Published: July 06, 2007

Your own backyard

I made the 45-minute drive up to Aurora last night to listen to the week-two instructors’ recital at the Ontario School of Piping, whose cast of teachers must be unrivalled in terms of competitive stature: Stuart Liddell, Jack Lee, Jim McGillivray, James MacHattie, Angus MacColl, Bruce Gandy . . .

I am always amazed that audiences at events like this aren’t packed to the rafters with young pipers. Maybe some people didn’t know about it but, with the Toronto area being the world’s second-largest centre of pipers in the world, you would think that the chance to hear Stuart, Jack and Jim for $10 would not be missed. Oh, well.

After an unexpected traffic delay, I arrived a little late, and heard only those three. Each was in brilliant form. What Stuart conjures from his hands is nothing short of awesome, especially his reel playing. His “Mason’s Apron” (which he described as “a tune that started as a two-parted reel and which is now a 10,000-part hornpipe”) always drops the jaw. He would disagree, but it certainly looks effortless.

With people travelling hundreds, even thousands, of miles and spending a good chunk of money to attend the school to gain from these great players, you would think more than a handful of locals would make the drive and spend the tenner for a night of genius.

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