A rare Scottish Jig: The House of Gray

After the flute activities of last weekend, it was back to normal this week with the regular FluteFling classes in Portobello. After putting some of the finishing touches to The Braes of Mar (to be revisited), we moved on to a tune that I had in reserve on the FluteFling Scottish Flute Day workshop.

The House of Gray is a tune in A minor that I came across in Kerr’s Merry Melodies some years back and appears to have been largely overlooked in my experience. A quick look online shows no recordings of it, for example.

Besides being a good tune, The House of Gray is useful for developing a few techniques:

  • The A to C’ natural transition at speed, found in many tunes, both Scottish and Irish
  • A decent-sounding C’ natural, which is generally weak and problematic on a simple system flute
  • Playing three C’ naturals at speed together in a tune and what can be done about this (tonguing or gracing for example).
  • Handling syncopation within a tune, a feature of many Scottish tunes

The tune itself leaps about a fair amount and can be regarded as typically Scottish in that regard. Very chordal in structure, some of the phrases are built directly upon arpeggios (broken chords).

The music for the tune can be found on the new Workshops resources page. A recording is on Soundcloud, found via the Resources page for the classes.

I was intrigued to see on Tune Archive that the jig is older than I thought, being first published in Aird’s collection of 1788. Gray House appears to be near Dundee and is currently abandoned and in need of its own revival.

Photo: Gray House © Copyright James Allan and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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