July Tune of the Month: Mary Scot

Having just finished reading Bruce Haynes’s excellent book The End of Early Music, I have renewed appreciation for the fact that composers were much less deified than they are in mainstream classical music today. The greater burden was on the performer to make a particular rendition of a tune emotionally-compelling than on the composer to write a good tune in the first place, and composing skills were as much a part of being a good musician as one’s technical skill on the instrument. The modern-day notion that composers (who are invariably dead) are great geniuses producing masterworks that must be played exactly as they appear on the page is rooted in Romanticism, not the 18th century.

In light of this, it’s unsurprising that most of the great early-to-mid 18th century Scottish composers published their own setting of this month’s tune—Mary Scot—and yet we have no idea who the original composer was. Each setting is a little bit different, reflecting the taste and creativity of the person behind the tune collection. Jeremy and I opted for our own variation based on McGibbon’s setting, which we’ll include at the end, but before we get there here are some other settings:

Alexander Munro's *Collection of the Best Scots Tunes*, also known as *12 Airs Ecossais* (ca. 1730)
James Oswalds's Caledonian Pocket Companion Vol. 1 (ca. 1745), courtesy of John Purser. Charlie Gore claims that it also appears in Volumes Two and Three, but I have multiple editions of both and haven't found it. As always happens when using the Gore index, I'm unsure if this is his fault or mine.
James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum (ca. 1787). Note the lyrics, which are presumably by Robert Burns (though this has been harder to confirm than one may have thought).
Samuel, Ann, and Peter Thompson's Caledonian Muse (1790), courtesy of HMS.scot. It seems fairly clear that they based it on McGibbon's edition (below), especially when considering the bass line.

And finally, the edition we played from. I will never not respect William McGibbon.

William McGibbon's Collection of Scots Tunes, Some with Variations…Book 1

As a special bonus, note that it reappears verbatim later:

William McGibbon's Collection of Scots Tunes…With Some Additions by R[obert] Bremner Book II
Copyright © 2017 Tim Macdonald