Since our parent organization, Milwaukee Irish Fest, selected a Scotland Music Showcase for the 2014 festival, we’ve decided to highlight some of the Scottish themed sheet music from our collections. The pieces in this gallery are just a sample of the music that we have identified as having some Scottish connection, so be sure to browse the “Scottish” tag to discover more.
Scottish ballads make up some of the earliest pieces of sheet music in our collections. “The Broom of Cowdenknows” was published in Philadelphia in 1821; however, this version contains an older set of lyrics that appeared as early as the 1630s. The writing of Robert Burns was also a source for these early ballad publications, with his “O Willie Brew'd A Peck O' Maut” from 1835 being a prime example.
Scottish Dance Tunes
Musical themes from Scotland were also used for instrumental pieces during the 1800s for social dancing. Examples include “The Scotch Polka” and “The Edinburgh Quadrille” by Charles d’Albert. William Wilson’s collection of “The Edinburgh Quadrille” from 1850 includes notation for the concertina, which was beginning to become a popular instrument at the time.
Scottish Themes in Tin Pan Alley
Much as Tin Pan Alley composers and artists appropriated Irish and Irish-American imagery for their songs and cover art, Scottish themes were used to appeal to music lovers of Scottish extraction. Titles and lyrics of songs often refer to bagpipes and dances like the Highland Fling. Cover art makes use of tartan patterns and images of pipers. We also see the merger of popular musical fads with an ethnic theme in the example of the “Hot Scotch Rag” which attempts to marry the Scotch snap with ragtime syncopation.