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Updated 04/29/2013


Going Home

Going Home is an African American folk spiritual that became the theme of Dvořák’s New World Symphony because of influence of Harry Thacker Burleigh (shown above).  Burleigh (December 2, 1866–December 12, 1949), a baritone, was an African American classical composer, arranger, and professional singer. He was the first black composer to be instrumental in the development of a characteristically American music and he helped to make black music available to classically-trained artists both by introducing them to the music and by arranging the music in a more classical form. 

Burleigh was born in Erie, Pennsylvania. With the aid of a scholarship (obtained with the help of Francis MacDowell, the mother of composer Edward MacDowell), Burleigh was accepted to the prestigious National Conservatory of Music in New York, eventually playing double bass in the Conservatory's orchestra. In 1893, he assisted the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák. Most of the work that Burleigh did for Dvořák was copy works, transferring the manuscript of Dvořák's 9th symphony for various instruments. However, Burleigh's role in introducing Dvořák to African American folk music was substantial. It was written that "The first time a Negro song became a major theme in a great symphonic work... was in 1893, when Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony was played."

Donald MacLeod, MBE, (above) esteemed as a composer and remembered as a virtuoso recitalist, was also a popular and distinguished teacher in Canada and the United States as well as in Scotland.

He was born in 1916 in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, in the Scottish Hebridean Islands. He was initially taught the pipes by his father, “Doyle”, and went on to be tutored by P/M Willie Ross then John MacDonald, Inverness with whom he studied for 27 years. John Morrison of Assynt House was a benefactor to many young people in Stornoway and district; it was he who took Donald to the Northern Meeting for his first major junior competition, which he won.

He enlisted in the Seaforth Highlanders in 1937 and his Pipe Major was the well known late D. R. MacLennan. Donald was promoted to pipe major after only four years. During World War II he served in France with the 51st Highland Division, was taken prisoner by the Germans at St. Valery, escaped during a forced march and eventually managed to return to the UK. In 1945 he piped his battalion across the Rhine during an assault crossing - even though he had been advised not to do so by his commanding officer.

During his army career he was highly successful in piping, winning all major competitions. He retired from the army in 1962 and from competition in 1966, he then went on to judge young people and major adult competitions. He especially enjoyed judging at the junior competitions, often held in the local school.

The Glasgow based Scottish Pipers’ Association, each year in November, invited Donald and Duncan Johnstone to give an evening recital. It was always a very popular event and in 1977 Donald decided it was to be his farewell appearance, it was a very memorable evening.

He published six books of light music covering all types of composition, many of which are modern classics. He also published a collection of piobaireachd.

He was awarded the Membership of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1978 for outstanding service to piping.

The Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition, which was established from an idea by Pipe Major Iain Morrison of Lewis, is an invitational competition held in Stornoway and celebrates Donald’s life and work. Started in 1994 by the Lewis & Harris Piping Society, it was instituted to honor “Donald Macleod, one of the best all-round pipers of the 20th century“. In addition Donald is considered one of the century’s best composers. The pipers are chosen from the best competing pipers in the world, making it a very successful and popular competition.

Over the last 10 years or more of his life Donald recorded 46 teaching tapes covering approximately 230 piobaireachd - a labor of love which was completed only a few months before he died in June 1982.