Monthly Archives: July 2016


Neil Edin Pipe Tune 2.13.2013

I posted this bagpipe tune score on the Viper Piper site at Part of the tune’s provenance is covered in an earlier blog here re. my Cornell Sketches pieces and is further explained in the Viper Piper entry. . I know I am giving readers a challenge by scattering tales of the piece here and there. Well I will compound that fault by offering two more stories about it.

A number of years ago, my cousin Neil and his wife Flora were staying for a few days at Cornell University where he was a Visiting Lecturer at the Law School. My wife Kristina and I decided to get together with them there. While walking across the campus I dragged them into a basement practice room of the Music Department and forced them to listen to my seven part Cornell Sketches. When I finished playing the “Bagpipe Tune to Accompany the Climb Up the Libe Slope,” I turned and asked with some trepidation, “Neil, do you think that’s an original melody?” To my great relief and pleasure he agreed that it was indeed. Phew!

Later, when I learned of Neil’s terminal cancer, I decided that I should formalize the bagpipe score of the piece and name it for him and I wrote him as follows.

March 12 2009
Dear Neil and Flora,
Well, does audacity have no bounds?
As you have already noticed, I have named a pipe tune after you, Neil. It is a tune you and Flora once heard in a basement room of the Cornell Department of Music more than a few years ago. I captured an audience (you two) and asked you Neil, if you thought the tune was an original. You assured me it was. Well, I was fiddling around recently with my newly dusted-off music software, revisiting my pile of unscored music. I had thought of doing a pipe tune for you and kept coming back to this one which is, immodestly speaking, a nice one. So I decided to extract the tune from its original home, Five Cornell Sketches, which have been languishing unscored in my back-again box. (In any event I have always believed in the recycling of musical ideas. A composer’s license?) I had a handwritten score of the tune prepared by a local piper for a Cornell reunion bash ten years ago so that I had something to base this score on. It was a welcome challenge to get everything lined up (oh them-there damned grace notes). Unfortunately, I have had not had an opportunity to have it test-driven, so to speak. My computer seems intent on playing it back in a minor key which is not what is intended. I have put that down to the nine note scale of the Great Highland bagpipe. If I find a piper to play the score and it needs tweaking, I will send you a revised version.
Anyway, I have always admired the Scottish tradition of naming tunes after people and events. And a better use of this air I cannot imagine.
I will say no more.
With great affection, admiration and sadness,


Neil replied  shortly before he died:  Typescript follows.




Dear Neil, Thanks for tunes! And sorry for delay in writing. I’ve had a difficult patch lately that prevented me from writing.

I specially like the first of the two tunes, and am much honored by it. Today’s tune seems (forgive me!) over-adorned with non-standard grace notes, but will be none the worse for that if played with suitable instrumentation.Please note e-mail address above. This is now the only mailbox I can access.

All the best and thanks.










As this is MY blog, I feel only  a wee bit  guilty  in using it as a to-do list .           So here are my top items……   

    1.  I plan to get my musical opus,” Cornell Sketches,”  scored for performance on the Cornell University   carillon.

                                                                                                                                                                                    The saga of my Cornell Sketches endeavour can be found here. 

From  the back insert of the CD version.

CORNELL SKETCHES is my modest tribute to a place dear to me. I came to Cornell University in 1954 from service in the U.S. Army in Japan. I had never before been to Ithaca. As a young Scottish immigrant, I felt completely at home with Cayuga Lake and its surrounding hills
I continued my amateur music experiences by joining the Glee Club. I was fortunate to enjoy what were to be the last few years of a long era at Cornell of a crowd-pleasing, heartily performed ‘lower-brow-than-now’ repertoire for men’s voices.
In time, I discovered the North Room in Willard Straight Hall. It was a largish space (plenty of resonance) with a wonderful view of the sweep north of Cayuga. Best of all, it held a Steinway grand, always in tune and always (for me) sympathetically placed by the windows. It was paradise. There I could continue my experiments with sounds, chords and ideas without interruption or need to please others. I cannot trace the Sketches to these happy hours. But, as mysteriously formed as music is, I like to think that the elements were born there.
1 A Walk Across the Beautiful Cornell Campus. 2. Cascadilla Creek Below the Home of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert H Williams, 390 Oak Avenue. 3. On the Steps of Goldwin Smith. 4. A Cornell Carol. 5. Out Tower Road Way. 6. A Bagpipe Tune to Accompany the Climb Up the Libe Slope. 7, An Alumni Hymn.
c. 1995

Track 3, “On the Steps of Goldwin Smith” recalls the gathering there of campus a-capella groups at Reunion. Lyrics are in preparation. Track 6 is in score in an arrangement for Great Highland Bagpipe named for my cousin, the late Professor Sir Donald Neil MacCormick, a Visiting Lecturer at the Cornell Law School. Track 7, “An Alumni Hymn” is in score with lyrics and was sung in Sage Chapel in 1998.
Note:The Sketches were composed and performed on a Korg 01Wf/d keyboard and are not mastered.
Neil MacCormick B.A. 1958, Arts and Sciences. 1974-76 Grad. Architecture, Art and Planning.

The Sketches came about in this way. While preparing for our 40th Class Reunion, my fellow class officers sought out ideas for projects to celebrate the occasion. I proposed that the Class commission a well known composer to write a Cornell Overture or something of that character. I thought it might be a first for a U.S university and could bring great and perpetual honor to the Class of 1958. The estimate of cost of $35,000  I obtained from the folks at the Boston Symphony in Tanglewood proved to be too high for my fellow offcers; that plus the feeling that the composer might not deliver a suitable piece led to the dropping of the idea.
Then a classmate, who knew of my fooling around with music, asked me if I could produce anything similar. Thus the seven part Cornell Sketches came about. Although the project did not rank high enough for funding in a Class vote, monies were found elsewhere for scoring of the taped pieces by a Music Department grad student. The goal was to eventually produce an orchestration of the work for the Cornell Wind Ensemble. But during discussions on the project with Steve Stuckey and Mark Scatterday, Music Department faculty, I made a politically incorrect remark about another Music Department faculty member. To my deep regret, as the result of my blunder, the project came to a sudden halt.

(As an aside, two years ago I corresponded with Charles Staadecker, Cornell Class of 1971, who had just commissioned a trombone concerto by Samuel Jones, dedicated to Cornell and depicting the life of a student at Cornell University.  It was premiered by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. So there is at least one piece of concert music related to Cornell. But Cornell Sketches is the only piece of concert music written about and named for an American university.)

2.  The second project  on my backlog list is also  musical in content.

I must write lyrics for music of my Country and Western waltz, “You Promised to Text Me” – not too many guffaws please.  Well, OK if you insist.    But just watch the Nashville news!

3.  And thirdly….after ransacking the online Cornell University Library catalogue, I ascertained that the collection was deficient in not including recordings made by the Cornell  Glee Club prior to 1958.  (I was President of that fine singing group in my senior year.)   My project is to contact fellow Gleeclubbets from earlier years to place such recordings, of which I have three, in the Library.






 Just received a response from the University of Edinburgh Law School.


Dear Neil

Thank you so much for your email and for your interest in the Neil MacCormick Sculpture fund. I am sorry it has taken the School so long to respond. We have recently moved buildings whilst our home is refurbished, but hopefully things are calming down now.

We are delighted that this worthy appeal is being heard so widely, and particularly by the wider MacCormick family. Thank you for posting the webpage on your blog. Any donations are much appreciated and I think donations from the wider MacCormick family are indeed appropriate and we would like to thank any who have already donated.

The campaign is going well, and we are now at a stage where the casts for the sculptures are finished and we are waiting on delivery of the jesmonite in order for the sculptor to start the final busts. As you will have seen from the website, two of the sculptures will frame the main entrance to the Law School when it is refurbished and we hope these will inspire our students, staff and visitors as they embark on their studies and work each day.

If you would like, I can send you updates of the campaign and some images of the final busts once they are complete to add to your blog?

I hope all is well and thank you again for your interest and help in promoting this campaign.

Best wishes

Simone Duffy Marketing and Communications Officer

Edinburgh Law School

University of Edinburgh

Old College

South Bridge


+44 (0)131 651 4226″