for double reed choir
Robert Burns, often familiarly referred to as “Rabbie” is, of course, Scotland’s best-known poet. He wrote the lyrics for hundreds of songs, covering the entire range of human experience, including love, both requited and un-, humor and satire, religious devotion, and even some very bawdy songs he never published but which have survived anyway. Although an amateur musician himself, he did not write the tunes for his songs, but instead crafted words to existing melodies. These arrangements are of some of my favorites among those melodies. Probably many of these tunes would be lost by now if Burns hadn’t written lyrics for them. They range from intensely lyric and expressive to just-for-fun.
These arrangements were made at the request of Jennifer Auerbach, for her groups The Bocal Majority and Operation O.B.O.E. Camp Ensemble, specifically for performance at the 2010 Conference of the International Double Reed Society at the University of Oklahoma. I had long been wanting to do something with some of these great tunes, and her request for a piece seemed like the perfect opportunity. Double reeds just work beautifully with Scottish melodies. I have also transcribed the arrangements for symphonic band.
The first four movements are of individual melodies, but the final jig incorporates three different tunes, Rattlin’ Roaring Willie, John Barleycorn Must Die (one of many tunes sung to those words), and The De’il’s Awa wi’ th’ Exciseman.