Scottish Composer Michael Philip's N. American Premiere

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Last week, we were lucky enough to attend the North American première of Five Burns Sketches, by Scottish composer Michael Philip. Braving a blizzard, the audience at Western Michigan University's Miller Auditorium heard the Kalamazoo Concert Band, accompanied by bagpiper David Stuart O'Neil, as well as the Celtic group Fonn Mor. The musical program, entitled Scottish Garnish, was inspired by Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns was an extraordinary poet, lyricist, and musician. 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of his birth, and is being celebrated around the world.

Five Burns Sketches is a glorious suite, based on familiar songs by Robert Burns. Michael Philip composed it over the course of a few years, and finished the work on Burns' birthday - January 25th - in 1984. It has been performed across the UK, as well as by the Massed Bands of Her Majesty's Royal Marines at the Royal Albert Hall - and broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with the composer of Five Burns Sketches, Michael Philip, about his musical career, composing, teaching, and international education. Here's what he had to say...

WE: Please tell us about your teaching career in music...

MP: I have taught woodwind instruments for 28 years, and love it! I teach for South Lanarkshire Council, for both primary and secondary schools (6th- 12th grade, for those of us in the U.S.). I teach at Hamilton Grammar School as well as at St. Andrew's and St. Bride's High School in East Kilbride. I love my job now even more than when I first started.  For some reason, teenagers seem to recognize me as one of their species. This is a real privilege, because I can communicate with all channels open.  I don't look like a teenager, but I enjoy working with them! Teaching teens is the greatest joy and privilege.



WE: What other musical activities do you do?

MP: I take my students on trips across Europe, to tour.  I have also written a lot of music, particularly for the educational sector. I have written educational jazz, solo compositions, wind band compositions, and concert band pieces.  You can find my work at

I am also the Musical Director of an adult concert band, the YMCA Glasgow Wind Orchestra. ( This is a lovely concert band, and the age ranges from 15-82 years of age! What a group of musicians! I have traveled widely with this band, including Maastricht, Nuremburg, Rome, and Boston.


WE:  Please tell us about your première piece, Five Burns Sketches...

MP: It is our Scottish heritage to know the poems and songs of Robert Burns.  I felt that the repertoire of his music needed to be celebrated.   The Five Burns Sketches are: Prelude: 'Comin' Thro' the Rye' & 'Oh, This is no my Ain Lassie'; Rhapsody: 'She's Fair and Fause'; Scherzo: 'Duncan Gray'; Intermezzo, 'Ye Banks and Braes'; and the Finale: 'My love she's but a lassie yet' & 'Oh, Whistle and I'll come tae ye.'



WE: You're a committed internationalist - can you please share your worldview and experiences on this?

MP: I am a lifelong internationalist. I truly believe that every time people from different countries or backgrounds shake hands, it makes World War III less likely to happen. I love to work with kids, and by exposing them to travel, there is a fantastic opportunity to engage in international education. I have conducted and traveled all over the world. I take any opportunity that I can, to interact with other cultures.  We are here to do everything we can to keep the avenues of communication open around the world.



WE: Michael - thank you so much for sharing your great talent with us - the audiencewas wowed! As well, I love hearing your great enthusiasm of working with teenagers and promoting international education and vision. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of you on these pages!

For more information on Michael Philip's musical works, please see:

For more information on the Kalamazoo Concert Band, please see: