Masterful Medleys: 78th Highlanders Pipe Band (Halifax)
The second instalment of our Masterful Medleys series features the 78th Highlanders Pipe Band of Halifax. Winners of the 2003 North American Championships, the band competed at the 2004 World Championships, but did not qualify for the Grade 1 final. Pipe-Major Roderick MacLean provided us with his summary of what listeners will hear if the band gets to the final round this year.
78th Highlanders (Halifax)
The medley we hope to be playing at the World’s (provided we make it through the morning qualifer!) is as follows:
“The medley opens with a hornpipe composed by band member Sean Somers and named for the band’s local watering hole in Halifax. It’s an “A, E” kind of tune in a key similar to pieces like “Beverly’s Wedding” or the “Big Road Brusher.”
We then use a minor key version of one part of Pipe-Sergeant Bruce Gandy’s popular jig, “Mrs. Sharon Duthart,” for a bridge from the opening tune to the first jig. The bridge is in three parts: 1) a directed slow version; 2) a pointed 9/8 “swingy” march, and 3) a slow jig that accelerates to proper jig-tempo in the last bar.
Two jigs follow. The original version of “Mrs. Sharon Duthart” and “Morrison’s Jig,” a traditional Irish tune, arranged for us by another band member, Oban silver medallist Matt MacIsaac.
Next comes a slow air, “If the Weather Will Allow Me” (Nan Ceadaicheadh An Tide Dhomh, for those with Gaelic) that I first heard Scot MacAulay play on a recording of Ontario-based pipers in the 1980s called Reel to Real. Scott told me recently that he’d learned it from his late father, a Gaelic speaker who emigrated from Lewis to Hamilton, Ontario, in the 1950s. The tune is first played in a directed style and then the band breaks into a strict waltz rhythm for the repeat.
Two strathspeys follow: “The Kaimes Lasses,” a traditional tune that we got from Iain MacDonald’s playing on one of the Battlefield Band recordings, and “Under the Triboro,” another tune by Bruce. The Triboro is a bridge in New York City under which the New York Fire Department’s training area is located. Bruce wrote the tune for a friend who hated the running portion of the Department’s fitness training program that took place under the bridge.
As a transition between the strathspeys and the reels that end off the set, the band then plays two different arrangements of “The Kaimes Lasses.” The original idea here was to provide a transition through changes in time signature that slowly built into reel time as opposed to the usual straight break from strathspey to reel. To that effect, we play one bar of 4/4 strathspey and three bars of 3/4 strathspey. Then, we break into a 3/4 waltz/hornpipe version of the tune. In the last two bars of the 3/4 waltz/hornpipe, the mid-section starts playing in straight reel time and then the rest of the band follows at the start of the first reel, Michael Grey’s clever tune, “Johnnie Metcalfe’s Reel.”
To end, we play two traditional reels, “Elizabeth’s Big Coat,” which I understand is from Cape Breton, and the well-known Irish piece, “Rip the Calico.” Harmonies and an extra bar were added at the very end to punctuate the finish.
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