November 30, 2003

Calling card

The Calling
Manawatu Scottish Society Pipe Band

Reviewer's rating: 4 gracenotes out of a possible 5

Reviewed by Andrew Bonar

The Calling is the first recording by the Manawatu Scottish Society Pipe Band, based in Palmerston North, New Zealand. The band was originally formed in 1925 and is led by Pipe-Major Stewart McKenzie and Drum Sergeant Fraser McKenzie. The band has enjoyed much success in recent years winning the 2002 New Zealand, Australian, and South Pacific Championships.

The Manawatu Scottish Society begins their first recording with a rendition of “Hard Earth,” the theme from the movie Rob Roy. They follow this up with a couple of little strathspeys and reels. The opening tune has such a pretty melody and the band has done a wonderful job in adapting it for the pipes. I only wish that I could have heard more of the opening tune.

A solo piper starts the next track with the air, “What Wondrous Love Is This.” This air is a traditional Appalachian hymn from the United States. The rest of the band soon joins in finish with a set a three spirited reels. The band then plays a big march, strathspey, and reel, “John McDonald of Glencoe,” “Blair Drummond,” and “John Morrison, Assynt House.”

A quartet of front rank pipers then play a quartet of jigs. This set is finished with a composition by Pipe-Major Stewart McKenzie, “The Wild Harbour,” and next are three small marching tunes, the first of which is “The Gael,” the theme from Last of the Mohicans. This tune is followed by two Canadian compositions, “Halligan Street” by Bob Worrall and “Linda’s Lilt” by Michael Grey. Throughout this set of marches, we are treated to some of the more tasteful harmonies I have heard.

The Pipe-Major then gets an opportunity to play a solo. Stewart McKenzie is one of New Zealand’s leading solo players, and he plays a jig and a set of traditional reels. Stewart will definitely not disappoint anyone with this set of tunes.

The title track to this recording opens the next track. “The Calling” is a march composed by Stewart McKenzie, and is followed by three jigs, two of which are composed by Gordon Duncan. The next track consists of two of the band’s favourite marching hornpipes, “Reverend A.W.R. McKenzie’s Revenge” and “The Barlinnie Highlanders.”

Shuttle pipes are featured on the next track. Stewart McKenzie plays two compositions by Timothy Cummings on a set of John Walsh shuttle pipes, and he plays both the melody and the harmonies. These two compositions are original and unique. With the addition of the harmonies, this track is one that I found myself listening to repeatedly to be sure that I did not miss out on anything.

The band then presents their competition medley, which combines both traditional and modern compositions. The harmonies during the reels at the end of the medley highlight the track.

The recording is finished with a rendition of the piobaireachd “Lament for Donald of Laggan.” The pipers just play the urlar to this tune, but the addition of a flute and harmonies are enough to satisfy you and leave you wanting more.

The Calling is one of the more enjoyable pipe band recordings that I have heard. The total length of the recording is slightly shorter than most pipe band recordings and the average track is less than four minutes. The tracks flow together very well and I found myself needing to press the play button again when the recording was finished.

Andrew Bonar is one of western Canada’s most versatile pipers, and he has won most top solo piping awards offered in the area, as well as the overall solo piping prize at the North American Championship. He plays with the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, and is an air traffic controller in his spare time.


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