Dougie MacLean - The Gael (arr. For Brass Band by Andrew
to trace the provenance of this piece reminded me of that famous line,
“Confused? You, won’t be, after tonight’s episode of Soap!” Let’s
see. This brass band arrangement is by Andrew Duncan. So far, so good.
The arrangement’s front page says, The Gael, from the motion picture
“Last of the Mohicans, music by Trevor Jones. Well, it is - and it
Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman both contributed to the film score, and
indeed Jones contributed the bits in question. However, in this respect
he was himself an arranger, as The Gael was originally written by
the Scottish composer and song-writer Dougie MacLean.
resolved? Ah! No, not quite. I am reliably informed (as I haven’t “seen
the fillum” for myself!) that Jones used only part of The Gael,
to whit the jolly, dancing fiddle tune. As a result of the massive exposure
bestowed by the film, most people (apparently) think that this is all there
is to it. Well, it isn’t. Having listened to both Duncan’s arrangement
and MacLean’s original, I can cheerfully confirm that Duncan has arranged
not Jones’ arrangement, as advertised, but MacLean’s original.What’s
more, he’s done a thoroughly brilliant job, to all intents and purposes
re-conceiving the piece in terms of brass band (with copious percussion).
composed a slow introduction (omitted by Jones), a quirky rhythm over which
a creepy-crawly bass gives birth, utterly unstressed, to a noble theme
of evidently Scottish demeanour. This spills smoothly into the main section,
the fiddle playing what I can only describe as a “laid-back reel”, against
which the re-emergence of the noble tune is again unstressed. The
dance rolls gaily along, until it finally - and sadly - gets itself lost
in one of those damnable “fade-out finishes”.
version is, as it happens, far more “red-haired” than MacLean’s original.
Against the dry rattle of snare-drums his black browed basses sound like
refugees from Holst’s Mars, which is rather apt considering the
way the work progresses. The noble tune isn’t quietly “born”, it erupts
from the top of a volcanic crescendo in a searing flow of liquid golden
cornets! Starting genially enough, the reel soon provokes the commanding
noble theme into a tumultuous polyphony, like the high wild wind harrowing
the heathers of the wild highlands - highly exhilarating, and beautiful
in its belligerence, this music must surely have been born for brass band,
© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street,
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