End of Year Recitals for Piping Students/ Black Watch Tune Search

Students on the Royal Conservatoire / National Piping Centre Traditional Music degree course take to the stage for their end-of-year recitals on 1st and 2nd June, writes John Mulhearn.

These public recitals are a major component of the course assessment and are part of the wider RCS Traditional Music Recital Festival. Commencing on Tuesday 30th May, the festival takes place at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts and is free to attend. 

Piping recital dates/times are: Bede Patterson, June 1, 8pm. The following are all on June 2: Calum Kaye 11am; Emma Hill 12.15pm; Finlay MacVicar 1.30pm; Hamish Drennan 3.30pm; Ruaridh Buxton 4.45pm; Dougal McKiggan 6.45pm; Ciar Milne 8pm.

As Head of Piping Studies, I am looking forward to what will be a varied programme of recitals. The invariable result of this is a series of unique performances from young musicians in the early stages of their careers, something which points to a healthy future for our art.


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Black Watch Tunes

Michael Harvey has kindly sent us this very helpful information regarding the two Black Watch tunes mentioned earlier…..

In reference to the reader looking for info on a couple of Black Watch Tunes, I see from the comments someone has already confirmed Captain Lawson’s Men is in the Black Watch book.

It also appeared in Book 4 of the David Glen series. There are a few differences in notes between the Glen version and that in the Black Watch book. Here is Glen’s:

As regards the other tune I believe he may be referring to Brigadier J. Oliver’s Return To El Alamein, a four-part 6/8 published in the Gordon Highlanders Vol. II book, page 110. It is marked as being composed by D. MacFarlane, Arbroath

From the notes in the book: ‘When a Lieutenant Colonel, the late Brigadier James Oliver, CB, CBE, DSO, TD, DL commanded the 7th Battalion The Black Watch (RHR) at the battle of El Alamein in October 1942.

‘This tune was composed when he returned to the battlefield for the dedication and unveiling of the Alamein Memorial by Field Marshal Montgomery on 24th October 1954.

Brigadier James Oliver

‘The composer, like the subject of the composition, was a native of Arbroath; he was also Pipe Sergeant of the 4th/5th Battalion The Black Watch (RHR) before the last War and later became the Pipe Major of the Arbroath Royal British Legion Pipe Band.’

As regards recordings I can find nothing of Captain Lawson’s Men. For the 6/8, it is available on Jack Lee’s site.

Some further info on Brigadier James Oliver: ‘[He] was probably the most distinguished Territorial soldier ….in the 51st (Highland) Division in the last war. He is described…. as…….. a fighting man second to none in the regimental history’.

As a battalion commander in the desert and later at brigade level in North West Europe …… he led in a manner which not only instilled confidence in the men under him, but, importantly, saved unnecessary casualties.

A solicitor by profession, Oliver was commissioned in the 4/5th Battalion The Black Watch in 1926 and on mobilisation became second in command. In May 1942 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and commanded the 7th Battalion at the battle of El Alamein.

In the heat of battle he was able to regroup the survivors as two companies and went on to capture and hold a crucial position. For this he earned his first DSO.’ Read more here.:



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