August 31, 2007

Piping Live! Festival – competition, music, remembering and not enough time to hear it all

Iain MacDonald reports

The Piping Centre café on a beautiful Glasgow day at Piping Live! [Photo: I. MacDonald]Day three of the Piping Live! Festival saw the start of the CLASP competitions, with the Grade 3 soloists competing in various events. This features pipers from various parts of the world, and many of them have been preparing for the events with lessons at the Piping Centre, and at various Piping Centre summer schools in North America.

In one of the large teaching rooms at the Piping Centre, Bruce Gandy gave a morning workshop on the subject of tune composition. Pipers worldwide recognize Bruce as one of the really prolific and good modern composers and collectors, with now four books of music to his credit.

The George Square presentation in the morning had a decidedly international flavour, with Manawatu Scottish from New Zealand, the LA Scots, and Ontario’s Grade 2 Hamilton Police Pipe Band performing to good crowds under sunny skies.

Willie McCallum in recital at Piping Live! [Photo: I. MacDonald]The lunchtime recital featured Willie McCallum, the eight-time Glenfiddich Champion. He played a varied selection of traditional tunes, many with connections to his home turf in Campbeltown. Major Gavin Stoddart introduced McCallum, and piqued the interest of many attending with references to Willie’s “new pipe chanter,” and sure enough, Willie was using his new McCallum solo chanter, which he has designed along with Stuart McCallum of McCallum Bagpipes.

Gordon Duncan's Tunes, the new collection launched August 8, 2007 at Piping Live! [Photo: I. MacDonald]It was great advertising for the chanter, and most pipers attending wouldn’t mind having the drones, too! McCallum’s bagpipe was immaculate and his playing musical and smooth. Classic MSRs, jigs, and a nice variety of hornpipes set the stage for “MacNeil of Barra’s March.” McCallum’s confident, musical approach, and particularly the rhythmical swing of his crunluath variation, made this a most enjoyable tune.

When introducing McCallum, Major Stoddart referenced Willie’s substantial winning record in competitions, and if this recital is any indication, we’re going to see his name at the top of the lists for some time to come.

Gary West emcees the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust CD and book launch at Piping Live! [Photo: I. MacDonald]As folks drifted down from the recital, they fed into a large crowd gathered for launch of The Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust’s music collection and accompanying CD. The music collection, called simply “Gordon Duncan’s Tunes” features tunes, photos and commentary from the life of Gordon. The CD is a compilation of one-off tracks and saved radio sessions that have not been previously released in this format.

A young piper gets the honour of playing the late Gordon Duncan's pipes. [Photo: I. MacDonald]The launch featured a band of musicians pulled together for the occasion by Ian Duncan, and they played a few of his tunes. This was followed by several musicians playing tunes from the collection, most notably Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton, who were disciples of Gordon’s, and who often performed with him latterly. Gordon Duncan’s pipes were there t0o, played in turn by brother Ian Duncan, and by several others.

[Click here to view a short video from the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust CD and collection launch.]

In true Gordon fashion, the tunes went on longer than planned, and the afternoon Pipe Idol competition got off to a late start, followed by Broomielaw, a young band featuring piper Gordon Bruce.

The beer tent at George Square is a new addition to the Piping Live! Festival. [Photo: I. MacDonald]One of the new additions to the Piping Live! Festival this year is a beer tent with live music in George Square. There are still main stage performances in the morning and afternoon, and now the tunes run into the early evening in the beer tent, with small acts keeping the music going.

Wednesday evening was one of those times when you’d want to break into pieces to cover it all. Many headed off to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for the annual Worlds Concert, this year featuring Field Marshal Montgomery. At the same time, the Festival proper featured “Oirfeid: An Evening of Gaelic Piping” with Allan and Iain MacDonald, the Gaelic group Dochas, and a number of other performers. Back in the Lord Todd, the ScottishPower Pipe Band held a public practice that was well attended by members of the pipe band community.

It all concluded with a rousing session at the Festival Club featuring Patrick Mollard, the MacDonald brothers Allan and Iain, Anna Murray and Broomielaw.

It was another day loaded with opportunity and experience. Most impressive in all this is the considerable energy it takes to sustain a program of this magnitude, and seeming ease with which the Piping Centre staff handle it all.

Iain MacDonald contributes frequently to pipes|drums, and lives in Regina, Saskatchewan. A well known and accomplished competitive solo piper, he is playing with the ScottishPower Pipe Band while his own band, the Grade 2 City of Regina, is on hiatus.


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