curtains. Every morning at sunrise he would be rudely awakened by a shaft of sunlight coming through the gap in the curtains.

I love this tune.The c sharp in bar 3 line 4 sounds a litte strange (though nice?), is it meant to be a c natural?

I agree with you Chris… actually I would play a B

In the version I have (Ceol na Fidhle - Highland Tunes for the Fiddle, vol. 4) both those C#s are in fact B…. although a C-nat could sound nice there. But it’s a bagpipe tune - and a good one.

There are a few small “mistakes” in this version. I have the original as written by the great man and I’ll try and post it soon.
JC’s has the tune but not in an un-graced form.

Little Cascade

This wonderful little tune is not in the dorian mode. If you adjust the key signature to G Major, then it is in the aeolian. Probably most aolian mode tunes are in the key of D Major, so if you were to transpose The Little Cascade to D you would see quite clearly how it relates with other aolian mode tunes, The Musical Priest and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen being the most obvious examples.

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Tune story

I hadn’t heard the version of the story that Kenny tells before. I don’t believe G.S. was ever a POW.

The most common version is that told by G.S. half-brother, D.R., which says that their father pointed out the sound of the dripping tap during a lesson and it later inspired the tune.

Another version told by a fellow officer from the Gordon Highlanders, G.S.’ regiment, is that it was the dripping tap in their barracks that inspired the tune after returning from a night on the town.

A bit of snap

Here’s the tune with the dots and cuts as would have originally been played. It really brings out the dripping effect. I have set line 4 in a counter rhythmic style that is popular to play. It can also played in keeping with the rest of the tune. Harpers like to throw arpeggios into that part.

T:The Little Cascade
L: 1/8
C:G.S. McLennan
K: Amix
[|e|B>ee>g g>eB>g|g>fe>B g>Be<g|B>ee>g g>eB>g|f>dA>d f<ag<f|
B>ee>g g>eB>g|g>fe>B g>Be<g|B>ee>g g>eB>g|f<ag>f f>ee3/2|]
|:g/|f>Bg>f e<gB>g|f>Ba>g g>ff>g|f>Bg>f e<gB>g|f<ag>f f>ee3/2:|
[|g/|G2B<e B<eg>e|g2f<g e>gB<e|G2B<e B<eg>e|f>dA>d f<ag<f|
G2B<e B<eg>e|g2f<g e>gB<e|G2B<e g>eB>g|f<ag>f f>ee3/2|]
|:f/|g2(3efg e>fg>e|f2(3def d>ef>d|g2(3efg e>fg>e|f<ag>f f>ee3/2:|
|:g/|B<eg>f e2f>d|B<ed<f e>dB<A|B<eg>f e2f>d|B<ed<f f>ee3/2:|
[|g/|G>dB<e d<fe2|g>fg>e B>eg<a|G>dB<e d<fe2|B<ed<f f>ee>g|
G>dB<e d<fe2|g>fg>e B>eg<a|g>fg>e f>de>d|B<ed<f f>ee2|]


make that E Dorian instead of A Mixolydian.

The Little Cascade

I loved this tune ever since I heard Bobby McLeod playing it on the accordion. Must try and learn it

GS McLennan

Just to slightly disagree with Kenny.

I don’t know why the Jig of Slurs is much maligned because its a great tune to play on the big pipe and its great fun playing it on the box as well.

But its not GS McLennan’s biggest hit in my opinion. This surely must be the great Reel Mrs Mcpherson of Inveran. It is truly one of the greatest tunes ever written for the Highland Bagpipe


You could walk into just about any session in Scotland, and quite a few, maybe even most, in Ireland, and start playing the “Jig Of Slurs”, and most people would join in. That would not happen - even in Scotland - if you started playing “Mrs. McPherson Of Inveran”. I wish it were not so - “Mrs. McP” is a masterpiece, a far better tune in my opinion, but that’s just the way it is. That’s an open challenge - try it anywhere in the world.

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Just so there’s no misunderstanding, I never said above that the the “Jig Of Slurs” was G.S.’s best tune - only his most popular.

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The tap was indeed dripping - in the Celtic Hotel, London. It kept the Pipe Major awake all night.

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Source ?

I always like to know the stories behind tune titles, and am happy enough to be corrected, but I have to ask, what is the source of your information on that ?

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Myths and Legends

Re the source of the tune. The first parts (at least) were written by GS McLennan in his home in Powis Place, Aberdeen on hearing the music of a dripping kitchen tap. How do we know this? His son, who was there at the time and was asked to stop playing and listen subsequently told this story to the world during a BBC Radio Scotland interview in 1994. It was partially repeated 4 weeks ago.
GS served in France in 1918, and was never a POW. But the internet does provide a wonderful means of propagation of myth and its ready acceptance.

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Iain MacDonald…as I mentioned above 11 years ago.

P.S. - and quite happy to be corrected by GSM above, I agree with the last sentence, but the internet does also provide the same means for correction.

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Re: The Little Cascade

This fantastic tune has just popped up again in this weeks BBC Scotland Pipeline show ( 10/03/22 as I write ). There is pretty much a definitive history of the tune and an interesting note on the key signature too, not that that makes a lot of difference to pipers and I don’t think many backers will find themselves with the challenge either but hey ho.

Anyway, the history is that the tune was composed around the rhythm and sound of a tap leaking in to a metal sink in McLennan’s army quarters. I am further led to understand this was, happily, in married quarters and not a POW camp. As for the key signature well F minor, a complete game changer for pipe tunes in those days.

I love Allan McDonald’s playing but I believe that if you slow the tune down a little from the amazing pace he sustains in that famous youtube clip and keep an ear open you can really get a notion of the leaking tap. An arrhythmic burbling and popping that highland pipe gracing patterns can really bring out.