Four-time World Champion piper Kyle Warren has returned to Scotland after spending five years in Australia teaching bagpipes at the prestigious Scotch College in Melbourne, and leading the Grade 2 Australian Champions, Hawthorn City Pipe Band as Pipe Major.
Before emigrating, Kyle was a member of the Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band, winning seventeen of twenty major titles in four years (2011-2014), which included a history making double Grand Slam. Kyle was also a full-time member of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers touring worldwide, joining the famous BagRock band after graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Scottish Music – Piping, from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Highlights in Kyle’s piping career include releasing his debut album Wanted and first book of music Tunez, recording pipes on the Disney Pixar Oscar winning movie Brave, reaching the final of the BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the year, Pipe Major of The National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland, winning a Danny Kyle award with TNT at Celtic Connections, winning the Bagad Championship in Lorient with Bagad Cap Caval and teaching bagpipes at the highly successful Dollar Academy prior to emigrating to Australia.
Since returning to Scotland Kyle is back playing with Field Marshal Montgomery, back Bag-Rocking with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, and has released his second collection of bagpipe music titled ‘EAT SLEEP PIPE REPEAT. At the beginning of this month, July 2022, Kyle has released his second piping album, Relentless, published by Scotland’s leading traditional music label, Greentrax Recordings.
NINE NOTES AND MORE…
by Stuart Robertson.
Back in 2010 Kyle was interviewed for issue 48 of Piping Today magazine and spoke all about his composing process for the Nine Notes and More series of articles. The article has now been updated for 2022 and Kyle shares the second edition of his most popular composition, Golden Brown.
When did you start composing?
I started composing at a young age, around 12 years old, and would try my best to write out my ideas accurately. I found music theory hard, or if not hard, boring! A quick way to know if I was correct with what I wrote was to have a reference point to hand. For example, if I was trying to write a jig, I would have a jig beside me that I could cross reference note values and work out my own accordingly, what does a whole beat on one note look like etc. Tunes that were eventually good enough to make it into pipe band medleys, concerts and books came along a little later, when I was around 15 years old.
What inspired you to write?
It was something I enjoyed from an early age. It was part of music class at school, but beyond this, the purpose, encouragement and support that was given to composing during my time in The National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland was key for me. We were encouraged to write and arrange concert material, and having that platform to showcase my music spurred me on greatly, as it did others, at what was a key age and stage in our musical development.
What are your influences?
Over recent years I feel I listen a lot to the likes of Ross Ainslie, Rura and Braebach. As I grew up I would listen to fantastic albums from Finlay MacDonald, Chris Armstrong, Mark Saul and of course Gordon Duncan. Then there’s the pipe bands too. In one way or another, subconsciously or consciously, I guess it all influences you one way or the other. I enjoy general chart music too, and ideas can come from anything you hear, piping or otherwise. I don’t think it necessarily gives me my own style, I’m unsure, but it can’t harm to listen to as much as you can find, and it’s never been easier with the internet to access great music nowadays.
What’s your opinion on modern composers, and who impresses you?
I was recently quoted as saying: “Composing without fear is hard, but it is the only way to contribute growth to tradition”. As a keen composer I certainly see merit in writing music, but I am also conscious of the ‘why’. I think it’s really important to know what you are composing for, as it can help give direction through the whole composition process. Is it for a solo piper, a pipe band, competition, concert, folk band? Knowing the ‘why’ can really play into the composer’s hand and helps turn the blank page into something that hopefully, someone else other than yourself likes too.
How do you mould a tune, from concept to completion?
As mentioned above, the ‘why’ certainly gives me a head start when I am composing. There is no grand process for me. Very often I either play or sing little ideas into my phone, perhaps catching a hook in my 30 second ramble or freestyle and that hook gives me something on which to build. As I write this, I have 476 recordings of ideas on my phone. They certainly won’t all be wonderful, but if only 20% are promising, I have book 3 and half of book 4 sitting here already!
How did you come to write the tune published in this article?
I wrote the original Golden Brown around 15 years ago now. I do remember at the time trying to think of note combinations that were not so common. I felt the jumping from C to high G wasn’t much used, so that gave me a basis of a key to pick and work around. The second part builds well into the third part which offers a lot of opportunity to play around with the beat through the syncopation created by the high A to bottom hand changes. I have enjoyed playing around with this over the years, adding extra notes and parts to it. In the end it felt like a second edition could be written, inspired by the original, which is the tune published in this article.
You never know as a composer what people will like. Sometimes you write something which you think will go down great and it barely gets played. Other times, you write something that you don’t envisage becoming so popular. Golden Brown is perhaps my most popular composition to date, and it makes me proud to hear other people playing my music, this tune or any others. I think that is a feeling that will never grow old or that I will ever take for granted.
Golden Brown – The Second Edition was released in Kyle’s most recent book EAT SLEEP PIPE REPEAT.
Other articles in this series published so far:
• Chris Djuritschek with The Pingat Jasa Malaysia
• Lorne MacDougall with Scalasaig
• Murray Blair with Ross’s Farewell to Pangnirtung, New Year in Noosa and PTE Joe McConnell
• Bob Worrall with Last Train to Malaga and Bob Cooper of Winnipeg
• Jim McGillivray with Skye Rovers
• Bruce Gandy with Coppermill Studio and 78th Highlanders Welcome to the Queen Victoria
Stuart Robertson is originally from Ardrossan in Ayrshire and was previously Pipe Sergeant with Torphichen & Bathgate Pipe Band in Grade 2, and played under Robert Mathieson at Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band in Grade 1. He moved to Australia in 2010 to work for WAPOL as a piper in the band and was Pipe Sergeant under PM Jim Murray and Pipe Major for seven months until a full time replacement for Jim could be found. He is currently at the police mounted section.
Stuart released a solo album called North to South last year which can be downloaded at all the usual streaming platforms (Apple Music, Spotify etc) and also available from Bandcamp. He is also a member of the high octane traditional music band, Spirit of Alba, who are currently recording a few tracks for release sometime in 2022. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram @spiritofalbaband. He is still enjoying life down under and composing now and again.