SFU Takes Toronto Stage
Toronto – April 25, 2003 – Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University Pipe Band took the big stage at this city’s venerated 2800-seat Massey Hall in the largest pipe band concert Canada’s biggest city has seen in the last 14 years.
Approximately two-thirds full, the hall featured a boisterous crowd that comprised a who’s-who of Ontario pipers and drummers, with attendees travelling from as far away as Ottawa, Montreal and Sudbury for the show.
Fourteen musical numbers were performed by soloists, pipe section, drum corps, or, of course, the entire ensemble, comprising well over two hours of material. The four-time World Pipe Band Champions played with 17 pipers, five side drummers, three tenors and a bass, using all sections in varying amounts, at times carving the pipe corps into several pockets of four, five, or six players, such as in the pipes-only performance of Pachelbel’s “Kanon.”
The last time a pipe band played a major concert within the city of Toronto was in 1988 when the then World Champion 78th Fraser Highlanders also performed at Massey Hall in a landmark event that echoed that band’s landmark “Live In Ireland” recording of 1987.
Even with Toronto’s undisputed role as North America’s biggest piping and drummer centre, nearly 15 years had to pass before another band mounted a major show for the city’s notoriously hard-sell customers.
Much of the band’s material on the night was true to their style of playing tried, tested and popular content, but several unheard renditions were added to the mix, including Mark Saul’s suite, “Emancipation,” led by pipe Alan Bevan and performed by a cross section from the pipe corps, with bass guitar and drum kit accompaniment.
Four solo piping spots punctuated the evening, with bandsmen Jori Chisholm, Alan Bevan, Jack Lee, and Stuart Liddell each executing highly technical displays of mainly jigs, reels and hornpipes.
Thirteen Highland dancers complemented several selections, as did a group of folk musicians, including Glengarry County fiddler, Ashley MacLeod.
Neil Dickie was the announcer for the event, providing often hilarious commentary that had the audience of almost 2000 undoubtedly occasionally feeling like they were at a Billy Connolly show.
The Toronto concert stop was the second of the band’s three-city tour, which began on April 23 in Halifax with a nearly sold-out performance to some 950 people at the Dalhousie Arts Centre, and now travels to Worcester, Massachusetts, for a show at Mechanics Hall on April 27.
The night before the Toronto concert the Toronto Police Pipe Band hosted a gala reception for SFU at the city’s CN Tower, where some 250 supporters met the band and listened to solo piping throughout the evening.
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