August 31, 2005

Piping in stride

Bruce Gandy recital
National Piping Centre
1 p.m., August 10, 2005

The National Piping Centre’s auditorium was sweltering with sun streaming through its closed stained-glass windows. Bruce Gandy of Halifax, Nova Scotia, added to the heat with dynamic, spot-on playing for more than an hour, leaving the audience gasping for more.

Gandy’s pipe was in tremendous shape, matching his robust, rhythmical music. In non-piobaireachd terms, Bruce Gandy is known for his light and deft touch in marches, strathspeys and reels, but on this day his slow airs were moving. His own “Victoria Harbor” is full of emotional attachment, and the new composition, “Sad is the Parting,” Gandy played with pathos and feeling. While possessing two of the fastest and most accurate piping hands in the world, Gandy’s best music I have always thought is with the slow stuff.

His rendition of one of the piobaireachds set for the Clasp, “Beinn a’ Ghriain,” held true to Gandy’s ability to bring out the musical best in that music. Even without knowing the tune or having the score handy, anyone in the audience got a clear sense of what this interesting piobaireachd is all about. Where many good piobaireachd players lull their audiences to sleep, this tune riveted attention on a terrific instrument.

Stellar big light music was everywhere in this recital. The best of all was Gandy’s immaculate collection of big strathspeys and reels: “Bob of Fettercairn,” “The Islay Ball,” “The Cockerel in the Creel,” and “John Morrison, Assynt House” would rock the house at Eden Court, or Aviemore, or wherever.

Gandy’s light music has that rare quality of being exactly on the beat, or just a hair on top of it. It gets the foot automatically tapping, whether you want it to or not. This is the mark of the art’s very best performers.

Bruce Gandy is a classic example of a piper in his 40s just hitting his stride. For the 50 or so people who attended this Piping Live! recital, he stepped into that stride in style.


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