The Analyst: Bands are Jazzing Up Classic Reels for Effect

Our occasional commentator The Analyst is at it again…..

Apart from being well-known competition reels, what do the The Sheepwife, Charlie’s Welcome and The Traditional Reel have in common? Struggling? Same also applies to John Morrison of Assynt House, The Rejected Suitor and Alick C McGregor.

Give up? If you listened carefully you would have heard them all across the two days of medleys from Grade One bands at the Worlds. Curious. You see, my musings on the MSR started me thinking about reels in general and the more I thought about it the more I noticed that rather than finding new reels many of our top bands are taking the classics and jazzing them up.

Sceptical? Don’t be. It’s proved a successful tactic for Inveraray (pictured top) and St Laurence O’Toole, and now Field Marshal Montgomery are trying it too.

Good thing or bad thing? You decide, but let’s not miss the point, or maybe that should be two points.

The positive is that a good melody is exactly that and playing around with it to bring it to a different audience (i.e. the one that doesn’t listen to MSRs) is to be applauded; it’s not sacrilege as the traditionalists might tell you. (In which case they should have covered their ears for the SFU medley with Charlie’s Welcome in it at Glasgow Green (cleverly disguised as ‘If Charlie Comes’).

Folk bands have been doing it successfully for decades. SFU and ‘Charlie’s Welcome’:

The negative is that resorting to these tunes is an indictment of modern composition. Try and name a reel written in the present millennia that the majority of pipers would have down as a classic. Don’t get me wrong, there will be great reels out there that aren’t well known yet.

Grade One medleys have given us some fantastic new tunes in recent years and there were more on display at the Worlds, there are just not many memorable new reels. (If you haven’t heard it yet, have a listen to Field Marshal’s medley opener in their qualifying heat – Altera Terra by Lincoln Hilton). Moan over, it’s now back to the darkened room!

• Jazzed up ‘competition’ reels at the Worlds: Dolina MacKay, Traditional Reel (FMM); Cabar Feidh (Vale); Cabar Feidh (Denny); Man from Glengarry (Glasgow Skye); Cabar Feidh (Shotts); The Sheepwife (Glasgow Police); Lt Col DJS Murray (Bagad Cap Caval); Little Cascade (Boghall); Alick C MacGregor, John Morrison, Assynt House (Inveraray); Lochcarron (PSNI); Rejected Suitor (Fife Police); Ca’ the Ewes (NZ Police); Fiona MacLeod (Canterbury Caledonian); Broadford Bay (Manawatu); Kildonan, Charlie’s Welcome/ If Charlie Comes Again (SFU); The Sheepwife (SLoT); Sandy Cameron (Dowco); The Blackbird (Buchan Peterson); Duncan Lamont (Scottish Power).


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