August 10, 2022

‘Yeah, I was there.’ John Cairns reviews Inveraray & District’s pre-World’s concert, ‘A Night in That Land’

“A Night in That Land”
Inveraray & District
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
August 10, 2022

Reviewed by John Cairns

[Photo: Mae Mackay]
The annual pre-World’s concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall has become one of the highlights for every piper, drummer, and enthusiast who is in Glasgow for the World Pipe Band Championships. From my years in the 78th Fraser Highlanders, we performed three of these shows and I know all too well the magnitude of planning and work required to put a show like this on.

On Wednesday, August 10, 2022, the Inveraray & District Pipe Band took the stage for their concert entitled “A Night in That Land” to a sold-out house. Let me tell you that Pipe-Major Stuart Liddell, Lead-Drummer Steven McWhirter and the rest of the Inveraray & District Pipe Band did not disappoint.

[Photo: Mae Mackay]
The anticipation and energy in the theatre as we waited for that first note was intense, as everyone knew we were about to witness something remarkable. Suddenly, the sound of a dripping tap filled the air, which was reflective of the sound that apparently inspired G.S. MacLennan to write “The Little Cascade.” The band then broke into the tune and the arrangement that followed was simply magical.

The sound and clarity of the pipes, the precision of the snares, the intricacy of the mid-section was as usual: world class. I would be remiss if I did not comment on the sound of the bass drum as it was unbelievable — resonant, perfectly pitched and it filled the bottom end of the band’s musical (pitch) spectrum.

What impresses me the most about this band, is that they know who they are.

[Photo: Mae Mackay]
What impresses me the most about this band, is that they know who they are. They are masters at creating wonderful arrangements of some of the best music we have to offer, and they do it using different time signatures, rhythms, dynamics and, quite often, by just adding in space, which keeps the music interesting, and the listener captivated.

Calum Brown in the solo spotlight. [Photo: Mae Mackay]
The musicians who accompanied the band were outstanding, and the integration of other instruments with the band was done with such taste and provided the perfect accompaniment to help enhance the band’s music. The sheer level of musical variety that was presented kept you engaged and entertained right to the very end.

If I had any criticisms, they are minor. At times there was a delay between numbers that did not help to keep the momentum of the show going, but anyone who has done a show like this will let that go, because the sheer act of getting a pipe band on and off stage, having to tune quickly between numbers, and so forth is a huge challenge.

There is no way that I can comment on all the wonderful moments in the show as there were far too many to include in a review like this. But I felt like each number took me on an amazing roller-coaster of emotions:

  • Murray Henderson’s arrangement of the piobaireachd “Too Long In This Condition,” complete with accompaniment and percussion, was brilliant.
  • Steven McWhirter’s drum fanfare, a tribute to Joe Noble, was filled with creativity and fabulous playing.
  • The piping solos by Calum Brown and Stuart Liddell were amazing.
  • The guest appearance by Archie McAllister on fiddle blew me away; he had my foot tapping like crazy and the musicianship . . . wow!

I came away from “A Night in That Land” having experienced a variety of emotions, from feeling stirred and moved, to excited and electrified, and everything in between. To be honest, I found myself constantly on the edge of my seat, eagerly waiting to hear what was coming next.

[Photo: Mae Mackay]
The band recorded the show and will be putting out a recording, and I highly recommend that you get a copy.

I want to give a huge congratulations and thank you to the band for an amazing show, and acknowledge the wonderful job that Gary West did as the emcee.

I fully expect that, in years to come, I will get to experience the same level of envy that those who were fortunate enough to go to Woodstock, Live Aid, and other iconic live music events must have experienced every time they told someone, “Yeah, I was at that concert.”

John Cairns is the pipe-major of the Grade 2 Peel Regional Police Pipe Band of Brampton, Ontario, which just finished an undefeated season on their home circuit. He is one of the world’s most accomplished pipers, and is perhaps best known for being the eleventh piper in history to win the true double: both Highland Society of London Gold Medals in the same year, in 1999, when he later went on to win the Bratach Gorm. He is professional piper, teaching and running his business Bagpipe Solutions. He lives in London, Ontario.

Be sure to see the five-part pipes|drums Interview with John Cairns.





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