Archival Tune: Another “Little” Jack MacDonald

Feb 15, 2014 | Archival Tune, Tune of the Month

For the second archival tune of the month, we’ll keep focusing on “Little” Jack MacDonald, this time exploring his playing style in more depth.

Donaldson MacLeod quotes “Little” Jack MacDonald expert Bernie MacNeil of Michigan as saying that MacDonald’s “first and greatest love was Highland Music and it was in this traditional art his playing showed brilliance and control. He also had a singular gift of expression that was quickly 
recognized and admired by other players. His motto, which he often repeated, was that ‘music must 
have soul to make it worthwhile.’ Days of diligent practice were a necessity with him for the more 
difficult compositions, and he looked with disfavour on the custom of absorbing an unlimited number of 
tunes as a sign of distinction. He would listen for hours to Fritz Kreisler’s old seventy-eight recordings, and on several occasions attended both Kreisler and Heifetz recitals at the Masonic Temple in Detroit. 
Inspired by these classical artists, he would take on the task of trying to develop our Highland music on 
the violin the way the great Scottish composers wanted it played.”

[twocol_one]The track here was recorded on August 9th 1957 at Walter MacCuaig’s (like last month’s selection). It shows his impressive cuts and crisp playing even at high speed. The tunes are Caledonia’s Wail for Niel Gow Her Favourite Minstrel, The Duke of Athol and Lady Margaret Stewart.[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]


This recording was part of the collection of reel-to-reel tapes donated by Father MacPhail and can be found on Small Reel 17, Side 1.

“Little” Jack MacDonald recorded one of the first LPs of Glengarry, “The Bard of Scottish Fiddling” on which he was accompanied by Viola MacCuaig. This LP included his rendition of “Devil in the Kitchen,” in which he demonstrates the right-hand double-cutting technique, which contributed to his nickname the “Bard of Scottish fiddling.”

[threecol_one]Caledonia’s Wail for Niel Gow[/threecol_one][threecol_one]The Duke of Athole (StrathBm)[/threecol_one] [threecol_one_last]Lady Margaret Stewart[/threecol_one_last]

(Thanks to Donaldson MacLeod and Donald Joseph MacPhee for background information).

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