Willie, Hugh, and His Pipes
National Piping Centre Auditorium
1 pm, August 16, 2023
The idea for the Piping Live! Festival was partly originally a product of highly successful noon-hour recitals designed to take advantage of all the pipers in Glasgow for the World’s. Over the 20 years since, the recitals have featured the great names in piping, up and coming pipers, and this year the focus has been on great pipers playing iconic instruments.
The Wednesday Lunchtime Recital was 2022 Glenfiddich winner Willie McCallum playing his uncle’s 1909 set of silver and ivory Hendersons. Made in 1909, the pipes were first owned by Robert McHaig, who was killed serving in World War I, and they were purchased by Willie’s grandfather in 1922. His son, Archie McCallum, played the pipes as a youth, and had great early success with them, but was killed tragically in a 1941 road accident, and the pipes later passed to Hugh MacCallum, who played them for his whole lifetime.
Hugh MacCallum’s pipes sounded amazing, and Willie played beautifully, a tribute to both Hugh and his instrument.
My sense is that this recital was a bit of an emotional ride for Willie. Once the playing was done, he spoke about how he’d heard this set of pipes from his youth and still considered his uncle Hugh his favourite piper of all time. Willie has acquired these pipes and doesn’t get the chance to play them in public very often.
While the background screen displayed many great family photos of the pipes in use, Willie launched into a set of 9/8 marches, followed by the 2/4 March “Captain Campbell of Drumavoisk,” a tune first suggested to him by Hugh.
Following the well-known air “Lament for Iain Ruadh,” he played three jigs from Donald Morrison with a canine theme: “Donald, Hugh, and His Dog,” “Donald, Willie, and His Dog,” and “All the Other Dogs” the last tune so no one felt left out, quipped Willie.
Next up was the piobaireachd Hugh wrote for the 250th anniversary of raising the standard at Glenfinnan, and Willie demonstrated why he is one of the greats, why Hugh was one of our great pipers, and why Hugh’s pipes and tune are worth hearing today.
After a few Hugh MacKay 2/4 marches, Willie finished with “The North Berwick Highland Games,” an excellent 6/8 March by Hugh MacCallum.
Overall, the recital was a great contribution to the long tradition of excellent music at these events. Hugh MacCallum’s pipes sounded amazing, and Willie played beautifully, a tribute to both Hugh and his instrument. There’s no doubt Hugh would have been immensely satisfied by today’s event, as were the many people who packed the Auditorium.
– Contributed by Iain MacDonald