The Reel is a Scottish and Irish dance but also the music that goes with it. It is often played after a strathspey, offering a release of the rhythmic tension of that one.
The score is in 2/2 with a variable tempo, depending on the air, the background and the piper or even on the instrument :
- pipe bands play generally at 83-88 during Championships (even until 96); apart from that, the beat is often higher, near 100.
- soloists play within a range of 89-122; Gordon Duncan also displays many various tempi depending on the air : he's of course one of the fastest (up to 122).
- in Scottish Country Dance (Dashing White Sergeant), with others instruments than the bagpipe, the tempi are frequently higher, between 120 and 128.
Apart from dancing, the melodic structure and the grace notes are decisive to choose a tempo which will respect the musicality : you'll have to try with different values and to take the one that will fit well to the air - it's the most subjective element - and will allow a good clarity of the grace notes - depending of course on the piper skills.
The reels submitted here - with one exception - have been chosen to follow the same beat (94) for being played together during my show : you must keep in mind that it's only an indicative beat, as a working base.
The Isle of Raasay, Ratharsair in Scottish Gaelic, is also known as The Isle Of The Roe Deer; it is located between Skye and the Highlands territories. Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed a while in Raasay during his escape after Culloden (1746) and before fleeing to Skye. The population of Raasay will have to suffer from this support to the Jacobite cause.
Mrs MacLeod Of Raasay origins are uncertain : the tune is credited to Pipe Major J. MacKay in the Scots Guards (vol. 1 - page 205) but there are also some references that name Sir Alexander MacDonald (c. 1745-1795), from Skye, as the author.
Nathaniel Gow (Niel Gow's son) published it in 1809, saying he had received it from Mr. McLeod (of Raasay); the latter described it as an original Isle of Skye reel.
The tune could then also have an earlier traditional basis, prior to MacDonald.
However, Mrs MacLeod has become some kind of an international tune (from Ireland to the other side of the Atlantic), often played in various sessions and in Scottish Country Dance.
NB : in the Scots Guards « Standard Settings of Pipe Music - vol.1 - page 205 » each part is played only one time; I've chosen to play them two times, providing a total theme of 32 bars, specific to the reels.
Mrs MacLeod Of Raasay