Little Cascade (The)

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LITTLE CASCADE, THE. Scottish, Reel. E Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA'BBCC'DDEEFF. A challenging competition pipe reel composed by Pipe Major George S. McLennan [1] (1883–1927), a revered piper in Highland circles. There are various explanatons of the title, most involving a dripping tap in one location or another. One notion is that he composed the tune when a prisoner of war in Germany (or, in some versions, in a hospital) during the First World War, his inspiration being a dripping tap that interrupted his sleep. In fact, he was never a prisoner of war, although he did become severely ill in 1918. A similar story has the dripping tap located in a barracks, interrupting McLennan's sleep after returning from leave in town. A version attributed to McLennan's half-brother, D.R. MacLennan [note they spelled their last names differently], has it that their father pointed to the rhythm of the dripping tap during a bagpipe lesson. Yet another thought is that it described his having of necessity to relieve himself against a nearby wall (although he is said to have been dissuaded from offering that explanation for the title). The explanation that seems to have the most veracity was related by McLennan's son in a BBC Radio Scotland interview in 1994. The son said that the location of the dripping tap was the kitchen of the McLennan home in Aberdeen, and hearing it inspired the tune.

G.S. McLennan

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Cairngorm Collection: Highland Bagpipe Music, Book 1, 1997; p. 27. Martin (Ceol na Fidhle, vol. 4), 1991; p. 7. McLennan (Highland Bagpipe Music), 1929.

Recorded sources: Rounder 3067, Alan Stivell – "Renaissance of the Celtic Harp" (1982).




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