July 31, 2005

Masterful Medleys 2005: Field-Marshal Montgomery

Our third Masterful Medleys instalment is from Field-Marshal Montgomery, the reigning World Pipe Band Champions. Led by Pipe-Major Richard Parkes MBE and leading-drummer Keith Orr, Field-Marshal has captured four World titles, and has won the Medley event six times since 1992. The band has started the 2005 season strongly, winning the Scottish, European, and All-Ireland pipe band championships.

Field-Marshal Montgomery

Richard Parkes writes:

Our approach to constructing a medley has always centred upon providing a musical performance to which the first time listener can relate. To this end we believe that the performance should be varied, dynamic and, above all, entertaining.

We have typically endeavoured to include a blend of classic and new compositions. For example in our last few medleys, we have included such classics as “Archie Beag” and “Donald Cameron’s Powder Horn.” Although we may have used harmonics and bridges into these tunes, we have always played the complete tune as written and in so doing, we hope to retain the listener’s interest and introduce these classic tunes to younger players.

At the same time, the band has always been to the fore in introducing new tunes from younger or more contemporary composers and we have found that this blend of old and new provides a balanced and entertaining performance. We have continued this approach in this year’s medley.

  • “Trevor Buckley” (hornpipe) – by Don Bradford
  • “Shauney’s Tune” (strath.) – by Fred Morrison
  • “John MacDougall Gillies” (strath.) – by William Gray
  • “Tar the House” (reel) – by Alan MacDonald
  • “The Top Tier” (reel) – by Iain MacDonald
  • “The Bollywood Lounge” (reel) – by Ryan Canning
  • Unknown air – Trad., 2nd part and arrangement by Ryan Canning
  • “The Fiddlers Rally” (jig) – by Gordon Walker

    Our opening tune, a 2/4 hornpipe by Don Bradford, is named after our lead tenor drummer, Trevor Buckley. Don played with FMM in 1993 and is currently a member of the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band. Throughout the years, Don has been a frequent contributor to our repertoire. When he was preparing the “Calm Before the Storm” suite for our FMM Unplugged Glasgow Royal Concert Hall performance in August 2002, he sent me some additional tunes, one of which was “Trevor Buckley.” It’s a powerful, dynamic tune with a strong melodic line and rhythmic foundation and has all the essential ingredients for an opener. The accompanying drum score by Keith Orr provides what we believe is an excellent ensemble effect.

    We then change tempo and idiom by switching to a couple of strathspeys. The first is “Shauney’s Tune” by Fred Morrison. Fred has contributed many excellent tunes to previous FMM medley selections and this beautifully melodic strathspey typifies his creative style. It provides a nice key change with the opening tune and contrasts well with the second strathspey the classic “John MacDougall Gillies,” composed by P-M William Gray.

    There then follows three reels written by three of today’s most talented contemporary composers. The first is Alan MacDonald’s “Tar the House,” followed by Iain MacDonald’s “The Top Tier,” and Ryan Canning’s “The Bollywood Lounge.” While each reel is different in character, they fit well together. The tunes are technically demanding but, more importantly, melodically strong. Together with Keith’s imaginative drum score this promises to be one of the most exciting passages in the medley.

    From here we slow the tempo with Ryan Canning’s arrangement of an “Unknown Air.” While the first part is traditional, the second part is Ryan’s own composition. Ryan also arranged the harmonies that, together with the drum score, make for an excellent change of mood. We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Ryan’s composing and arranging skills in the band.

    To conclude our medleys, we always strive to finish on a strong tune (or set of tunes) to create a sense of climax and round off the overall performance. This year we have chosen Gordon Walker’s “The Fiddler’s Rally.” This tune is a test of finger dexterity, has a strong melodic impact and we believe it is a tune that will become a classic. Keith was excited at the prospect offered by the “The Fiddlers Rally” and believed that he and the drum corps could make a strong musical statement.

    We are very pleased with the arrangement of this medley. All of the tunes are individually melodically and technically strong but, in addition, they sit well with each other allowing the overall performance to flow. We have been careful not to overdo the harmonic passages but allow them to add colour to the overall performance.

    Keith and each aspect of the drum corps have made full use of the opportunity to enhance the rhythmical aspects of the tunes and engender excitement. As always this medley has been a great team effort, using the experience and creative flair within the band. We look forward to performing our medley at this year’s World Championship.


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