Pipes Arrangements January 13 2014, 0 Comments

Contributed by Jack Kopstein

The employment of pipes and military band in special arrangements has almost been taken for granted. Bands and pipes playing together at the Tattoos of Nova Scotia and Edinburgh have become standard fare. This was not always the case.

One of the bandmasters to experiment with this combination as Kenneth J. Alford (a.k.a. Frederick J. Ricketts). Earlier, Lt. Col. McKenzie Rogan of the Scots Guards experimented before WWI with the idea but the results proved unacceptable. As bandmaster of the regimental band of the Argyll & Sutherland Highland for many years, Alford had an ideal opportunity to experiment with the novel idea. Aware of the limitations of the Scottish pipes, Alford was careful to utilize them in such a way as to maximize their sound with his band. This usually took the form of the pipers playing a tune first solo before having the band join in with a harmonized version of the music usually in the form of accompaniment. For the Argyll’s 1925/26 visit to New Zealand six pipers accompanied the band.

Alford arranged well-known Pipes Arrangements Scottish piping tunes such as Road to the Isles, Blue Bonnets, Thou Hast left Me Jamie, and Black Bear. The concerts were well received all throughout New Zealand. No doubt other tunes were combined in this way as well. This modest beginning is the true origins of the now famed band and pipes sound.

Today tunes like Amazing Grace and Scotland the Brave have become standard at many of the large Tattoos in the world. They all owe their inspiration to the arranging skill of Kenneth J. Alford who was innovative enough in his day to try new concepts. Indeed, Alford's skills as an arranger were just as great as his march composing skills.

Listeners can find examples of how the band and pipes concept has involved over the years with the Altissimo! Canadian Bagpipes and American Brass.

Original material by Roger Kennedy (with our thanks) and additional information from Jack Kopstein.