Mary Aitken

June 16, 2014 on 6:21 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Random Thoughts, Video | Comments Off on Mary Aitken

One of my favourite two-parted jigs is that named, “Mary Aitken”. It’s a tricky little finger challenge first published in 1936 in John Wilson’s outstanding first book of music. Written by Malcolm R MacPherson (son of “Mrs MacPherson of Inveran” and Angus), a piper more famous for his playing than his composing, the tune is named for a champion Highland dancer of the day: Mary Aitken of Aberdeen.

The tune has a contemporary feel to it with a lot of interplay between top and bottom hands. You absolutely must be able to easily play E grace notes from D to B – in jig-time – or the tune (and you) bombs. Donald MacLeod published a four-parted version in his fifth book with the additional two parts built by Ian C Cameron – a great piper of the “between the wars” period and a good pal and contemporary of John Wilson’s. I don’t love the extra parts so much but, regardless, Mary Aitken clearly had many admirers – and some of them pipers.

The legendary film pioneers, known generally as British Pathé, recently digitized their massive 100-year-plus collection of images. The great events of the last century have thankfully been recorded by Pathé with one of the more modest occurrences here: dancer, Mary Aiken (sic) doing her Highland dancing thing to the pipe stylings of Pipe Major James Robertson, he, among other things, the composer of the often-played 6/8 march, “Farewell to the Creeks”.

Here you go, a be-sporraned Mary Aitken, namesake of a fine tune and dancing up a storm in 1935:


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