August 31, 2005

MacColling all pipers

Angus MacColl recital
National Piping Centre
1 p.m., August 12, 2005

The National Piping Centre’s auditorium was packed for one of the world’s hottest competitive Highland pipers, Angus MacColl of Benderloch, Scotland, fresh from his win the night before at the Lord Todd Bar Recital-Challenge at Strathclyde University.

Starting a half-hour late, MacColl played through the sweltering conditions of the non-air-conditioned hall to an enthusiastic crowd. He did not disappoint.

Starting with a set of familiar 4/4 marches was a nice choice. He signaled right away that he would be playing to the crowd. Too often high-end pipers seem to forget that band “street tunes” are popular for reason. Highly melodic classics like “Wee Highland Laddie” rolled off his hands, rejuvenating them.

MacColl excels at everything, but his renditions of the big competition stuff was second-to-none, especially his set of two strathspeys and two reels, “Shepherd’s Crook,” “Dora MacLeod,” “Rejected Suitor,” and “Alex C. MacGregor.” MacColl plays his 2/4 marches slower than some, but they never seem that way. His light touch to tunes like “Bonnie Anne” and “Arthur Bignold” gives them lift and swing.

On a perfect pipe, he played a bold “Battle of the Pass of Crieff,” a piobaireachd that always keeps moving, with variations galore and a great a mach to finish.

“John D. Burgess” is one of the finest 6/8 marches, and MacColl gave a reprise performance from the night before, and this tribute to late, great John D. did not go unnoticed by the canny crowd, as did his “The Swallow-tailed Coat” adapted from Burgess’s classic recording of the late 1970s.

Angus MacColl is a piper in a purple patch, and this recital showed him in tremendous form. At the end he received a loud ovation for his efforts.


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