August 16, 2013

Piping Live! Days 5-6 . . . sizing up the next idol as things wrap and the World’s awaits

Thursday and Friday of the 2013 Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping saw the usual day-after from the Pre-World’s Concert, with those who relived the Inveraray & District Ascension show into the wee hours of the morning looking no worse for wear, and ready to kick things off with a noon display of ceol mor, as the Piobaireachd Society sponsored “Piobaireachd New and Old,” with President Jack Taylor playing host at the National Piping Centre, and Chris Armstrong and Bruce Gandy performing their own tunes. After Armstrong’s original composition Taylor said, “Now, no one can say ‘That’s not how that tune should be played,’ because it’s by Chris and he’s playing it now.” It’s all part of the Piobaireachd Society’s work to show that piobaireachd composition is alive and well.

The lunchtime piping recital brought together Ontarians Ian K. MacDonald and Andrew Hayes in the festival’s continuing work to pair like-players, and a good crowd enjoyed their pipe-stylings. The last qualifying round of Pipe Idol went on at the Street Café. Scott MacKay, Angus MacColl Jr., Robyn McKay and John Dew fought it out before MacColl was declared the winner of the round.

A large crowd attended the official launch of the new RJM pipe chanters designed by Roddy MacLeod and made by Naill & Co. A ScottishPower quartet of David Wilton, David Shedden and Calum Moffat played the new plastic band chanter, while MacLeod himself showcased the blackwood solo model. Interestingly, it was the first time in 32 years that MacLeod has used anything but his original blackwood Naill product, and he admitted that the mini-recital was “Far more nerve-racking than playing in a competition.” MacLeod’s wife, Margaret, was busy after the event with impressed listeners placing orders for the instruments, priced at £85 and £200, respectively.

Following the launch of Fergus Muirhead‘s new book, The Piper’s Tale, The 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) entertained outside at 6 pm with the evening ‘practice,” drawing the usual strong crowd, and then Piping Livesters were once again spoiled for choice at night, with three significant shows from which to choose. After much deliberation, we opted for the familiar piping extravaganza at the Todd Bar Recital Challenge. Others went for the annual Pipes of Peace concert at the SECC, featuring ScottishPower, 78th Fraser Highlanders and Metro New York. Over at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland were Julie Fowlis and the Armagh Pipers Club in the “Gaels and Gracenotes” concert, which also received excellent reviews.

Day 6 – Friday

A bright and breezy day lightened the spirits for the final weekday of Piping Live!, starting with the lively pipes|drums-sponsored “Size Matters” debate on whether pipe band section sizes should be capped. Chris Armstrong (against) and Bill Livingstone (for) came prepared with solid arguments in a civil and constructive conversation that engaged a large crowd. At the end the audience posed good questions that were addressed by the panelists, and ultimately a straw vote indicated a near 50-50 position, but with a majority against section sizes. When moderator and pipes|drums editor Andrew Berthoff asked if any officials from the RSPBA were in attendance, there was no response.

Young James MacKenzie of the Isle of Lewis entrained with a solid set featuring his band. Mackenzie doesn’t actively compete, but is another Highland piper taking his musical skills to other audiences on the Celtic folk scene.

The 1 pm recital on Friday featured familiar bedfellows Roddy MacLeod and Willie McCallum to a packed National Piping Centre Auditorium that for the first time had the full seating out for the ticketed event, set up also for the final of Pipe Idol at 4. MacLeod and McCallum did their MacLeod and McCallum thing for the appreciative crowd.

A capacity crowd converged on the final of Pipe Idol, the 21-or-younger competition that had gone on all week with four qualifying rounds. In the final were Scott Barrie of Ayr, Scotland; MacGregor van de Ven of Kingston, Ontario; Ailis Sutherland of Aberdeen; and Angus J. MacColl from Benderloch, Scotland. Each had to play an MSR and a Hornpipe & Jig and a set of their choice, and ultimately it was MacColl who was chosen by the eight mystery judges in the audience as the winner. MacColl received a set of Fred Morrison Reelpipes for his impressive efforts.

It was the turn of the Ottawa Police Services Pipe Band to hold court at the evening practice, and a large crowd gathered there to see the large Grade 2 band actually practice, complete with chanter tuning and stuff like that, in a bright and warm dusk on McPhater Street and an appropriate late-day haze (or is that Hayes?) set the scene.

By this time we must admit that we had reached capacity. We almost could not take any more piping performances. We had reached out quota, so we went off to do something totally different at night – namely, watch Partick Thistle v Hearts.

Piping Live! more than ever brings people to the saturation point, there is simply so much to see and hear, that you can’t do it all and there’s no point in trying. The 2013 edition of Piping Live! surpassed all expectations, and was a great 10-year anniversary event.

And, so, to the World Pipe Band Championships. The forecast is not good for Saturday but fine for Sunday.

Bring it on!




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