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It was back in 1997 when 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe-Major Bill Livingstone transferred his piano-playing talent to his pipe band for the first time, and now band piper James MacHattie will be playing the guitar at the band’s April 18th concert in Cleveland, Ohio, not coincidentally the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
While MacHattie’s guitar ability is not yet comparable to Eric Clapton’s, he has been playing for some 15 years, but never until now at a pipe band concert. He will be just one player in “A Folk Thing,” a Celtic folk group comprising other band members Sean McKeown, Todd Henwood, Zak Read, Jeremy Keddy, Dave Fenton and Johnny Rowe.
Click here for a preview of “A Folk Thing” playing part of its “James Brown-like” selection.
The use of extended musical talent is perhaps emblematic of a trend in pipe band concerts over the last 12 years.
“I am certainly not a technical guitar player,” MacHattie said. “However, the group that was put together needed a guitar that would add texture, colour and most importantly backing rhythm, and that’s what I could offer.”
MacHattie was tasked with writing the guitar parts, including that for his own popular 4/4 march composition, “At Long Last.”
“I learned more about my own composition through this exercise – I hadn’t fully realized that some of the Fs in the piping score work best with a minor guitar chord, even when the piping harmonies are major – low-A and F – and others with a major chord.”
McKeown is an experienced Celtic folk musician, playing professionally with his group, The Tartan Terrors. MacHattie says that “A Folk Thing” plans to stay together after the Cleveland concert to work on more material.
The show, which will be at the Cleveland Masonic & Performance Arts Center Auditorium where the band has previously played, is the pipe band’s first concert performance since November 2007.
The concert will of course feature the actual pipe band, and will be the first public airing of the band’s new competition medley, which Livingstone says features “terrific new music” by himself, McKeown, MacHattie, Fred Morrison and Don Bradford. “The stuff is extremely unique and fresh,” Livingstone commented. “Fred’s composition is ‘Tony’s Tune,’ which is a very tantalizing reel type of thing, with bars of music in three, four and five. Don Bradford’s ‘Alicia’s Dance’ is the finisher, with a truly jazzed up arrangement featuring simulated horn shots and tons of syncopation.”
He said that “My Lagan Love” will be “re-ignited.” The band first played the traditional Irish song in the early-1980s and produced a new version in the early-1990s. Among other pipe band highlights Livingstone said will be a “fresh airing” of the group’s 1990s suite, “In Celtic Times,” and a version of the band’s well known “Journey to Skye” with “new and powerful percussion.”
Livingstone said that the concert will also feature a drum fanfare performed sitting down, using orchestral snare-drums, as well as duets by SL-78th Fraser Highlanders’ members Karissa Whiting on harp and Jeremy Keddy on Uillean pipes and a demonstration by accomplished drum-major Kevin MacHeffner, who is also a tenor drummer with the band.
Tickets for the concert are available directly via the SL-78th Fraser Highlanders’ website.