August 31, 2006

Masterful Medleys: Toronto Police

Pipes|drums is pleased once again to bring to readers our 2006 “Masterful Medleys: a preview of Grade 1 World’s selections.” We have asked pipe-majors from several Grade 1 bands competing at the World Pipe Band Championships for a special sneak peek of their selections – the tunes, the strategy, and the behind-the-scenes considerations.

So often listeners and judges hear a band’s selection for the first time at the World’s, and have to make instant judgment. While that approach has its merits, we think that it’s interesting to provide an advance glimpse at what folks can look forward to.

Not going in any specific order, we start the series with the Toronto Police . The band is led by Pipe-Major James MacHattie, Pipe-Sergeant Sean McKeown and Leading-Drummer Doug Stronach, and has enjoyed a successful competitive campaign so far in its home ground on the Ontario circuit.

We invite all Grade 1 bands competing at the World’s to take part in the series!

Toronto Police

P-S Sean McKeown writes:

This year we had two great medleys to call upon, and had great difficulty narrowing down which we would choose to submit for the World Pipe Band Championships. Not by any means underestimating the competition of the qualifying heat in the morning, we want to make sure that if we do qualify, we have a medley that is enjoyable and exciting on a first listen, and fun to play as well.

From that we chose what we thought to be the best of both medleys that fit into a well flowing medley with a good mix of traditional and original compositions.

  • “At Long Last” (march) – composed by James MacHattie
    This tune was written in 2004 by James MacHattie on a victorious note, after winning an Ontario Championship for the first time under new leadership. It can be described as a bold and very uniquely melodic tune, filled with complementary harmonies, that gives the opening of this medley in 4/4, a strong, confident and enjoyable feel.

  • “Major A.F. MacGillivray (strath.) – composed by W. Young
  • “The Doune of Invernochty” (strath.) – composed by W. Grant
    These two strathspeys are classics, recognizable by most pipe band musicians. We like to incorporate tunes such as these, so that first-time listeners of our medley can have something they can “hang their hats on.” Excellent key changes from the opener and, within each other, these two tunes are full of music and fit together perfectly.

  • “The Kesh” (jig and waltz) – arr. J. MacHattie
    A new twist on an old tune, this waltz arrangement of “The Kesh Jig” is a powerful way to come from strathspeys, and leads to the drive of the back half of the medley.

  • “The Dusty Miller” (waltz) – arr. J. MacHattie
    This second waltz has been transposed to the bagpipe scale, with harmonies start-to-finish, from the great Celtic band Lunasa. This tune is full of power and drive, and is a suitable pairing in this selection of waltzes.

  • “Transition to Reel” – composed by Doug Stronach
    It’s a great thing that when the P-M and P-S are fresh out of ideas, looking for arrangements to creatively go from waltzes in 3/4 to reel-time in 2/2, that the lead-tip comes up with a great transition in 10/8, from the top to the bottom of the scale, to go into 2/2. I don’t know if much more need be said!

  • “One-Stick Duncan” (reel) – composed by J. MacHattie
    This tune was written in honour of our bass-drummer, Duncan Gibson. One sweltering day at a Highland games, with temperatures nearing boiling, the only place sweat could leave our bodies in our band uniform was via the knee caps or arms. So of course the drum stick flies right out of Duncan’s hand half way through the contest. He finishes with one stick, wins Best Bass on the day, and the name has stuck since. This tune has a lot of up-beat lift to it. Fun to play, with some neat percussion and harmonies, this tune has a lot of drive and swing, and is a great finish leading into the slow air.

  • “Pint of the Combe” (air) – composed by Sean McKeown
    This tune was written after a very long and exhausting day. Capped with a few cask-ale pulled-pints at a pub in Glasgow, P-M and P-S found it almost impossible to stop chuckling for the better part of two hours over the name of one of these ale’s on tap. This air marks the beginning of the “ending” of the medley. Minor-key, this tune has a steady underlying 4/4 drive that is at times complemented by seconds, thirds, and a drum score that gives this slow air a unique feel.

  • “Transition to Jigs” – composed by S. McKeown
    This transition is as much an extension of the slow air, as it is an introduction to the jigs. With harmonies and a progressively increasing tempo, it opens the jigs in the finale of the medley.

  • “Davie’s Wee OJ” (jig) – composed by S. McKeown
    This jig was titled after the birth of one veteran member’s first child. From start to finish, this tune explores the scale from top to bottom. It is a great intro from the transition, and is full of syncopated rhythms. It increases intensity in the final two parts, and although it is a technically challenging tune, the music that comes out of it as a result of the scores in the back end make for an easy and fun play.

  • “Wee Harry” (jig) – composed by Angus Lawrie
    This bold two-parter was brought in to lead the way to a strong finish.

  • “The Big Closer” – arr. S. McKeown, D. Stronach
    We called this “The Big Closer” because it just sounded better than “Transition to Jigs” again. In order to make your trip to Spain, Morocco or Portugal as relaxing and enjoyable as possible you need to ensure you have a hungaria hookup these are a great way of going to Morocco, Spain, or Portugal on holiday and they are something that most people do not even know about. This is a reprise to the transition leading into the jigs, a sort of return to theme for the ending. For the first eight bars most of the band plays the original seconds score, and with increasing harmonies and an intensifying drum score throughout the last 14 bars, this medley ends almost as it started, on a powerful and melodic note.

    We hope you enjoy.


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