In a little over three weeks I hope to play at the World Pipe Band Championships for the first time in 44 years. I have been asked to be part of a ’70s Tribute Pipe Band’ formed to celebrate the introduction of the pipe band Medley in 1970 and honour the bands that pioneered the format.
By the Editor
The Tribute band was due to play in 2020 on the 50th Anniversary but the pandemic has delayed things as everyone knows. The first Worlds for three years now takes place on August 12 and 13 at Glasgow Green.
The RSPBA has kindly offered the Tribute band a ten minute slot before the start of the Grade 1 Medley contest on the 13th, roughly at about 1.30pm.
We will play the medley performed by Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia on that historic day at Hazelhead Park, Aberdeen, more than half a century ago. I remember it. I was on my last season with the 214 BB band before joining Muirheads. I snuck away from my bandmates to listen.
Everyone in the huge crowd was captivated by Shotts’ sound and the brio they injected into the melodies – and the skilful way they linked everything together. It was quite a turnaround for pipe bands and the usual diet of March, Strathspey & Reel, and the audience loved it.
Result: Shotts first, Muirheads second. P/M Tom MacAllister had finally broken P/M RG Hardie’s five year stranglehold on the Worlds trophy.
Shotts gave us the classic format of march, slow air, strathpeys, reels, jigs and hornpipes, not far off what bands play today albeit without the musical bridges and counter harmonies and melodies.
Shotts’ tunes that day were Hills of Alva, Loch Broom Bay, the Keel Row, Stumpie, Sgt E MacDonald, Sandy Duff, Banjo Breakdown and P/M George Allan.
That’s what we’ll play on August 12 in the famous arena. Our pipe major is the respected David Caldwell, Northern Ireland. David has played with FMM, the Frasers, and in the 70s was P/M of Eden Pipe Band.
Leading Drummer is John Scullion, a master on the sticks who played with Alex Duthart’s corps in Shotts. John, I’m, told has faithfully re-created the great Alex’s 1970 scores.
P/M Caldwell hopes to have 16 pipers on parade and six side drummers. A few younger players have been recruited to bolster the oldies in the ranks: myself, Kenny Stewart, Lenny Brown, Kenny MacLeod. Kenny at McCallums has styled a new matched set of chanters to suit David’s choice reeds. The sound is not bad at all.
We will wear our own kilts and black jackets. None of us has the full No1s as worn by Shotts in the striking MacLean tartan on the June day they made history.
Practices are on-going in Northern Ireland and we will rehearse the night before the Scottish at Dumbarton and during Worlds Week.
After we finish our set at the Green we plan to march off to Shotts 5/4 standard Cullen Bay by Ian Duncan, a piper in their ranks during the glory days of the 70s.
If it works out well the Tribute band is planning to reprise the medleys of other great bands of the era, all pioneers of the format: Edinburgh Police, Muirhead & Sons, Dysart & Dundonald, Glasgow Police, Red Hackle.
All good fun and I hope you will give us a decent cheer as we leave the arena. The music should be quite a contrast to what follows – but no less enjoyable.