May 31, 2001

Three to get ready

Bruce Gandy
Contemporary and Traditional Music for the Highland Bagpipe, Volume 3
Published by the compiler
52 pages, 71 compositions

Reviewed by John Wilson

It was with considerable interest and enthusiasm that I reviewed Bruce Gandy’s third volume of Contemporary and Traditional Music for the Highland Bagpipe, based on my impression of him as a piper with an inherent sense of musical flow and accent.

While the content of the book is like others in that it contains tunes of varying quality and impact, the structured compilation of the music is immediately striking and no doubt marketable.

The collection genuinely and purposefully offers compositions that suit both the elementary and the advanced player, and specifically focuses on the smaller, two-parted tunes across the spectrum of light music. In addition, many of the tunes are quite distinctly matched or contrasted in melodic theme and profile, which will undoubtedly assist the individual in compiling a medley or part thereof.

The book commences with a fine array of 2/4 marches. “Mrs. Lynne Rollo” and “Mrs. Susanne Speirs” stand out as two four-parters of considerable potential. I like the contrast created between the third and fourth bars of alternate parts in the first named tune. In addition, the Gaelic “cut” evident in the lead-in to the last bar of each part of “Mrs. Speirs” is most appealing.

In fact, most of the 2/4 marches reflect a Western Isles influence, especially if one compares them with “Father John MacMillan of Barra” as an example of tunes halting at the end of each two-bar phrase.

It’s great also to see the “College of Piping’s March to Tatamagouche” and “Farewell to Ewen” as fine examples of simple tunes for the learner. In 9/8 terms, we have a difficult rhythm well handled in Jack MacLean’s “A Fond Farewell to Salisbury Plain,” which also contains a very tasteful melody.

The strathspey section offers, in particular, a significant selection of two-parted tunes, again reflection a strong Gaelic theme, and this is no better demonstrated than in the tunes “Mairi Mathieson of Carloway” and “Highland Mafia.”

The strathspeys are followed by an interesting selection of reels, mostly two-parted, which are composed in the “slip” style, and echo the Gaelic theme significantly. “The Sunday Reel” and “Passing Up L.A.” as two good, free-flowing examples of Bruce Gandy’s style. I can’t fail to mention his parodies on the traditional titles “High Road to Linton” and “The Sound of Sleat.”

The outstanding air in the book is “Nightfall Over Summerside,” which has an immensely atmospheric melody. Interestingly, Gandy includes two lines of very strong harmony.

While the jigs did not immediately have an impact on me, the collection does conclude strongly with some crisp hornpipes. In particular, the lively melody of “The Henningham Reunion” and Roy Hamilton’s “Mr. Jack” – a tune that has a change of accent similar to the third measure of “Hugh Kennedy BSc.”

Contemporary and Traditional Music for the Highland Bagpipe, Volume 3 contains contributions from other prominent players/composers, including Peter Aumonier, Jack Lee, Bob Worrall, and Michael Grey and, in general terms, it is an entertaining compilation that the discerning player would wish to add to his or her collection.

John Wilson is Chief Superintendent with the Strathclyde Police force. He has won both Gold Medals and was a long-time member of the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band. He is a native of Campbeltown, Argyll.


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