August 31, 2010

Piping Live! Day 3: gifts that await are worth the journey

Andrew Berthoff reports

Home base for me this year is actually Edinburgh, which isn’t as bad as it seems (but don’t say that to a Glaswegian). For the unfamiliar, Edinburgh’s only 40 miles from Glasgow, and the journey between the two can be made easily by trains, buses and automobiles. But when you’re eager to get someplace the 50-minute commute can seem an eternity.

So it was venturing across the M8 (did the motorway-namers ever imagine the text short-form irony of the road’s designation?). It seemed like I’d never get there.

But finally arriving it was straight to the National Piping Centre where the Armagh Pipers Club was entertaining a smallish gathering at the Street Cafe. I had read the description “eclectic” about them, and have to agree. They reminded me somewhat of a Celtic version of “collective” groups like Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene. Lots of male and female members and different styles.

It was then inside and up the stair to the NPC’s Auditorium to check out the great Angus MacColl at his Lunchtime Recital. Whenever I see Angus he’s usually fresh off some major win or another, and this was the day after copping the Silver Cap contest at the Todd Bar in his usual awesome style. Surprisingly the hall was not packed and those listening tended to be of the silver-haired-set (me included). Maybe people are spoiled for choice, or simply had a hard time getting out of bed, but it confounds me why kids don’t take advantage of every opportunity to hear MacColl in his prime.

He played for nearly an hour. Just playing; not talking; right on with it. The pipe boomed not with volume but harmonics – that classically rich and deep drone sound that is so distinctively Angus MacColl’s. You expect to be dazzled by the quick stuff, and we were, but for me his selection of 3/4 marches to start were the highlight. Tunes like “Colin’s Cattle” and “Kilworth Hills” are so often tossed off by pipe band just for tuning purposes, but in the hands of a master the simplicity and purity of the melodies resonate.

I was already late for Drumming for Drinks. The normally 10-minute walk along to the Todd Bar felt like I was treading through quicksand, and stopping along the way for the inevitable chats with friends you happen upon are one of the great perks of World’s Week and Piping Live! But finally reaching The Todd, the place was stowed-out, and couldn’t be more different from a pure piping recital. The venue was heaving, energized by the frantically frenetic Tyler Fry tossing out DFD t-shirts to the ravenous audience. Is this the future . . .


  1. Andrew thanks for taking me to the worlds even if only vicariously, loved it. However seeing my peers in the silver hair set” seemingly everywhere your question jumps out

  2. You know what Gramps I sometimes think the younger ones these days are more interested in stirring up trouble between bands than enjoying the music and friendship which used to exist between the top bands in my day (the eighties). 1 day to go and the excitement grows.



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