Featured Content: Frank Ticheli’s “Loch Lomond”


Today we’re featuring Frank Ticheli’s wonderful setting of the traditional tune: Loch Lomond, which was recently added to SmartMusic. This is a powerful concert band piece at a medium-easy difficulty level.

Click the play button below to hear a recording of Loch Lomond. Click on the cover to follow along in the score. Historical context, along with notes from Frank Ticheli about his setting, follow the score below.

Link to MP3 file Loch Lomond:

Historical Background

At the time in Scottish history when Loch Lomond was a new song, the United Kingdom (which united Scotland, England, and Wales) had already been formed. But the Highland Scots wanted a Scottish, not an English King to rule. Led by their Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Start) they attempted unsuccessfully to depose Britain’s King George II. An army of 7,000 Highlanders were defeated on April 16, 1746 at the famous Battle of Culloden Moor.

It is this battle that indirectly gives rise to this beautiful song. After the battle, many Scottish soldiers were imprisoned within England’s Carlisle Castle, near the border of Scotland. Loch Lomond tells the story of two Scottish soldiers who were so imprisoned. One of them was to be executed, while the other was to be set free. According to Celtic legend if someone dies in a foreign land, his spirit will travel to his homeland by “the low road” – the route for the souls of the dead. In the song, the spirit of the dead soldier shall arrive first, while the living soldier will take the “high road” over the mountains, to arrive afterwards.

The song is from the point of view of the soldier who will be executed: When he sings, “ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road” in effect he is saying that you will return a live, and I will return in spirit. He remembers his happy past, “By yon bonnie banks…where me and my true love were ever wont to gae [accustomed to go]” and sadly accepts his death “the broken heart it ken nae [knows no} second Spring again.”

The original folksong uses a six note scale; the seventh scale degree is absent from the melody. The lyric intertwines the sadness of the soldier’s plight with images of Loch Lomond’s stunning natural beauty.

Frank Ticheli Talks about Loch Lomond

“In my setting, I have tried to preserve the folk song’s simple charm, while also suggesting a sense of hope, and the resilience of the human spirit. The final statement combines the Scottish tune with the well-known Irish folk song, Danny Boy.

It was by happy accident that I discovered how well these two beloved songs share each other’s company, and I hope their intermingling suggests a spirit of human harmony.”

Frank Ticheli’s Loch Lomond was commissioned by Nigel Durno, for the Stewarton Academy Senior Wind Ensemble of East Ayrshire, Scotland, with funds provided by the Scottish Arts Council. The premiere performance was given on June 18, 2002 by the Stewarton Academy Senior Wind Ensemble at Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, Scotland.

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