PP Editor’s Blog: Analytical Article/ George McIlwham/ Worlds G1 bands/ Cancale

Thanks to those who commented on the ‘Analytical Theorising’ post last week, particularly to Bill Livingstone, Steve Rooklidge and John Dally. Yes John, rhythm and melodic flow are vital. Like you, I have been interested in alternative settings for a long time (I did the Lady D’Oyly MS recordings for the BBC some 30 years ago) but they have to make musical sense.

The Donald MacDonald competition you mention gets good financial support but to me the music on offer is rather poor fare, and, no surprise, outside of this competition gets very little public performance. I can’t speak for all professional pipers, but I know a good few who don’t have a lot of time for it.

Of course Donald MacDonald’s scores should not be played literally. The un-piping like motifs that result when they are cannot be what he intended.

Lochaber 1Closing date for Lochaber Gathering is August 5th, repeat August 5th. Entry Forms here.

George McIllwham
George McIlwham

I was saddened to hear of the passing of George McIlwham last week. George was a concert flautist and piper, taking his early lessons from P/M Robert Reid. He was a pioneer of piping in orchestras and gave dozens of performances of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s ‘Orkney Wedding and Sunrise’ including at the  Last Night of the Proms in 1992: the first time a piper had ever appeared at a Henry Wood Promenade Concert in the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Much earlier than this, not long after WW2, George had played on composer and conductor Ian Whyte’s ‘Donald of the Burthens’ (1951), a ballet whose score was, apparently, influenced in part by the Lament for the Children (a piece Whyte thought equalled many of the great classical compositions in melodic content). The ballet introduces the pipes playing the Reel of Tulloch towards the end.

In the early performances George asked Robert Reid to get involved but that was not a happy marriage – despite Reid’s enjoyment of classical, particularly vocal,  music. George took over to role.

George McIlwham was also a composer himself, and his ‘Alba’ suite has received many public performances. It too features the pipes. George was involved in the pipe band world for a time and helped out at the Milngavie band in the late 60s and 70s. I seem to remember them winning the Worlds in Grade 3 when George had set them up. More info gratefully received. George died peacefully in a nursing home a week past Thursday. Condolences to his family.

worlds-bannerHere is a full list of all the Grade 1 bands entered for the Worlds: 78th Fraser Highlanders, 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel), Bagad Cap Caval (pictured top), Bleary, Field Marshal, Glasgow Police, Inveraray, LA Scots, Manawatu NZ, NZ Police, Ottawa Police, Peel Regional Police, Boghall, Fife Police, Ravara, Scottish Power, Shotts, SFU, Spirit of Scotland, SLoT, Vale of Atholl.

Hervé Le Floc’h (Cap Caval’s P/M) will conduct the masterclass at the 2016 ‘Piobaireachd by the Sea’ weekend at Cancale, Brittany. The dates are September 17/18. The class receives financial support from the Piobaireachd Society. All piobaireachd enthusiasts are welcome to take part in the weekend, now in its 12th year. If you have reasonable French, you should be able to work out the details from the poster below. If not contact Catherine Grosset.


RSPBA adjudicator Joe Noble has posted a report on his recent visit to the New Zealand Pipe Band Championships on the 214 BB ex-members website. Have a read here.

1 thought on “PP Editor’s Blog: Analytical Article/ George McIlwham/ Worlds G1 bands/ Cancale

  1. So sorry to hearing of the passing of George McIiwham recently.
    I first met George in the early 80’s when he phoned me in a panic, since he had a fall, and sustained injuries which meant he was unable to play, as it transpired, the following day! and he asked me if I do the Iain Sutherland arrangement of “Donald of the Burthens” (Ian Whyte).
    I thereafter, “stood-in” until George recuperated with many performances of “An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise” along with others.
    This piece was favoured by the famous Bulgarian Conductor, Angel Stankov and I have played the piece all over The World, thanks to George.
    With my Pipe Band(Neilston & District) we had the privilege of performing George’s “Alba” at The Last Night of The Prom’s some years ago and George took great pride in guiding us at rehearsal.
    My son, Finlay, and I interviewed George, in 2012 for the “Noteing the Tradition” series and it was clear that George was enthusiastic about recent advances in Piping and the establishment of Piping Degrees in Higher Educational Establishments, including The Royal Scottish Conservetoire of Music(formerly RSAMD and Drama) of which he himself was a Graduate, whilst enthusing about his early days learning Piping and combining it with his love of Orchestral Music.

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