Originally for piano, this piece amply demonstrates the lyrical and sonorous qualities of the bass clef quartet. Published in score format, this is an atmospheric and evocative miniature with opportunities for soulful and sonorous solo and harmony playing.
Originally arranged for double bass quartet, this also lends itself well to the cello, bassoon or trombone quartet.
“I first came across the music of Rachel MacAndrew in the late 1970s at a double bass workshop in Bangor, North Wales which was directed by Bronwen Naish. At the time there were very few bass quartets in print, although I do remember playing the Bach chorale ‘Wachet Auf’, I think arranged by Fred Zimmermann and published as part of a volume of transcriptions.
Sandy, one of Bronwen’s students, had arranged several pieces for the workshop and it was great to play in a bass orchestra of about 20 players. Rachel MacAndrew’s’ Celtic Lament’ was especially effective and haunting, with its D minor key and sonorities helping with the clarity and overall sound. Some years later, when I began to arrange double bass ensembles for workshops and concerts, I came across the same piece but in a book of piano pieces published in the 1920s by the ABRSM, although in an earlier incarnation.
On the whole the music was in four parts already and I was able to make my own arrangement, which I have used successfully for over thirty years.
Apart from this one piece, it was difficult to discover anything about Rachel MacAndrew and even the original publisher had no information about this elusive composer. The PRS (Performing Rights Society), who are the go-to organisation for information about composers and copyrights, could find no record of her at all. There was no entry for her in ‘The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians’ or the ‘Oxford Companion to Music’ and there the trail went cold…
I was always fascinated to know more about Rachel MacAndrew and a few years ago I found another piano piece by her which was published in 1924 by The Associated Board of the R.A.M. and the R.C.M. – nowadays the ABRSM. ‘Allegretto Semplice’ is a lyrical and evocative miniature and is aimed at the progressing young pianist.
The index page included all the works in the book and a brief description of the composer, but for Rachel MacAndrew there was nothing! Who was she and why do we know nothing about her apart from these two short piano pieces?
I love a mystery and over the years I have come up with my own conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that Rachel MacAndrew didn’t exist. My assumption is that the Associated Board needed an extra piece or two for both books for a specific grade and someone who worked for the company offered to write them but using a pseudonym. Both pieces are well written and tuneful, composed by someone with skill and technique, also knowledgeable about piano playing as they fit nicely under the fingers. It is likely the composer was also a pianist but they either didn’t want their name attached to either piece, or the Associated Board suggested they use a pseudonym.
Were the pieces by a really famous composer who didn’t want to be linked with such short and unsophisticated pieces? I doubt we will ever know but ‘Celtic Lament’ is still a great piece for bass quartet and is a good addition to the transcription repertoire.”
[David Heyes / 19 February 2017]