What piper hasn’t dreamed of having a high-A like Roddy MacLeod’s? The tinkling, perfectly pitched note has become a trademark of the legendary piper, and now he’s designed new “RJM” chanters with bagpipe makers David Naill & Co., ready to hit the market at £200 for the blackwood solo model and £95 for the polypenco band version.
MacLeod will debut the solo instrument in recital at Piping Live! week and into the future as it becomes available throughout the world directly from MacLeod’s online properties: www.roddymacleodbagpipes.com and www.roddymacleodpiobaireachd.com. pipes|drums Magazine received an exclusive advance look at the chanter.
“I feel privileged to have Les and Martin Cowell of David Naill & Co. ask if I would be interested in designing my own chanters that they would manufacture,” MacLeod said. “I have a huge amount of respect for their knowledge and experience in the trade and think they make great instruments. Their attitude has been brilliant throughout the process and if a chanter was not right then we moved straight on to the next version without any quibble. We have spent about two years on this project so far. They have been totally committed to getting things right. Working together, I hope we have done that.”
The RJM solo chanter he said has bright projection and is designed to go well with reeds from most prominent makers. “I spent a lot of time trying to ensure that it was straightforward to get a good stable piobaireachd high-G and alternate between the normal high-G without adjustment, which is a big consideration for solo players and, of course, it had to give me my trademark high A!”
The chanter designed for bands he contends has stability and, like the solo chanter, will go with a range of reeds and pitch between 480Hz and 486Hz with a B-flat tuner.
“I wanted to produce a chanter that could be easily adjusted with tape at that pitch and did not need overly large holes or excessive gauging. It was also important to me that variances in blowing be less noticeable particularly on the notes which most often need fine tuning in a pipe band such as D, F and high-G. Another vital consideration was to produce a chanter that blended well and also had good projection and clarity of tone.”
The RJM chanter will be launched officially on Thursday, August 15th, at an invitation-only event at the National Piping Centre during the Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping. MacLeod is the director of both organizations.
MacLeod is the most recent premier solo piper to lend his name to a pipe chanter. His contemporary, Willie McCallum, designed and promotes the MC2 chanter in partnership with McCallum Bagpipes. Other prominent pipers, like Alastair Dunn with R.G. Hardie, Murray Henderson with Strathmore and Colin MacLellan for Ayrshire Bagpipes have done the same, but not with chanters named for them.
One of the most successful solo pipers of all time, Roddy MacLeod has gained all of the top prizes, some many times over. He was Pipe-Major of the Grade 1 Power of Scotland / ScottishPower pipe bands for several years, and, since 2008 when the band formed to compete at the World Pipe Band Championships, leads the Grade 1 Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band when the group of all-star players decides to get together.