Young Liam Hoyle, a piping student of mine, will be playing tomorrow for Remembrance Day ceremonies at his church. He asked a few weeks ago what he might play this year, wanting the music for “The Flowers of the Forest,” that somber tune we Canadians hear all too frequently on the news these days when Colin Clansey or another Canadian Forces piper plays for a fallen soldier returning from Afghanistan.
This fall Liam has been working on “The Taking of Beaumont Hamel,” the magically swinging 2/4 march by my favourite of all composers, John MacLellan, DCM, of Dunoon. Like most of MacLellan’s tunes, “Beaumont Hamel” is more melodically captivating than technically challenging, and it’s a tune that stands up just as well in Grade 3 solos as it does at the Silver Star.
Beaumont-Hamel should also be able to stand up just as well at a Remembrance Day event. Along with the dozens of other terrific pieces of light music by MacLellan, G.S., Willie Lawrie and others that were inspired in part by The Great War, “The Taking of Beaumont Hamel” is a remarkably positive and uplifting composition – remarkable because more than 300,000 soldiers died during the Somme, some 30,000 on the first day, most within 30 minutes of the start of the Beaumont-Hamel action.
On Remembrance Day, we tend to want to hear a lament to pay homage to those who sacrificed themselves for their country. For us pipers and drummers, though, we should remember what all tunes inspired by World War I and other wars are about. And each time we play them, we pay our respects.