for Northumbrian pipes, accordion, celtic harp, and cello (other options possible)


duration: 5 mins

High Aldons was composed for the Alwinton Music Festival composition competition 2016.


The brief was to write a piece for Katheryn Tickell and her band The Side - hence the unusual instrumentation. The piece was one of three shortlisted for workshopping -   which was duly given on the 7th May 2016.


This piece is potentially more versatile than might at first appear. The Northumbrian pipes part has a sounding range from middle C3 (middle C) to G4 and so could be taken by a number of instruments. The only complication would be the drones (G2,D3, and G3) however these could be provided by a keyboard of almost any description. The celtic harp part could also, if necessary, be played on the pedal harp.

Programme note for the workshop/performance:


High Aldons, a house owned by my wife's cousin, stands in splendid isolation on the top of a hill in Ayrshire. Music is always a big part of our visits - back in 80s I remember pumping the old harmonium - before the mice finally got the upper hand. In more recent times various musical instruments (which are to be found lying in wait in every corner) are rediscovered to add to the general mayhem aka the sing-song. At some stage a composition of mine would have to be christened 'High Aldons'.


Little did I anticipate that the chosen piece would be a sort of traditional/classical crossover effort based on a simple 6/8, four-bar, traditional-like melody, scored for the entirely obvious and well known, combination of Northumbrian pipes, Lever harp, Accordion, and ‘cello. Such is fate.


Ok, I've got my folk-like tune, my four instruments - What next?

According to someone all you can do with a folk tune is play it louder. (Not much chance of that on the bagpipes.) Thankfully Arnold Schoenberg came to the rescue (or was it Bach?) and before I knew what was happening I had inversions, retrogrades, augmentations, and other exciting sounding stuff coming out of my ears - not to mention 'modal transpositions' (I don’t think Schoenberg did those)


So there you have it - all you need to know about 'High Aldons'.

sheet music

Listen to the virtual instrument demo: