Beaches of Harris

Sharing musical experience with students

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to join the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band in 2012.  The SFU Pipe Band are 6-time world champions, based out of Vancouver, British Columbia and I traveled there to play with the band for 4 years, leaving at the end of the 2016 season. The lead drummer for the band, J Reid Maxwell, has been a lifelong mentor and friend, making the experience even more special.

The SFU Pipe Band are known for their ability to put on a great show in concert.  In 2015, the band was selected to perform at the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall, in Glasgow, Scotland, as the headliner for the annual “Pre-World Pipe Band Championships concert”, which is now part of the larger “Piping Live” festival, held in Glasgow during the week leading to the World Pipe Band Championships in August.  I have attended the concert many times as a spectator, so the opportunity to perform in 2015 was a highlight.   One of the pieces the band performed that night was a musical suite called “The Beaches of Harris”.  This suite was composed by an Australian composer and piper, Mark Saul.  The drumming arrangements were all written by SFU Lead drummer Reid Maxwell.

Here is a video of the performance of the piece at the concert in 2015

Harris is a place on the Isle of Lewis, located in the North of Scotland.  In 2014, I had the opportunity to visit this place while traveling with the SFU pipe band to perform in Stornoway, Scotland, the weekend before the World Championships that year.

Following the Dunedin Highland Games & Festival, which is always the first weekend of April, there is always a bit of a lul in the Dunedin school pipe bands, as the competition season has ended and the school year will be finishing up in May.  In an effort to engage the students this time of year, this year we’re teaching them to play “Beaches of Harris” to perform at their end-of-year concert as part of the Dunedin High School band program.  The arrangements for the drumming have had to be altered to be more appropriate for the level of the students in the school, compared to what I had played in SFU, but I’ve been able to keep the same feel and rhythmic shape to the percussion to create a similar musical effect.   I’m really pleased to be able to take something from my own experience in pipe bands and share it with students here in Dunedin.  It’s a lot of fun to see the students enjoy learning and playing the piece, as something “outside of the normal pipe band music” in the same way I remember enjoying performing this years ago.

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