May 31, 2001

Rapture Down Under

Simon Fraser University Pipe Band in Concert at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia, April 11, 2001

Reviewed by Sam Young

Before a huge and enthusiastic crowd at Sydney’s famous Opera House, the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band performed a thrilling concert on April 11. For well over two hours, the three-time World Champions took the crowd from high to high with an amazing show. Never before had a band of SFU’s calibre ventured down to the South Pacific so the Scottish community supported the band’s concerts in droves.

SFU was on a two week tour of New Zealand and Australia. They performed three concerts: Christchurch and Melbourne as well as the Sydney Opera House. They also competed in and won the Australian Pipe Band championships, sweeping all the firsts.

The SFU concert was much more than a traditional pipe band concert. They had a troupe of nearly 50 performers, including 30 from band, 14 members of their dance team and two Celtic musicians, which provided visual as well as listening pleasure. Even those who had come specifically to see the dancing were enthralled by the wonderful music that was produced. Their master of ceremonies, Neil Dickie, had the crowd in stitches and provided an unexpected bonus to the show, appealing to the Aussie sense of humour.

Perhaps the high point of the concert was the pipe corps’ incredible canntaireachd rendition of the beautiful piobaireachd, “Andrew MacNeill of Colonsay.” What a glorious sound, being heard in an opera house! Even the MacCrimmons would have approved. It was the first time that a band has recorded a piobaireachd by singing. The harmonies and precision were really excellent, with a beautiful soprano voice among the choir.

One very poignant moment occurred when the band recorded P/M Tom McAllister in its MSR. When Tom McAllister passed away recently, the band contacted the McAllister family and dedicated that track on the upcoming CD to Tom’s memory. It will be called “For Tom” – a fitting tribute to a man who we all respected and admired.

There were so many highlights in the concert! For those who like exciting new material, the “Blue Cloud,” written by former-member, Adam Quinn, would be hard to beat. For those who enjoy traditional tunes with a modern twist, the “Keel Row” in four different time signatures was highly enjoyable. For those who have followed the band’s incredible career, the “Retrospective Medley” featuring tunes from its seven previous CDs was amazing. For those who prefer true solo skill, the trio performance of Stuart Liddell, Alan Bevan and Jack Lee received a thundering ovation – tricky fingering executed brilliantly.

For those not in attendance, the best news is that Lismor recorded the entire show. While their Carnegie Hall CD was critically acclaimed, the Sydney Opera House CD will be even better.

Sam Young is Pipe-Major of the New South Wales Police Pipe Band of Australia.


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