February 28, 2002

Celtic Connections Piping Day Concerts

Celtic Connections “Piping Day”
Glasgow – January 26, 2002

The Afternoon Concert

The first Celtic Connections Piping Day concert was a rare mix of piping disciplines. First up was Roddy MacLeod playing a selection of tunes from slow airs to jigs. Chris Armstrong was next, with his crisp fingerwork being well displayed in his rendition of “Charlie’s Welcome.” The Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band completed the first half of the concert, going through its competition sets and medleys, and 6/8 marches being used for tuning the pipes.

The Glasgow Royal Concert hall has excellent acoustics, but to hear the best sound out of a full pipe band you seem to have to sit in the stalls, the drums are just too loud from upstairs. Full marks to the Field Marshal bass section, there were some good punchy arrangements here.

After a twenty-minute interval, and a long queue at the bar, the audience was treated to some precise and seemingly effortless playing from Willie McCallum, who included some 3/4 marches composed by John McLellan of Dunoon, and the ground of “My King Has Landed in Moidart.” Gordon Walker completed the solo spots and provided his usual entertaining display of fantastic flying fingers, making it all look so easy.

Field Marshal Montgomery finished off the afternoon. Anyone expecting something new from the band was to be disappointed, apparently new material is being prepared for their August concert in Glasgow. The highlight was the hornpipe set composed by band member Ryan Canning.

The Evening Concert

The ScottishPower Pipe Band held the stage for over an hour in the evening with an exciting and varied program. When the band struck up with “The Hamster” and “The Rainbow” the big powerful sound was a treat to the ears, and there was a good balance between pipes and drums. Competition MSR and Medley sets followed.

There cannot be many bands that can put up two soloists like the ever popular Gordons – Walker and Duncan – and they didn’t disappoint. If someone had asked the Walker to dance he probably could have done that too.

Halfway through Gordon Duncan’s set he removed his chanter and did something to his reed (spoke to it?), blew up, re-tuned his drones and with some funky fingering had a pipe and tunes in the Galician style. Just like that.

The band returned to the stage to be joined by folk instrumentalists Phil Cunningham (without accordion), Foster Patterson, Malcolm Stitt, Davey Paton and Jim Walker and the concert continued with “McLeod’s Oran Mor” and a set of jigs. Then followed a piece composed by Phil Cunningham that had been recorded as “library music” and has been named “Cathcart,” which is the area of Glasgow where the band is based. More Phil Cunningham tunes followed with “Lightly Swims the Swan” from his “Hebridean Suite” and the Jigs “Double Rise” and “Gingerhogs”.

This entire concert was full of highlights and surprises not least Phil Cunningham’s whistle holding its own against a full pipe band.

Anne Spalding is an accomplished soloist and experienced bandsperson. Among her many distinctions, she was one of the first two female pipers ever to compete at the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting. Islay Spalding, Anne’s daughter, is a piper and a drummer who recently played with the Vale of Atholl Juvenile band. They both live in Broughty Ferry, Scotland.


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