August 31, 2006

Masterful Medleys: 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel)

Our final installment of our 2006 Masterful Medleys series is with the 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) Pipe Band. Led by Pipe-Major Roderick MacLean and Leading-Drummer Dave Danskin, the 78th Highlanders have made a musical mark with their creativity and willingness to extend pipe band boundaries. The band qualified for the Grade 1 final at the 2005 World Pipe Band Championships.

78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel)

Pipe-Major Roderick MacLean writes:

These are the tunes that make up the medley we’ve ready to play at the World’s:

  • “Summer at the Johnston’s” (hornpipe) – composed by Alex Gandy
  • “The Kaimes Lassies” (strath.) – trad.
  • “Big Roddy’s Strathspey” – composed by Kevin Dugas
  • “Somers’ Choice” (reel) – composed by Bruce Gandy
  • “Lorna’s Reel” – composed by Bruce Gandy
  • “Bonnie’s Wish” (air) – composed by Bruce Gandy
  • “Rakes Bridge” – composed by Bruce Gandy
  • “The Rakes of Kildare” parts 1 and 2 (jig) – trad., arr. 78thHCPB
  • “Uncle Angles” (jig) – composed by Sean Somers
  • “The Rakes of Kildare” parts 3 and 4 (jig) – trad. arr. 78thHCPB

    The medley opens with one of Alex Gandy’s compositions, “Summer at the Johnston’s.” The Johnstons in question are Tommy Johnston, the owner of Eezedrone Reeds, Anne Johnstone (née Sinclair), and Finlay, their talented son who is a solo competitor of note and is playing with the band this summer. It’s a driving hornpipe in a major key which gets things off to a nice, aggressive start.

    Two strathspeys come next: the traditional “Kaimes Lassies,” which we’ve played before, and a new tune by band member Kevin Dugas. The second strathspey complements the first with a key change and gives a brighter overall feel especially in the second part when the harmony kicks in.

    A three-beat percussion-led break then leads the medley into two new Bruce Gandy reels. Both seem to flow best when played aggressively so we’re aiming to have them going about 98 bpm, ideally.

    Another new Bruce Gandy tune follows the reels. This time it’s a slow air, “Bonnie’s Wish,” the first four bars of which are directed while the remainder is in strict tempo with the snare section highlighting different sections of the melodic line.

    The medley’s finale features the traditional Irish reel, “The Rakes of Kildare” which is a tune I’ve thought for a while would be a great finish to a selection. We get into it with a bridge, again from the fertile mind of Mr. Gandy, that alternates between 8/8 and 15/8 time. Once into the tune we play the first two parts and then break into another jig, “Uncle Angles,” by former band member Sean Somers.

    To end, we finish off “Rakes” with full harmonies in the last part and a slightly different arrangement of the final four bars.

    We were thinking of a number of things when we put the selection together:
    1) to keep it entertaining by mixing up the breaks/harmonies and time signatures as much as possible; 2) to play tunes written by band members; and 3) to play one or two well-known pieces that were to give listeners something to “hang their hats on.”


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