Five songs arranged for symphonic band
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These arrangements were originally made for double-reed choir and premiered at the 2010 International Double Reed Society conference in Oklahoma City by The Bocal Majority and Operation O.B.O.E. Camp Ensemble, who commissioned the piece. I later had the idea of transcribing them for band. Some of the greatest pieces in the band repertory are based on folk music, after all, so I thought I might make my own small contribution to that tradition. The title, of course, gives the nod to one of the most famous of those works, Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posey. Perhaps I was subconsciously thinking I would eventually transcribe these arrangements for band when I titled the original piece.
A Bouquet for Rabbie Burns is in five short movements. The first four are arrangements of a single melody, while the final Jig incorporates three 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.
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