August 31, 2007

Masterful Medleys 2007: House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead

Our series featuring the medleys of bands competing at the 2007 World Pipe Band Championships continues with the House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead, which has won 15 World titles, more than any band in history.

The House Of Edgar – Shotts & Dykehead 2007 World’s Medley (from the band members’ perspective)

It can be very difficult to design a medley that will capture the moment in terms of a first time public performance. As a band we have had far more success with a new medley at the World’s than an old one that has been performed and polished over two or three seasons. We have tried to include the ingredients of success that have worked in the past.

For example, our last five winning medleys at the World’s have started with a new opener by the Pipe-Major, all in 2/4 time. This year is no exception with a total of six of the nine tunes written by band members. The opener always needs to be confident and fresh to secure the judges interest and lay down the bands tonal foundations for the performance.

The introduction to the medley is slightly different this year. All our previous winning medleys also contained some well known traditional tunes or styles in the mix. A tune that the listener recognizes offers easy on the ear listening. A six-and-a-half-minute performance can become rather intense if everything is new and more rhythmical than musical. In some cases bands offer tunes that are often more of a technical demonstration than a musical rendition. Part of the reason for this is because the pipe band fraternity has an unquenchable thirst for new material.

When every band tries to feed this habit it becomes inevitable that much weaker melodic options end up in the performances. Hopefully we have avoided this pitfall. It goes without saying that the main body of the medley requires variety in tempo, time signature, key changes, dynamics and moods. This is where a snare line that offers light and shade with power in the appropriate places can help with the ensemble performance as well as tenors harmonically tuned. This year we will play up to seven tenor drum voices divided into major and minor key zones arranged to suit the key changes within the compositions. This means very random playing of certain drum voices against the melody line – a case of more drums but less playing.

The final two tunes, a slow air and reel, showcase the voicing structure of the mid-section building up to a dramatic rock band-style finish, we hope offering something different from the somewhat exhausted rallentando and cha- cha-cha endings of the last decade used by many bands. The aim of the final segment is to be dynamically creative, climactic in feel, finale-like and musically resolved. It is becoming very apparent that it is not enough to simply play well with good tone. The medley has to communicate with the listener and display a musical identity that entertains but still keeps the integrity of the pipe band idiom.

Is this year’s medley better than the winning medley of 2000, 2003 or 2005? Does it have originality? Is it exciting? Well, we think so. You will be able to judge for yourself on the day, as our medley is unveiled for its first public performance on the Green at this year’s Championship (or you can get a sneak preview at the Todd on Tuesday night or Friday afternoon).

We hope that you enjoy our presentation on Saturday.

(We have used one word in our listing to describe each composition and capture the style of playing or mood that we are trying to achieve in this year’s music.)

  • “The Circle of Fear” – marchpipe – Dynamic – Original three parted composition played in true Shotts style – composed by Robert Mathieson
  • “The Dancing Stag” – strathspey – Snap – Melodic and modern but in traditional mode – composed by Robert Mathieson
  • “The Iron Man” – strathspey – Dance – composed by the strathspey master composer, Scott Skinner
  • “Reel Prelude” – reel – Shotts – from a previous winning medley selected for ensemble reasons – composed by Robert Mathieson
  • “The Wisemaiden” – reel – traditional – Tried and tested and offers a comfort zone for the players – trad.
  • “MacKenna’s Ceilidh” – jig – Easyflow – Toe-tapping melody played for the first time last year – composed by John Walsh
  • “Caber Feidh” – jig – Torque – Difficult to exclude this composer, a classic tune played in 2000 medley – Donald MacLeod
  • “Tears of Gold” – slow air – Emotive – Rhythmically bolero in style but new in melodic terms – composed by Robert Mathieson
  • “Velocity” – reel- Creative – Exciting band arrangement. Listen to the tenor voicing/ensemble effects – composed by Stuart Robertson

The membership of the House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead would like to wish all the competing bands and adjudicators the best of luck on the big day.




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