December 26, 2020

Socrú review: Challenging, musical, interesting, different, thought-provoking and achievable

Socrú – The Collection
Compiled and published by Alen Tully
50 compositions, €16.50
Available directly from the publisher.

Reviewed by David Hilder

Socrú – The Collection is the latest music book compiled by Alen Tully. It is filled with original compositions, alongside arrangements of light music.

This is more than a music book. It’s a story taking you along Alen’s journey as a player and a person, highlighting a different memory with every tune. Each proving to have an instrumental role in moulding his musical career and propelling his success in composition.

With the clever “SLOT” machine on the cover, my first impression is that this book will be a winner. It has something for every piper out there: the tunes are challenging, musical, interesting, different, thought-provoking and achievable. It has an Irish musical lilt that shows Alen’s style while holding onto his roots.

I love the personal reference, and reverence Alen gives to his dad Terry throughout the book. Alen shows he is a family man at heart through his photos, notes and tune names. Few of us would be here on this piping journey if it were not for our mothers. Lovely to see moments captured and printed here with Alen and his “mam.” Alen features his wife, Shelly, children, and family, along with many bandmates and friends over the years in this collection. It is clear Alen’s family is larger than blood.

The tunes are challenging, musical, interesting, different, thought-provoking and achievable.

More than half of this collection is Alen’s arrangements, as the title “Socrú” translates in Irish Gaelic as “arrange.” The biography states that “Alen is renowned for his ability to arrange a tune from one-time signature to another while keeping the theme of the original tune prominent in the arrangement.” This proves true as Alen creates new excitement for these classic tunes written by some of our arts greatest composers. The book is rich with melodic tunes that have you tapping your toe and whistling away.

A standout for me is the well-known hornpipe, “The Rainbow,” composed by Terry Tully and arranged by Alen. A true musical circle and must be a highlight for both father and son. Of course, what Irish music book would be complete without a jig section? There are many greats here, both original compositions and arrangements by Alen, and all are terrific tunes, including the excellent “Irish Washerwoman” arrangement and a catchy 12/8 original composition, “Red Robyn.” The tune Alen wrote for his daughter, “Crazy-Frazy,” is sure to be a classic 4/4 march with a twist. A great tune for any band to play, whether it’s onto the park, opening a medley or any occasion. The strathspey section is loaded with some great two-parters that will have you visualizing a dancer or two dancing the fling. Of course, some reels and hornpipes will challenge the best of us, as it should be. Have a look at the two and a half-page “Cameronian Rant” in reel time!

When I open a music book, the first section I turn to is the slow air section. As a pipe-major, I crafted my medleys from the slow air out, believing them to be the soul of the medley. If written or arranged well, a slow air can evoke deep emotion and can transport you to another place and time. Alen captures this well with the air and waltz section. For those lucky enough to play with others, the harmonies provide an added layer of emotion.

Alen makes sure to give credit to the composers of the harmonies as well. This acknowledgement is crucial, as harmonies are such a massive part of our listening pleasure and composing them is an art form on its own. I only wish the book had a few more slow airs. However, Alen does a great job of arranging waltzes, and he more than makes up for this with the waltz section.

Socrú – The Collection is an excellent choice for those starting their book collection or adding to their library. Find the “Tully” section on your shelf and place this where you can access it often. However, leave some room, as I feel Alen will have just started contributing as one of the great piping composers of our time.

David Hilder was pipe-major of Grade 1 Dowco Triumph Street of Vancouver from 2007 until 2018 when the band stopped competing in 2018. During that time, the group delivered numerous large-scale concerts and in 2012 celebrated the band’s fortieth anniversary with the release of the studio album, With Purpose. Hilder is currently a member of the Grade 1 ScottishPower, and serves on the judging panel of the British Columbia Pipers Association. He works as a Paramedic Specialist and Advance Care Paramedic in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, where he lives.



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