Thursday, April 15, 2010

Measured History

One thing which has been keeping me occupied lately, is that my work schedule changed enough so that I could start attending band rehearsals again after an absence of some months. This means I got a great stack of new tunes to work through and memorize. Of these, I found our new retreat march the most intriguing. There is, of course, the matter of a cut-and-dotted bar in the second part that unaccountably gives me a case of the second-guesses every time I run across it, but I am referring, rather than the music, to the history of the piece. It's called "Heroes of St. Valéry."

Saint-Valéry-en-Caux is not over-far from Dunkirk where, in World War II, the British Expeditionary Force was so successfully evacuated, against stiff odds. While the action at Dunkirk resulted in future opportunities for the BEF, the concurrent events at St. Valéry culminated in the wholesale imprisonment of 8,000+ troops, largely from the 51st Highland Division. Among those captured was P/M Donald MacLean who was later to commemorate the 51st with a 3/4 march which he entitled "Heroes of St. Valéry."

The tune plays in the background of this very informative page on the 51st Highland Division.
You can read a bit more about P/M MacLean here on Jim McGillivray's inexhaustible website. And for those who thought the name sounded familiar, yes that is the Donald MacLean of Lewis, who is, in turn commemorated in Donald MacLeod's smashing march. (To take an entirely different tack, those unfamiliar with "P/M Donald MacLean of Lewis" can get a taste of the first two parts on harper Wendy Stewart's album Standing Wave--it's the seventh track.)

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