Published: August 31, 2004

Young and restless

National Youth Pipe Band Concert
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Glasgow, August 9, 2004

Reviewed by Iain MacDonald

Assemble 40 of the best young pipers and drummers from across Scotland, put them through a rigorous training exercise with some great talents in pipe bands and traditional music, and what do you get? You get the Piping Centre’s 18-month-old project “The National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland,” and a highly entertaining concert.

The first evening event of Piping Hot featured the National Youth Pipe Band in concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and although it was not a full house, a good-sized audience was thoroughly entertained for more than two hours.

The concert opened with a set from Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell, who opened with a slow air that she composed. This was followed up with sets of hornpipes, and Tickell engaged the crowd between with her chat about the tunes and the people who play them. Tickell is an amazing talent, and she was in great form on the night.

The National Youth Pipe Band made its appearance on stage with “La Boum,” the Breton tune that has become widely heard in the pipe band world. Just when you think you’ve heard a tune enough, someone comes along and gives it a twist that makes it fresh. Thirty young pipers played this tune with excellent sound, and accompanied by an impressive backup band and a drum corps – this was an impressive opener.

The band then cut back in numbers to play a few selections, all with some impressive backup. Included in the first half was a performance of Adam Quinn’s “Blue Cloud,” done in a very SFU style, but with some unique percussive effects. Throughout the first half, the audience was treated to the appearance of the Muldonaich Dance Team.

The second half began with a guest performance from Fred Morrison on Border pipes and low D whistle, accompanied by Jamie McMenemy on bouzouki. Morrison launched into some absolutely inspirational and amazing tunes at a tempo few could match, and the audience was clapping and hooting along. “I like to start slowly” he quipped at the end of the first set!

The second tune was his slow air, “Passing Places,” that he performed on the low D whistle, before finishing with a set of hornpipes and reels that brought the house down. Morrison and McMenemy make a powerful musical pair, and they got the crowd more than warmed up for the second half.

The National Youth Pipe Band played a very good second half, featuring many tunes and arrangements from musical traditions outside of Scotland, all tastefully accompanied with backup band and dance team. The now-standard “pipers play a jig each” allowed some young pipers to show their stuff, and in fact throughout the show the sets were designed to highlight a variety of individuals in the band. There are some amazing young musicians in this assembly.

The concert finished with a big set of jigs, and then when brought on for an encore, the band appeared in sunglasses, and gave the audience a version of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” complete with electric guitar riffs. This was a very entertaining finish to the concert, and it was evident that the band members had a lot of fun with it too.

This show succeeded on a number of levels. It showcased the great young talent of Scotland (including a player from Eire and two from St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ontario), and it presented a very entertaining evening for the ticket buying public. The band was well-tuned and blown for the majority of the show, the backup musicians were great, and the dance team was adequate to the task. National Youth Pipe Band Director Paul Warren, and show co-producer Calum MacCrimmon are to be commended for a great job pulling this together and presenting it in such a professional manner.

Iain MacDonald is Pipe-Major of the City of Regina Pipe Band of Canada and a prominent solo competitor. He lives in Avonlea, Saskatchewan, Canada.

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