August 31, 2006

Masterful Medleys: House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead

We continue our series by leaders of contending Grade 1 bands at this year’s World Pipe Band Championships with House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead, holders of the 2005 World’s title, a band known for its distinctive style and originality.

The House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead

Pipe-Major Robert Mathieson writes:

One of the biggest tests in Grade 1 championships is the all-too-important medley – not just how well the music is played technically and tonally, but the actual arrangement and compatibility of the tunes.

I do not believe that it is possible to produce a medley that covers all tastes and hits the spot for every judge or listener. Very often bands that try to achieve this using the something, old, new, borrowed and blue recipe end up with a diluted presentation that lacks impact. We try to select tunes that are blatantly in the style and genre of the Shotts band. Experience has taught us that going outside your comfort zone in terms of style generally weakens the musical delivery.

This year is no exception. Our selected composer’s are Gordon Duncan, John Walsh, Robert Mathieson, Scott Skinner and Coldplay. While many of the tunes are new and fresh they hopefully will carry the band hallmark in the overall musical presentation.

As in 2005, the band will be unveiling their new medley for the first time competitively at the World’s at Glasgow Green

  • “The Reunion” (2/4 march-pipe) – composed by John Walsh
  • “Upside-Down in Eden Court” (6/8 jig) – composed by Gordon Duncan
  • “McKenna’s Ceilidh” (6/8 jig) – composed by John Walsh
  • “Til Kingdom Come” (ballad) – composed by Coldplay
  • “The Dancing Stag” (strath.) – composed by Robert Mathieson
  • “The Iron Man” (strath.) – composed by Scott Skinner
  • “Clueless” (reel) – composed by Gordon Duncan
  • “O’ Connor’s Wake up Call” (reel) – composed by Robert Mathieson
  • “Lost in Time” (suite reel) – composed by Robert Mathieson
  • “Lost in Time” (waltz)
  • “Lost in Time” (jig)

    The opening tune, “The Reunion,” celebrates John Walsh’s return to the ranks of our band in 2005. This was 30 years after his previous appearance and lo and behold he marched on to win the World’s with his old band. This guy obviously has a great sense of timing. We thought it deserved to be recorded in a composition.

    The two jigs we break into are written by Gordon Duncan and John Walsh. Gordon has probably been the greatest musical influence in forging the free style of modern piping.

    From a fairly standard opening format, we change mood by featuring a ballad picked up from the world renowned chart-toppers, Coldplay. The melody from their X & Y album fit almost straight into the pipe scale and is an absolute natural tune for the bagpipe. It was actually written by the group for Johnny Cash to sing, but, unfortunately, he passed away before he was able to make the performance. Coldplay’s ballad “Til Kingdom Come” is a slight break from the traditional pipe band slow air, but we are very happy with the combined result.

    From this rather unusual source we break in to two Scottish strathspeys played in the style of the traditional Scottish dance, as opposed to some of the hybrid styles that have featured at the World Championships previously. The first composed by the Pipe-Major, breaking into the classic Scott Skinner tune.

    As per usual, the medley arrangements are a joint effort from both Pipe-Major and Leading-Drummer who, in the case of Shotts, can often have the main say in each other’s domain. Strong personalities, firmly opinionated and sure of their craft, the P-M and L-D ensure that all departments in the band are given equal consideration for input where appropriate within the demands of the medley.

    The final group of tunes illustrates the musical cooperation within the instruments in the modern pipe band. Nothing new in pipes using harmony and counterpoint but mixed in with a tonal palette of tenor drums that are only heard when the melody is in the relevant key highlights the tonal ensemble. While a bass and six tenor drums are featured throughout, the minor key tunes only sound tenor voices tuned to low G, B, D and high G and the major key melodies use A, C, E and high A. The snares are heard playing an accompaniment that highlights the dynamics of the melody by expressing the white spaces rather than tracking the black notes.

    The rhythm and melody of the final cluster of tunes glides from Latin American reel, down to Viennese waltz, swinging into Irish jig time, aptly named “Lost in Time,” hopefully finishing in a sunny Glasgow Green.

    The House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead would like to wish all the bands, adjudicators and the audience a day of world class performances.


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