April 19, 2020

Medley consulting by Alen Tully offers creative potential for bands around the world

Pipe-Major Alen Tully leading St. Laurence O’Toole into the 2016 World’s Medley circle. [Photo copyright pipes|drums]
Okay. Your band is in hiatus while you and the rest of the world are in self-isolation, waiting out the coronavirus crisis.

You might not have practiced together face-to-face for months. Your entire competition season might be cancelled outright.

But, look on the bright side: you’re able to hunker down and review all of your music, to come up with new ideas and directions, to try new things, to push yourselves even further as you get ready to come back better and stronger in 2021.

Wouldn’t it be great to get help from the leader of one of the globe’s greatest Grade 1 bands?

Pipe-Major Alen Tully of the mighty St. Laurence O’Toole of Dublin is ready to assist.

A virtuoso piper, Tully is a master of pipe band arrangement and orchestration, and he’s launched, a services business where pipe bands of any grade and capability from anywhere in the world can work with him to build new musical ideas as they look to the future.

“I’ve been thinking of this idea for quite a while, mainly out of my passion for putting medleys together, writing harmonies and arranging tunes,” Tully says. “I love doing it for my band and get a lot of enjoyment out of hearing other bands play our stuff or music I’ve arranged or written. The idea came to reality probably due to the season being cancelled and the knowledge and pure devastation that I wouldn’t be piping this year like I’ve done every summer for the past 25 years. The more I play, the more inspiration I get, and the thought of not playing for the whole summer or working on music was very depressing, so I decided to act almost immediately after the RSPBA cancelled the World’s.”

Apart from piping and the hard work of leading one of the most musically demanding and sophisticated bands on earth, Tully is the National Sales Director in Ireland of PhoneWatch, a company that delivers home security alarms systems.

Starting WriteMyMedley needed to be straightforward and manageable, and his tech background helped.

“It’s very simple, to be honest, I’m acting on a consultancy basis with pipe-majors, identifying the style of music they like to play and helping them fit that style into a winning formula,” he adds. “I don’t entirely impose my music or anything like it. Each band has an identity, and each pipe-major has their style, so I help those pipe-majors to play to their style but structure the medley to win competitions. For pipe-majors who are struggling with that formula, I write the full medley with harmonies or maybe just a tune or two to start or finish off the set.”

Always on the hunt for new music, he scours collections, both old and new, for his inspiration and possibilities for other bands. Assessing a band’s needs and capabilities is an essential aspect of the consulting process. Giving music that a band can’t manage, or concepts that they can’t implement, and music that engages the whole group are vital aspects, too.

“To assess the capability of the corps, I get the pipe-major to send me some recordings from the weakest to the best player in the corps, I match the new sets to the current standard of player and also their musical style, so the tunes fit the hands so to speak. This is a fairly detailed process between myself and the pipe-major.”

It helps that Tully is one of the more friendly and respected leaders at the Grade 1 level. His own band’s pipers and drummers gravitate naturally to his leadership style, which is borne out by the apparent chemistry within the ranks of St. Laurence O’Toole. The band enjoys playing the music they built together, and simply being together as a band.

His group is known for their sold-out concerts and their jaw-dropping medleys, the musical creativity pleasing audiences and judges alike.

So, is there a St. Laurence O’Toole medley that Alen Tully is particularly proud of for its content, structure and orchestration?

“My two favourite medleys regarding orchestration and content are the first iteration of ‘The Garb,’ when we finished with ‘Steve Burns,'” he says. “There were so many little subtleties in that set that only made sense when you heard the full set, even afterwards you were thinking, ‘Oh, now I see what they did there.’ I love that in a set, where you are still thinking about it half an hour later, or on the next listen, and you discover something else cool. The other set for me is the ‘Donegal Lass’ set when we won the Europeans in Forres. That was a class set and equally enjoyable performance finishing with ‘Arnish Light.'”

Tully shared that his band is already working on two brand new medleys, looking hopefully toward a 2021 contest campaign. We’ll have to wait a while to hear them, but the pipe band world will be eagerly anticipating music from St. Laurence O’Toole, plus the many bands around the globe, ranging so far from Grade 5 to Grade 2 that are taking advantage of his music consulting services.



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