Since I was a young child, I have always been drawn to the music of the bagpipes. I love the sound of the instrument and the way it has always been able to stir emotions from somberness to excitement. For me, the music of the bagpipes has been a life-long connection to family and friends. With all of that, I have never been drawn to actually play the bagpipes. I dabbled very briefly when I was about 9 years old, at my father’s request that I give it a try. I did, and it wasn’t for me. I have always been drawn to the percussion that accompanies the bagpipes. As a musician and performer, I love the aspect of working to bring the music of the bagpipe to life with dynamics and rhythmic phrases, so it should come as no surprise that I really enjoy the project of composing drum scores, especially for pipe bands to use for their competition sets.
Recently, I was asked to compose and arrange the drum scores for the snare, bass, and tenor drummers at the Macalester College Pipe Band, from Saint Paul, Minnesota. This band is a talented grade 3 band and I really enjoyed the music they selected for their set that I worked on writing to. Their medley selection features a beautiful slow air, titled “My Home Town”. From there, the selection includes a few dance strathspeys and reels, wolven together with tasteful transitions and engaging key changes in the melodic line. The last reel is a tune called “Dr Alistair McKenzie” and then the set finishes with a reprise of the “My Home Town” that artfully intersects the melody of “Dr Alistair McKenzie” over the slow air. Putting this drum score together was challenging and fun. The goal is to capture the right amount of rhythmic drive and syncopation to foster momentum and excitement in the piece, while selecting the right moments for space and silence to add drama and help build to the climax of the performance. I’m looking forward to hearing this piece performed by the Macalester College Pipe Band later this year!