Chapel Keithack

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CHAPEL KEITHACK. AKA and see "Chapel Keithing." Scottish, Slow Air (3/4). B Flat Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. Composed by William Marshall (1748-1883), of Fochabers, Morayshire. The Gaelic keithack translates as wood, so the title presumably means 'chapel in the wood' or 'wooden chapel'. Neil (1991) states that the structure of the title was thought to have been sited somewhere along the hilly road which links Dufftown and Huntly, and finds that a place of the same name existed there in 1636, situated near the modern village of Mortlach. Alburger (1983) relates that one Father George Gordon was a priest at Keithack ("near Dufftown") who was a fine musician and in a position to circulate Marshall's music to a wider public. "It has been suggested he furnished bass lines for Marshall's second collection; perhaps Marshall's outstanding slow air 'Chapel Keithack'...was a musical offering in return for the Father's help" (Alburger, 1983). Cowie (The Life and Times of William Marshall, 1999) points out that Catholics needed to maintain a low profile after the defeat of the Highland army at Culloden, and that the chapel where Father Gordon held his services "would in all probability be in the upper part of his home where a simple altar would have been erected."

Some have found the composition lacking. Emmerson (1971) for one gives the critique:

There is no doubt that as far as the idiom of Scottish dance music is concerned, Marshall had all the craftsmanship he required, but the beautiful slow air, or airs, "Chapel Keithing," amounts to an exasperating stillbirth of two beautiful melodies which Haydn, whose name comes to mind when one hears them, could have developed as a masterly adagio in a quartet. Marshall begins very well, but the second tune cries out for further development, and just then, as though caught red-handed, he drops it with a conventional but meaningless run to change key and return to the original.

Some parts of the composition are easier to play in third position. Also, the whole tune is often played in second position.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Alburger (Scottish Fiddlers and Their Music), 1983; Ex. 55, p. 81. Carlin (Gow Collection), 1986; No. 536. Hardie (Caledonian Companion), 1992; p. 93 (arranaged by Hector MacAndrew). Hunter (Fiddle Music of Scotland), 1988; No. 49 (arranged by James Hunter). S. Johnson (A Twenty Year Anniversary Collection), 2003; p. 29. Marshall, Fiddlecase Edition, 1978; 1822 Collection, p. 6. Martin (Traditional Scottish Fiddling), 2002; p. 113. Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 82, p. 111.

Recorded sources: Culburnie Records CUL 118, Alasdair Fraser – “Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, vol. 1” (2001).


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