July 31, 2005

Masterful Medleys 2005: House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead

House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead celebrates its 95th anniversary this year. During this time the band has accumulated 113 Major Championship wins and 101 Major Drumming Championships. These include 14 World Championships and 26 World Drumming titles. The current leadership of Pipe-Major Robert Mathieson and leading-drummer Jim Kilpatrick MBE have led the band to four World’s wins, the most recent in 2003. Shotts is the only band to have won the World’s in every decade for the last 70 years.

The House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead

Robert Mathieson writes:

Putting the band medley together can be frustrating. You have to think about constructing one complete performance rather than a rendition of good tunes. It is very easy to select your current favourite tune in each time signature and play them in a specified order. You can be sure that it will never work successfully as a medley.

The theory of good medley construction always sounds good explained in enthusiastic words highlighting the desired effects and reasons for including specific tunes new or old. However in my experience it is very difficult to deliver the complete package. If the musical effects need to be explained then it probably isn’t working. The obvious and sometimes fundamental components are very often missed in an effort to present a new winning tune that will turn heads. Too many pipers and drummers are so focused on trying to impress other pipers and drummers that they forget about delivering the music.

The main skeleton of a medley in general terms should have impact, a variety of rhythms, tonal key changes, customized unison, drama, mood changes and, of course, a natural finish. But most of all it should have melody. The best performances in any type of music usually have some kind of melodic hook that seduces the listener. A successful tune will have a hook that haunts the listener after a few hearings, sometimes after one performance.

The contest rules and constraints are, all instruments must be played continuously, always start with two three-paced rolls and stand in a circle with your back to the audience. This makes the listener feel that they are eavesdropping on a band practice rather than listening to a performance. The very essence of any musical performance is to seduce and involve the listener. From a creative point of view the current format is a bit like painting by numbers. I would personally like the format to be opened up a bit to let the music fully develop.

This year’s medley is as follows”

  • “The Cleveland Tie Break” (hornpipe) – by R. Mathieson
  • “The Saltire Tartan” (strath.) – by R. Mathieson
  • “Peurt a Beul ” (strath.) – by R. Mathieson
  • “The Silver Thistle” (reel) – by R. Mathieson
  • “Reel Prelude” (reel) – by R. Mathieson
  • “The Wisemaiden” (reel) – Trad.
  • “The Magpie” (jig)- by R. Mathieson
  • “Mojo’s Jig” – by Douglas Murray
  • “Gaelic Air” – by Fred Morrison
  • “Alasdair’s Big Reel” (suite) – by Fred Morrison / R Mathieson

    This year’s medley has both modern and traditional style tunes to try to give the listener a journey that they will enjoy. The main emphasis is creative ensemble to allow all three sections of the band breathing space to perform comfortably within the melody. We have divided the tenor drums into major and minor key zones arranged to alternate and play in the tonal key of each tune. We have changed the structure this year by playing the slow air towards the end of the medley as a ground for the last tune written by Fred Morrison. The original tune has been customized, parts added, new time signatures included and generally given a course of steroids building up to a natural finish. We hope that Piper & Drummer Online readers enjoy our music at this year’s World Championship. In the meantime we are practicing hard to deliver a performance that lives up to the event.


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