The Blackwater Tune

Blackwater Press is, so far as we know, one of two publishing companies with its own tune.

The tune was found in manuscript 353 from the Montagu Music Collection, Boughton House (“Blackwater” from GB-Ketmmc 353, c.1720, The Montagu Music Collection, Boughton House. By kind permission of His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry KBE and the Trustees of the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust)

The manuscript is small, and bound in leather with sugar paper covers. It was signed by the 3rd Duchess of Buccleuch (1743-1827), but she was not the manuscript’s original owner, as it dates from around 1720. In all likelihood it originated in her family. This manuscript contains 62 brief single-line tunes for a treble instrument, most likely recorder. The contents are a rich sampling of popular music tastes in country houses in early eighteenth-century Scotland: excerpts from popular theatre songs and Purcell’s operas are alongside well-known Scottish tunes such as “John Anderson My Joe” and movements from Corelli’s violin sonatas.

Two of the tunes have no known concordances, and one of those is Blackwater. Blackwater is a dance—either a gigue or a lourée—that hovers around the key of D minor but lacks some of the characteristics of that key, suggesting an origin well before the early eighteenth century. This is functional music that would have been played over and over for dancing, and ornamented by the players. Some indication of an ornamentation style are present in the manuscript. The symbols resemble those found in Purcell’s 1696 A Choice Collection of Lessons for the Harpsichord or Spinnet, and are somewhat unusual for wind music.

As for the name Blackwater, that’s another mystery. Tune names came from many sources, and the same tune can be known under many different names. A regional association is tempting as both Ireland and Scotland have Blackwater Rivers, but it this seems unlikely as there is no connection with Ireland and this source, and the manuscript is from Lowland Scotland at a time when the Highlands were in essence a separate country. In all likelihood the name Blackwater had a personal association for the creator of the manuscript, its original owner, and/or his teacher. If any reader knows any other source for this tune, please do get in touch!

Full contents of this manuscript are available in modern edition here.

I Piped, That She Might Dance Live Event 2021

We are delighted to announce the launch event for our upcoming title I Piped, That She Might Dance by Iain MacDonald. The launch will be taking place at Piping Live! Festival on August 9 at 12PM (UK)/ 7AM (EASTERN US). Iain MacDonald will be in conversation with Hugh Cheape, and will premiere his new composition, Salute to Angus MacKay of Raasay. The decision is yet to be made whether or not the event will be available to attend in person this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, closer to the date we will be sharing a link that will allow you to stream the event live online. We are aware that 7AM (or even earlier for our author!) may be slightly early for some… but fear not, the event will be recorded so you can watch the stream at a more convenient time.

Cover Contest – Blackwater Press Short Story Collection 2021

Another reminder this month to get involved or share the word of our cover contest for the Blackwater Press Short Story Collection. This contest is free to enter. The winner will receive a free copy of the book, credit as the official cover artist, and worldwide respect! Your cover design must include our bird logo and the title: Blackwater Press Short Story Collection 2021.

(versions of logo available here)

The deadline is creeping closer… send us your submissions to by the 1st of July.

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