ScottishPower Pipe Band
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
August 10, 2011
Reviewed by Peter Aumonier
“Energy,” the appropriately named ScottishPower Pipe Band concert was the latest in a long series of world championship pipe band concerts. Led by Pipe-Major Chris Armstrong and Leading-Drummer Barry Wilson, this is indeed an ensemble of high octane talent.
Roddy MacLeod, with his easy going and knowledgeable manner and his historic ties to the band, was the perfect choice for compeer. He kept the evening flowing with his charm and musical knowledge.
The opening set got the show off to a great start with a lovely chanter sound and a prolonged powerful drone sound. The band kicked off with “The Cameronian Rant” and “Pretty Marion,” perfectly executed, and this immediately established the style that we heard thoughout the evening.
The night was divided into two distinct halves. The first was pure pipe band playing. The band showed why it is a consistent prize winner at the major championships. Lovely tone, tremendous execution and driving music.
Highlights of the first half included the “Kitchen Piper” set that included Bob Worrall’s outstanding composition “From Maui to Kona” and a very attractive setting of the Neil Dickie’s “Kitchen Piper.” It was nice to hear the inclusion of Pipe-Major Angus MacDonald’s “Turf Lodge” – a great tune and Angus, of course, had a long connection to the band in its British Caledonian Airways days.
Mark Saul’s new composition, “Back on Track,” was performed by a quartet of the band, which showed some of the high energy and serious talent the band has within the ranks.
Barry Wilson and his corps put together an impressive drum fanfare, which captivated the audience with its musicality and technical precision. It is clear the players had as much fun performing it as the audience had listening to it.
After a 30-minute break the band returned to the stage with a number of guest musicians including Chris Stout and Finlay MacDonald. For this half, the band switched to B-flat chanters to ensure that they were in tune with the orchestral instruments that had joined them on stage. This venture was highly ambitious and even more successful.
The first set, “Oran Canntaireachd,” was the highlight of the evening for me. Composed by Chris Armstrong, it had everything: mood, tension and passion. A special treat was the inclusion of Rona Lightfoot’s singing.
The showcase piece was certainly “MacKay’s Memoirs.” Built on the piobaireachd “Lament for Mary Macleod,” it was put together by the late Martyn Bennett. This arrangement had everything including audience participation with vocals.
After a high energy set of reels the band came back with an encore number and concluded by tossing their tartan caps into an appreciative audience.
All in all, a great evening of music and creativity by a group of world-class musicians. A stellar performance warmed the hearts of the audience and illuminated the cold, and wet Glasgow evening.
Peter Aumonier is the former Pipe-Major of the Grade 2 Hamilton Police Pipe Band of Ontario, and currently he plays with the 78th Fraser Highlanders. Originally from Victoria, British Columbia, his piping roots are in the now defunct City of Victoria Pipe Band, and he also has played with Simon Fraser University and the Peel Regional Police. A resident of Oakville, Ontario, he works in the insurance industry in downtown Toronto.