Rise up . . . and up . . . and up (HD video highlights)
interaction continued with hand-claps directed by MacDonald and mid-section whirlwind, Tyler Fry, making a guest appearance.
A clever take on “The Mad Hornpipe” would have made the late Bert Barron of St. Andrew’s proud, and now the pipe section, after a few tweaks while the drummers did their thing, were back in full flight, just in time to give way to a startling piece that, for me, was the highlight of the night.
Piping legend Murray Henderson, we were told, always thought strings and piobaireachd belonged together, and his orchestration of “Catharine’s Lament” with cello and violins was, in a word, spectacular. Henderson took the stage, becoming this orchestra’s playing-conductor, with the pipe section again climbing through the piece. The strings allowed for the subtle dynamic swells that solo pipers would love to deliver. This was the whole piobaireachd, with the drum section not interrupting with some hokey technical indulgence, but instead restraining and adding lovely colouring through the cadences beginning at the Taorluath variation. Some intonation problems could be forgiven here, as the entire band coursed through the Crunluath variation and back to the ground. Wonderful stuff.
The first half concluded and after a brief intermission the band returned again to a stage bathed in purple lighting , with prerecorded synths creating an ethereal mood before the Inveraray Juvenile band came on with a selection of 3/4 marches, and then accompanied by the big band, “Farewell to Nigg” moving to a full selection of modern takes on well-kent tunes, and back to “Nigg.”
In the “Ascension” concert Inveraray used several times the gradual addition of pipers staggered in blocks, and effect that the 78th Fraser Highlanders first used in 1990. This, too, is another means of building dynamics, and Inveraray has mastered the technique.
Singing has become a bit of thing since the same 78th Frasers first brought out the voice at the very first Pre-World’s concert in Motherwell way back when, but no band has yet attempted a barbershop quartet. In what could well have been a joke, the Inveraray singing quartet delivered a superb rendition of the “The Water is Wide,” and then to the pipe section and back again to the singing. This was comic relief, but it was comedy done with artistic integrity. Brilliant.
Thanks to a pipes|drum Magazine poll, it was voted that the band would perform its “Helen Black of Inveran” medley, and here the pipe section was at its and technical tonal best, before more levity and a Canadian Barn Dance set where prominent pipe band couples . . .