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The Making of The Promise: Call of the Clans

Hi chums, Caitlin here today. I'm re-sharing all my blog posts on the making of our album The Promise. I'm starting with the last track first! Call of the Clans is the final track on the album and holds a special place in my heart. I have waxed lyrical in this blog post, so if you love history and music, then put your feet up! XX

Call of the Clans

'A lone piper stands sentinel on the Scottish hillside,
As through the heavy mists, the clansmen advanced.
From the far corners of Scotland they came,
United against a common foe
To fight for freedom
In a battle that would echo through the ages
As one of the bloodiest of them all;

And so we reach the end...the final track...Call of the Clans! If you've read every post on every song, I thank you!
Well, Call of the Clans….Neil and I did 'um and ahh' over whether to include this track on the album. It is very different from every other song and we did worry a tad that people wouldn't like it for that reason. But we felt that it was the right thing to do, so we decided to make it the final track and finish the album in dramatic style.

There is much to say about Call of the Clans, so settle down with a nice hot beverage and a biscuit of choice!

Funnily enough, this track began life as an instrumental piece on another album entirely. In actual fact, it still is on a chill out album and has a distinct North African feel to it. (In case you're wondering, we haven't released that track yet).
I really loved the melody and felt it could work in a Celtic style, if we altered the drums and used Celtic instrumentation. With this track, I had a vision in my head of what I wanted and tried to relay this to Neil. At this point in the creative process Neil can often be found scratching his head and muttering a lot!

The inspiration

If you've been reading my blogs you'll have guessed by now that I love history and literature and I particularly love the Tudor/Elizabethan/Jacobean period. Never tiring of reading about the drama surrounding Elizabeth 1st and Mary Stuart, I had just finished reading the fabulous novel Legacy1 (again!) when we were developing the album. I then happened to watch Rob Roy2 (superb film!) and I was carried away with the drama of it all. Inspired by the wild Scottish heartlands and the passion and bravery of the people, I wanted to include something on The Promise. I loved the idea of the rival clans from all over the Scottish highlands uniting as one to fight the English. I could see it and hear it in my mind and decided to try and craft a track about another famous period in history; the Battle of Culloden.
Neil loved the idea but was a little concerned that we wouldn't be able to recreate it musically. Well, we did our best and, in the end, it's for you, the listener to decided if we managed it! Eek! Answers on a postcard please! :-)

The Music

Initially, as I mentioned earlier, Call of the Clans was a 'new age' type track with a North African feel, on a chill out album. For its inclusion on The Promise, we kept the vocal but added Celtic instruments around it, with the hope that it still worked as a melody within the Celtic context. Call of the Clans is not a song per-Se and so when I talk about the vocal, I'm referring to the vocal melody that is 'hummed' throughout the piece. Apart from the intro. narration, the only other vocals on the track are the Latin chants at the end. Talking of the narration, I know it's a little odd to find some 'talking' in a musical piece, but I'll explain! Once the music was all down on tape (am I still in the 80's here?) we worked on the introduction. Setting the scene for this track was very important as we were telling a story; a true story at that. I wanted the listener to hear the winds howling through the hills and get a sense of the magnitude of the events that were to follow on that day. I wrote a little narrative and read it out to Neil over the intro. It sounded effective and added atmosphere but something was not quite right...yes, you've guessed! Not to put too fine a point on it, but my spoken voice is not very sonorous, it's a little flat and dare I say, tinny! We needed a voice with depth and gravitas. So Neil was out too! Joking aside, Neil's voice wasn't right either and, besides, he doesn't do 'acting'!
So, I began searching online for voice-over artists and found the wonderful Scottish actor John Hannibal. John agreed to do the narration and sent us several 'takes' with different inflections, speeds, accent variations etc., all of which were brilliant. Ironically, we chose his final, once more for luck, 'throwaway' take. As soon as Neil placed John's narration into the track, we knew it had that extra dimension we were looking for. I'm sure you'll agree John's voice is wonderful and sounds fantastic. Who needs Sean Connery?!

Listen to Call of the Clans here.

N.B. The narration actually started with,
'1745... a lone piper stands sentinel...'
But as I'd got the bloomin' date of the battle wrong, (it's 1746), we had to cut it as we didn't have time for John to re-do it. Shame, as it sounded splendid!

A musical battle of wills...wild Celts against 'regimented soldiers'.

There is a little bit of binary opposition3 (say what?) going on in this piece, creating (hopefully) a musical dialogue of opposing forces.

The wildness and freedom of the clans represented by the Scottish pipes and my glissando vocals, both chromatic and rubato, contrasted with the strict percussion, tonal strings and military snare drum symbolising the regimented control of the English redcoats creates the musical 'battle'. In addition, further symbolising the victory of the 'English colonisers', we added the Latin chanting ('In nominee Patris' - in the name of God) towards the end, gradually increasing in volume to represent the English troops completely overwhelming the brave, but massively outnumbered, clansmen.

Holy malone...the middle!

Yes, we went a bit OTT with the middle but we felt it was necessary due to the nature of the track. Bearing in mind the limited resources at Neil's disposal, in terms of orchestra, (ie. None!), I think he surpassed himself with the orchestration. The crescendo in the middle highlights the intensity and drama of the battle adding a cinematic feel to the whole track. 
In fact, award-winning film director Richard Bazley of Bazley Films approached us to use 'Call of The Clans' in his exciting new film George and the dragon. We said yes, of course!! 
Watch the trailer here. 

As our production software in 2014 was of limited scope, we do plan, at some point, to revisit the whole album & take advantage of our new beautiful orchestral sounds from Spitfire Audio to add even more gravitas & depth to this track. 
(Author's note 2023)

So, there you have it...Call of the Clans – demystified!

I've added a link in the footnotes if any geeks out there would like to read up on binary opposition in literature! Also, do check out Rob Roy if you can. It's an excellent film and has the added attraction of the sublime Scottish singer Karen Matheson performing Ailein Duinn. If you recall, this is where I first heard the song, Ailein Duinn and decided to put it on The Promise.

1Legacy, Susan Kay 1985
2Rob Roy, 1995 film starring Liam Neeson, directed by Michael Caton-Jones. Based on the life of Rob Roy MacGregor.
3 Binary opposition -


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