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Pipe Major Willie Gray's Farewell to the Glasgow Police

A march composed by PM John MacDonald

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Pipe Major Willie Gray's Farewell to the Glasgow Police

The composer for Pipe Major Willie Gray's Farewell to the Glasgow Police was Pipe Major John MacDonald.

To the Gaelic speakers, he was Seonaidh Roidein. To the rest, he was John MacDonald of the Glasgow Police, or John MacDonald, South Uist. But to all, he was a larger than life piping figure: an upper echelon soloist, superb composer, one of the greatest Pipe Majors in the history of the pipe bands, and a true Highland gentleman. He was also a winner of major solo competitions, and Pipe Major of his Glasgow City Police Pipe band in winning a number of World Pipe Band Championships.

I met John MacDonald briefly about 1956 in Glasgow when our Pipes and Drums was/were there for a television show recording, an imposing fellow who seemed to like our band. I found out later that he had approached at least one of our tall pipers to join the Police after completing National Service that was in force then.

The biographical information was extracted from www.pipetunes.ca

William (Willie) Gray

He was born in Glasgow 1883. His first piping tuition came from Colin Thomson, a pupil of the Camerons famous line. Later tuition was from John MacDougall Gillies one of most famous teachers in Piping. From 1908 until World War I Willie won a good number of premier gold medals in Piobaireachd completion and in the light music events. In WWI he was Pipe Major of the 2nd Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

After the war In 1919 Willie returned to the Glasgow Police, and was appointed Pipe Major. With his band he won the World Pipe band Championship in 1920 and 1922. He was disaffected with band competitions, and concentrated mostly on teaching individual members for solo competitions etc. In 1933 as Lieutenant (equivalent to a Chief Inspector) he retired from the Police and nominated John MacDonald as Pipe Major to succeed him, as happened. Willie continued in many ways to teach and help those in Piping.

Willie Gray

Lesson Pointers

This is a Competition type 2/4 march that was fairly popular some years ago, although even today I know of some bands playing it. Tempo of course for this type of March (could be about 72–84 BPM) is much steadier than for parade etc., marching. With the rhythm beware of the need for controlled upbeats in particular, although at times certain downbeats may have a subtle extra stress/duration feeling without seemingly weakening the upbeat. Notice in the second part how many dotted and 8th note E's are on the upbeats. Pointing as we call it is also important with relatively longer and shorter notes duration quite marked, yet retaining good clarity of execution, especially short 32nd notes in cuttings, and tachums etc.

The high G grace note clarity is necessary in these cutting and tachums as well. Maintain a certain steady momentum within the controlled rhythm.

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