March 31, 2002

SFU Pipe Band Opens Concert Tour

Simon Fraser University Pipe Band
Live at the Vogue Theatre
Vancouver, March 10, 2002

Reviewed by Iain MacDonald

The reigning World Champion Simon Fraser University Pipe Band kicked off its March concert series with a sold-out performance in front of a home audience at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre. Over 1100 people packed into the downtown Vancouver venue for an afternoon of great pipe band entertainment.

The concert features many of the selections now familiar to enthusiasts from the “Down Under” CD, and a number of fresh arrangements and new tunes. The band is supported by musicians Anna Schaad and David MacVittie, and also by band members such as Duncan Millar and Tenille Brown (various percussion), Stuart Liddell (keyboards), Danielle Brin (keyboards, whistle), and Andrew Bonar (smallpipes).

SFU has been known for many years for the strength of its traditional selections, and this was on display at the Vogue with some great traditional playing of 6/8s, MSRs, and other “trad” tunes. SFU gives traditional tunes a fresh sound with creative ensemble drumming, and interesting instrumental accompaniment. There was new material heard too, including a largely instrumental piece that features a solo by lead drummer J. Reid Maxwell. Maxwell demonstrated that he is not “just” a great pipe band drummer — he’s a great drummer, period.

The SFU Dance Team was part of the show throughout, and they added greatly to the presentation. Highland dance enthusiasts will be pleased at the calibre of dancing and choreography in this show, and although they were somewhat squeezed by the Vogue’s limited stage size, the dancing still came off very well.

To top it off, the band featured four of its top soloists, and they were all wonderful, as you would expect from players of this calibre. Andrew Bonar, Alan Bevan, Stuart Liddell and Jack Lee wowed the audience with solo and duet selections.

Ticket holders in Glasgow and Belfast are likely to see an even better version of this show, and those who don’t go will be missing something really worth seeing. This is a great pipe band in excellent form, and they have put together a show that is more than worth the ticket price.

Iain MacDonald is an accomplished professional piper and Pipe Major of the Grade 2 City of Regina Pipe Band of Saskatchewan. He played for many years with the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band and lives in Avonlea, Saskatchewan.


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