Blair Castle, Scotland
Bruce Murray is opening up his digs to the world – literally.
For the first time ever, the 2012 Glenfiddich Invitational Solo Piping Championships will be streamed live from the chief of the Clan Murray’s traditional residence on October 27. Following the success of the live-streaming of the world pipe band championships, the National Piping Centre in Glasgow is using funding provided by an independent charity to bring the competition to a much wider audience who cannot attend the prestigious affair held in the great hall at Blair Castle.
Ten of the best pipers in the world, including BC’s Jack Lee, will be on hand to challenge in the march, strathspey, reel and pìobaireachd. All have qualified by winning a UK competition during the year.
Other pipers include Murray Henderson, Callum Beaumont, Finlay Johnston, Stuart Liddell, 2011 winner Roddy MacLeod, Euan MacCrimmon, Iain Speirs , eight time winner Willie McCallum and Gordon Walker. Judges of the MSR will be Ian Duncan, Iain MacLellan and Iain Morrison while pìobaireachd will be Jim McGillivray from Canada, Willie Morrison and Iain MacFadyen.
A list of previous winners and qualification rules can be found here.
For information on the event and to listen live, go the National Piping Centre’s website. You can register to access the live stream and can also receive update emails from the National Piping Centre.
Piping down the sun, Northumberland Strait, NS
Vancouver – A few months ago I was bitterly complaining about our lousy spring weather. “Junuary” was the term being tossed about in the Lower Mainland of BC. I was piping on many of those rainy, spring mornings, and often the thermometer showed single digits. It made for a miserable May and June.
However, it’s been a remarkable turnaround. July, August and now September have been glorious, with blue skies and warm temperatures. Now summer is extending into the early fall and it continues to be great weather to play outside. My pipes have never sounded better. Tight joints, a consistent Jamie Troy reed and a Piper’s Pal reed protector that keeps the reed in great shape and takes only moments to bring into tune: ah summer! I wish it would never end. Continue reading
Now for something else. Cape Breton infused highland bagpipes that takes piping to a new place. Well worth a listen.
Angus, Kenneth and Calum MacKenzie from Mabou in Cape Breton playing at the Ceolas concert at Celtic Connections 2012.
A CD from the band Seudan featuring Calum MacCrimmon, Angus MacKenzie, Fin Moore, and Angus Nicolson with Allan MacDonald (Pibroch Song and small pipes), Mac Morin (piano and steps), Donald Hay (percussion), Ross Martin (guitar) and Kathleen MacInnes (Gaelic Song) is available from Cranford Music, in Cape Breton. Paul Cranford can be reached toll free at 1-866-929-2391
This composition by Janette Montague, for bagpipe and string quartet is in Primary Piobaireachd Form, and was inspired by a discussion with Bob Rogers (Bob Dunsire Discussion Forums) of South Carolina. The Yellow Jessamine is one of the emblems of that State. Piobaireachd is traditionally played on a solo bagpipe. It is essentially a Theme and Variations often with a return to the Theme at the end. The variations increase in complexity. The piece describes the beautiful Yellow Jessamine, in itself a delicate looking flower, yet poisonous to some animals, and where allowed to grow unabated, can even swamp the countryside and grow up trees, and round tree trunks. In the music, both the delicacy of the individual petals of a single flower, and the rampant, almost strangulatory effect of the plant taking over vast areas, is represented.
Joe Peter MacLean
(Ed. note: The following is a segment of an autobiographical sketch of Joe Peter MacLean, a well known Cape Breton fiddler of the Gaelic tradition. He was born and lives in Cape Breton, immersed in the insulated and uniquely Canadian Scottish culture of North Eastern Nova Scotia. His full sketch can be found here. This segment talks about a house visit from an elderly bagpiper recounting ancient tales from Scotland …”the old country”.)
“I always spoke Gaelic with the family when I was growing up, although I also learned English at the same time. Back in that country some of them still used to tell some of the Sgeulachdan: the stories from Scotland about the fairy-people. This one guy he used to tell the tales from Scotland and he’d keep going for hours and hours. They told me that if they were listening to a story and they noticed that it was starting to get daylight outside, they covered over the windows to make sure it stayed dark until the story was finished. … And there’d be stories about kings and stuff like that and all kinds of different ones about the fairies and their magic. Some guy would be sent on a journey by a king to get something or conquer this or that: if he’d make it back, he’d get the princess and so on. Continue reading
“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.”
The words of Prince Edward Island author Lucy Maud Montgomery rang true this past weekend in British Columbia. While it may not be June, May in the Lower Mainland of BC has many comparisons to June in PEI. L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” recounted life in the Cavendish area of PEI, where “the beauties of nature unfold by the sea”. Here in BC, the past weekend was worth writing about: the azaleas and lilacs were blooming, the sun was shining, children playing and lawn-mowers humming. And with the dregs of winter and spring finally shaken off, it’s time to start the outdoor bagpiping season. Continue reading
New SFU bass drum. (photos courtesy SFU Media Relations)
A new bass drum, a new set of Northern Ireland manufactured Andante snare and tenor drums and a new music piece written by Robert Mathieson will be some of the highlights of a 30th anniversary concert May 4 at the home venue of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra by the six-time World Pipe Band Champions Simon Fraser University Pipe Band.
The band returns to NYC for the second time since their 1998 concert at Carnegie Hall to play at the 2,738-seat Avery Fisher Hall in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The band recently played an anniversary concert at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre on April 15. The New York concert will become the band’s 11th recording. Continue reading
Grey skies over Vancouver
One of the advantages of living in Vancouver is the lack of a real winter. Compared to the rest of British Columbia and most of the country, we have it easy here in the southwest corner of the province. A dusting of snow now and then throughout the winter months, rain that does not need shoveling and the occasional sunny day that can reach to the teens. Any visitor from away could be lulled into a false sense that we are living in what Allan Fotheringham used to call “British California”.
After a dozen years in British Columbia, I beg to differ. Continue reading
Senator Larry Campbell
The masses have spoken. The ban on bagpiping on Vancouver city streets has been lifted after a spirited uproar from bagpipers, piping organizations, the general population and a cabinet minister from Scotland.
The bylaw banning the excessive noise of bagpipes, drums, bongos and tambourines on city streets was quietly introduced by the city’s engineering department several months ago. It was unnoticed until young piper Kyle Banta, who busks on city streets each summer, applied for his license. To his, and much of the city’s surprise, he was informed ‘no more bagpipe busking on city streets.’
When the news hit the streets, it created a furor. The Mayor wouldn’t have it, and neither would thousands of people who chimed in with their opinions online, in mainstream media and in newspapers around the world. Even the visiting Scottish culture minister spoke against the bylaw. The mayor asked city staff to review the issue after he became aware of the change to the city’s noise-regulations. One of the many bagpipe supporters who bemoaned the bylaw is former Vancouver city mayor and current Senator Larry Campbell. Continue reading
My former news colleague Ian Bailey, who I’m sure has an ear for traditional music from his reporting days in St. John’s, Newfoundland, has written an interesting story with the discovery that the City of Vancouver engineering department intends to ban the playing of bagpipes (and bongos, drums and tambourines) from the streets of Vancouver. (Ian’s story can be found here.) As you can suspect from the name of this blog, I don’t think very much of this plan.
I am not a busking bagpiper. In fact, I have never played for money on the streets of any of the Canadian cities I have lived in during the past 20+ years. I have certainly played for downtown pub crawls and parties in Halifax, St. John’s, Edmonton, Calgary, Surrey and Vancouver. I have had people walk up to me and hand me beer or whiskey, and most of my performances are either with a band or for individuals who have asked me to play for a private wedding, funeral, birthday party or head table. However I completely disagree with the idea of banning the pipes from the streets. For many young pipers, (and most busking pipers are younger players) playing on the street brings the sound of the marches, strathspey’s, reels, jigs and airs of our Celtic music to a wider population. It also provides a bit of income and practice time for the piper. A well tuned and played bagpipe can be a moving experience for many people of Scottish or Irish descent and for many who are not. The vast number of responses to Ian’s story in the Globe & Mail makes it clear that the majority of readers disagree with the ban. Continue reading