eBay To Go widget

I’m actually just experimenting with this new “eBay To Go” widget, and picked out a random listing. I have no idea who the seller is, but I do know that the CD’s a good one for relatives who like the pipes, but “think it all sounds the same.”

Let me know what you think of the eBay To Go widget!

Turn and face the strange

A few people alerted me to the fact that Gary West and Iain MacInnes’s BBC Radio Scotland Pipeline program last Saturday included a few marches from a broadcast I recorded in 2003 when I was still at the solo thing. (A bit jet-lagged rushy here and there, but not too bad.) Margaret Houlihan’s selection is stellar, and, if for nothing else, go listen to it for that alone.

But hearing it again got me thinking about how much has changed for me since August 2003. A few weeks later, I would turn 40, and a few days after that, my mother would be killed in a car crash. There are tons of very good things of course that have happened since then, too, and I’m grateful for them all.

It is interesting to hear something you’ve done that is locked in a very specific place in time. Some say that the ephemeral nature of music is what makes it so beautiful. It’s a fleeting muse, and capturing and holding a musical moment and all of the emotion and feeling locked up in it is impossible. That’s what makes it so alluring to so many.

But a simple recording like that has the ability to transport one to a completely different place. It’s the elusive time-machine.

More or less

Canada’s “National Newspaper,” The Globe and Mail, launched its new design on Monday. It’s smaller and carries fewer hard news stories, but more features. As is usually the case in matters like this, there’s no reduction in price, even though I’m getting less for the investment.

I closed down the old Piper & Drummer magazine because it just didn’t make sense. It was too expensive to produce, too cumbersome to coordinate, and too slow to distribute. In the end, it cost about $30 a year for four issues.

The new pipes|drums costs $9.99 for the year, and there is actually far more regular, new content than the print magazine ever had. After about six months, I’d say there’s already twice as much as what the quarterly magazine could produce in a year.

And yet I hear stories about people filching subscriptions from their friends because they’re too cheap to shell out the $9.99. Never mind that all proceeds go back into the site or to worthwhile piping causes.

Further, while something like The Globe and Mail charges just as much for less, pipes|drums charges less for much more.

Go figure.

Crank up the stereotype

There’s a very Canadian chain of hardware-retail stores called Canadian Tire, and I was in one the other day.

“Crappy Tire,” as it is semi-affectionately referred to by semi-frustrated Canadians, has a popular incentive for customers to use cash and not credit: they give you “Canadian Tire Money” in small amounts based on your sale total. You then can use the “money” on your next cash purchase.

Canadian Tire has used a balmoral-wearing, tartaned “Scrooge” character for as long as I can remember. The character I think is intended to denote the qualities of saving and thrift. The character is on the company’s money, and has been featured in its ad campaign. It’s a combination of the Christmas Carol persona and a stereotyped tight-0fisted Scot.

The company’s insinuation is that penny-pinching is good, but the big lesson of Dickens’s story is that they can make people horrible. Old Scrooge, who hoards his money and is distrustful of all, is hateful; the reborn Scrooge, who shares his wealth and learns to love his fellow man, is loveable. Canadian Tire lamely puts a trace of a smile on the character, perhaps to skirt the Old Scrooge issue. This has always made me think.

Why is it okay to stereotype Scottish people as misers? Thrift can be seen as a good thing, but the Scrooge-like, bah-humbug thing is a bit insulting, especially when you remember that Toronto’s population reportedly has more first-generation Scots than the city of Aberdeen.

As I mentioned before, the Groundskeeper Willie Scottish stereotype is pervasive, and it’s used to sell everything from bevy to chuggy. Martinet “Scottish” characters, replete with wild red hair and screeching voice, are somehow okay.

I mean, one doesn’t see ads featuring a Shylock character, encouraging people to emulate a penny-pinching-Jew. That would be the gross and insulting stereotype that it is. People justly recoil against stereotypes of African-Americans, and Don Imus is dismissed for his ignorance. Good.

Maybe Scots are just good at not taking themselves too seriously, and the ability to laugh at ones self is generally a good quality. I just wonder why some negative stereotypes are allowed and some aren’t.

Pedigree and pipes

The news of John Wilson’s MacDougalls realizing (that’s the word they use when describing the sale of antiques at auction) $13,000 in as-is condition should have the piping world talking. Troy Guindon’s acquisition will make any serious piper jealous – not so much of the instrument itself, but its historical pedigree.

That said, I’ve always thought that our best, vintage drones are under-valued. A serious pianist will drop $80,000 or more on a good Steinway or Bösendorfer. Stringed orchestral instruments fetch easily into six-figures. $5,000 for a set of silver and ivory Hendersons is a bargain, considering the passion most serious pipers put into their craft, not to mention the fact that an equivalent brand-new all-silver set easily exceeds that price.

But it’s the pedigree of the Wilson pipes that interests me. The added value of owning and playing a set that produced great music and stirring performances really has no price for those who appreciate such things.

How much could pipes played by our current champions realize? What would Willie McCallum’s silver Hendersons go for at auction? What about Bill Livingstone’s drones, previously played by his father, originally made by Peter Henderson? Or Colin MacLellan’s Lawries? These are all pipers with an even more impressive performance record than Wilson’s, so the added-value of their drones must be even greater, no?

Truth is, pipes like Wilson’s are usually left or gifted to a pupil or, as in Wilson’s case with his uncle, to a family member. Sales of such pedigreed pipes are not usually seen, or made so public, so perhaps our sense of such a great instrument’s value is not as high as it should be.

Until now. It will be interesting to see whether this $13,000 bagpipe energizes the market for vintage drones, and increases our perception of bagpipe-value to a more appropriate level.

Pipe dream

Credit and congratulations to Jim McGillivray and David Waterhouse for convincing Margaret Wilson to sell her late husband John Wilson’s MacDougall’s. These have been moldering under a bed at her home in Willowdale for nearly 30 years, but should be restored to pristine condition, and I hope ultimately get into the hands of a serious and appreciative piper.

I used to live about three blocks from Margaret Wilson, and I actually made a casual offer for the pipes maybe 15 years ago. At that time she was hoping that someone in her family would take up the instrument, so I didn’t push it with her. That would have been the ideal place for the pipes, since they have always been a Wilson bagpipe, what with his uncle, The Baldooser, originally buying them.

It did set me thinking about vintage pipes. My feeling was that the market is not nearly as hot for Henderson, MacDougall and Lawrie drones as it was a decade ago. It seemed to me that modern pipe-making techniques are so good that more pipers are gravitating towards McCallum, Naill, Kron, Strathmore or whatever. So I posted a poll on it, and it appears that a “dream instrument” is still a classic silver-and-ivory vintage set. My perception appears to be not-so-clear.

Add the extraordinary pedigree that the Wilson pipes carry, and I would not be surprised if these achieve $15k or more.

I’ll take two . . .

Unwritten law of pipe bands?

Today I heard about the P-M and L-D of a competing band resigning. Obviously, this happens frequently, but it rarely occurs after February.

I don’t know the circumstances yet, and I’m sure there are a multitude of reasons, but isn’t there an understood rule with pipers and drummers that you don’t leave a band after March? I always thought that no matter what you muddle through the competition season, and after the last contest bow out as gracefully as possible.

Has this ethic changed? Is it now okay to leave a band in a lurch?

You need coolin; baby, I`m not foolin

Our annual April Fool story is always fun, and it’s amazing how many people actually take the bait every year. (Click here if you missed it, but you’ll need a subscription, which I’m sure you have already.) Humour has always been an important and differentiating aspect of the publication. Pipers and drummers are a funny lot, and it’s strange to me that so many other publications are completely devoid of anything remotely (intentionally) comical.

Speaking of funny, April 1 was also the start of the 2007 Major League Baseball season, with the Cardinals rematching the Mets in a reprise of their classic Playoff series of last year. The Mets won, 6-1, but there are many more games to go. Too bad for Mets fans that their team couldn’t have done that in October! Mwaaa-haw-haw-haw!

Seriously, Tom Boswell waxed on about time beginning on Opening Day. The piping and drumming world enjoys the dormant months as much as the sporting world and, when the proverbial bell rings, there’s an air of excitement and hope for all competitors that the new year will bring great things.

May your season include many triumphs.


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