Category Archives: Piping Times

September 2017 Piping Times

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.....on reading afresh the Book 1 Tutor book, which he [Seumas MacNeill] wrote with Thomas Pearston in 1952, the logic of the classical physicist is educed, which, when combined with clear and strictly grammatical English, reinforces the principles of how one learns. We can understand why Seumas was an excellent teacher. It is fitting that in this the centenary of his birth, the book has been revised and edited by the College. The changes we made were absolutely minimal and done in order to bring the book into line with PDQB guidelines. The book’s integrity has been maintained, a testament to the authors’ clarity, coherence, and ‘connection’.....

.....This mood-destroying nonsense transforms many a wonderful performance into an amateur production. It’s as if Leonardo da Vinci, upon completing the Mona Lisa, discovered a little paint left on his brush, and daubed a moustache onto her intriguing smile.....

.....The security [at the World Pipe Band Championships] is organised by Glasgow Life, the department of Glasgow City Council that runs the city’s cultural events. Our correspondents reported its operatives were overwhelmingly far too zealous and humourless than in previous years. Their rigid control over pipe band members’ access to and from the Green was appalling and the queues at the Grade 1 arena were extremely unsatisfactory.....

.....We are aiming for 1,000 pipers worldwide to begin the tribute with a rendition of the ever-popular retreat march, 'When the Battle’s Over'. In the UK this will fill the air before dawn has broken. This will start the centenary media coverage on television and radio, and will provide some of the day’s most moving and atmospheric sights and sounds.....

.....If I hear two parts of Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban or Father John MacMillan of Barra I want to hear the rest of the tune and not two parts of something else. It is the same with the strathspeys and reels. The two parters are fine but those composed as four parters sound unfinished after two parts, as if one is left up in the air and not brought to a conclusion.....

.....I told 'Sir John' [A. MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister] that I had composed a pibroch for him, which was true, and in return he raised his glass enthusiastically – just as Sir John A. himself might have done (he was very fond of drink, was the real Sir John, not the impersonator, although he seemed quite partial to it as well)......

August 2017 Piping Times

There isn’t a lot of rudeness to be found in piping and in pipe bands. Really. On the whole, we are a civil, polite and supportive bunch. A notable feature of the solo-piping world, in particular, is the affable and enlightened nature of its devotees. Rudeness in our world, when it does rear its ugly head, is invariably to be found at an organisational level, e.g. from those members of Renfrewshire Council who thought it acceptable to have a major pipe band competition at the unsuitable St James Playing Fields in Paisley. Likewise, it was rude of those in Glasgow City Council to impose a two-day World Pipe Band Championships on us without asking.

Stuart Letford, Editor.

It might be of some interest to readers that 50 years ago the first Breton pipe band was created – An Ere Pipe Band from Rennes – and competed in Scotland, winning for its first appearance at the Cowal Games a second place in Grade 3.

Jakez Pincet.

Taking lessons from Aaron Shaw and attending the summer school produced tangible results. In 2013, I was the Grade 4 solo piping aggregate winner in the Western United States Pipe Band Association and was moved up to Grade 3 in 2014. In 2015 I won the same award for Grade 3 and was moved up to Grade 2 in 2016. These solo competition successes opened the door for me to play at the Tattoo. I learned about the Pipers’ Trail from the March 2016 Piping Times front-page picture and Tom Breckenridge’s accompanying article. The Pipers’ Trail was seeking pipers at a Grade 2/Grade 3 level and since I had recently been moved to Grade 2, I submitted an application and a video.

Steve Busch.

The world’s most popular bagpipe tutor, the College’s Book 1, has been re-edited and brought up to date by Colin MacLellan, Director of Piping. Colin said: “It’s been acknowledged by many that there is no other piping tutor book that has ever taught as many beginners and turned them into pipers. It is tried, tested and trusted by the piping world. It was hard work getting the book produced but it was a real honour as well.”

Since it was launched in last month’s Piping Times, hundreds of pipers around the world have signed up to take part in ‘Battle’s Over’, a unique tribute that will commemorate the centenary of the end of the Great War.

“One of my favourite things is Glen’s 1929 catalogue which offered to supply experienced and unbiased judges for piping. Another is John Cameron’s epitaph which he wrote himself. … There are two things which I would like to know more about. One is what became of Gavin MacDougall’s grandson in India and the other is the Gillanders baby taken to Australia by her Center aunts after her mother died. I wonder if she ever came back and met her father and her brothers and sister?”

July 2017 Piping Times

The pipe bands who took part were: Manchester Community Pipe Band, Accrington Pipe Band, Greater Manchester Fire Service, Manchester Phoenix Pipe Band, Bolton Caledonian, Everton Pipe Band, Oldham Scottish, Liverpool Scottish, Notts Police Band, Birmingham Irish. Newport Wales Pipe Band, Dowco from Vancouver, Canada, Clan Wallace Liverpool, the Scots Guards Association, Southern Jacobites from Southampton, City of Liverpool, West Yorks Fire and Rescue, Beeston Pipe Band as well as many unattached pipers and drummers.
We salute each and every one of you.
Stuart Letford.

At 06:00 in November it will be dark but that will add further poignancy to the unique aspect of this special tribute – the  sound of the pipes playing emerging from the darkness of the morning. We would ask pipers to play the tune, and repeat it for no longer than five minutes. This will be a personal tribute from pipers worldwide. It is planned that members of the Society of Editors will be sent a complete list of all the names and locations so that local newspapers can send photographers, along with television news channels sending cameramen.
“We are also delighted to be involving the College of Piping in this unique, worldwide tribute.”
Bruno Peek LVO OBE OPR.

“I remember coming here [Lorient] in the mid-1970s. It had began as a ‘trial run’ and in those days was classed as purely a bagpipe festival. Since then it has grown, having introduced many other arts such as singing, dancing, many other instruments, folk groups plus visual art and even sports such as golf and wrestling.”
Tom Johnstone.

I remember once chatting with Gordon [Duncan] and he asked me who his favourite piper was. I was sifting my brain and he was clearly expecting me to say, “Well, you Gordon.” I said to him, “I quite like Fred’s [Fred Morrison] playing,” and he went, “Whiiiiit?!!?” I just picked Fred’s name out of the air to wind him up!
Ali Hutton.

Andy Tasker is a piper with an impressive piping lineage. The retired banker from Leeds can trace a direct lineal descent to two of our most important piping families, the MacKays of Raasay and the MacKays of Gairloch – and also Captain Malcolm MacLeod of Raasay.

June 2017 Piping Times

* … the vast majority of pipe bands in the modern era have absolutely no connection to their localities, the areas that formerly made them … Pipe bands across all grades need to return to their roots, to their own communities and invest in the youth of these communities. Without this, they have no stability.

Stuart Letford, Editor

* "Nowadays, I definitely spend more time in politics than with piping, though my love for the music will never end.”

Eva Bolander, Lord Provost of Glasgow

* Sidelights on the Kilberry Book provides evidence of contribution to the process of cultural colonisation in piping as well as in other areas of Gaelic arts throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Campbell was no different from collectors and publishers of music in the 19th century, throughout Scotland, whose position in society ensured that their ‘patronage’ gave them the unstated but accepted role as ‘improvers’ even though it may never have been Campbell’s intention. The ‘simple’ becomes ‘esoteric’ and complicated and one can never see a forest for trees.

Allan MacDonald

* Competing pipers intending to enter the competitions at the Lonach are reminded that a prize is offered for the best performance of one of Pipe Major William Grant compositions … Grant’s compositions are well known, despite the low number that are published. The most famous and most played are probably The Lonach Gathering, The Doune of Invernochty, Falconer Wallace Esq of Candacraig, Monadh Gowan and Over the Lecht.

* I believe that, given the extremely humble years of his [Angus MacKay’s] upbringing on Raasay and then the escape from poverty that his family’s move to the grandeur of Drummond Castle provided is enough to instil a sense of gratitude to those members of the gentry who subsequently fawned over him and ultimately used him for their own ends. Many factors would have come into play as to why he essentially lost control over the publication of his book.

* Father John MacMillan of Barra had a great fight with the Canadian authorities, who he felt had not kept their side of the bargain and were inflicting unnecessary hardship upon the immigrants. In the end they managed to get rid of a ‘turbulent’ priest.” Whether MacMillan was actually deported remains uncertain.

March 2017 Piping Times

thumbnailThese schools [seasonal piping schools] are simply a great way of cementing what’s been learned at weekly band practice or at weekly lessons whether at school or in private. They allow the student to build on this, giving a deeper well of expertise to draw upon. The result is a solid grounding and a far deeper knowledge than those among one’s peers who haven’t attended such a school.
Stuart Letford

'Lament for Lord Archibald Campbell' is not the only piobaireachd by a noted composer to be swallowed up in a black hole. 'Lament for Donald MacPhee', a prize-winning piobaireachd by John MacColl is not to be found today.
Dale Brown

The first known pipe band in a state school was Edinburgh’s Broughton Secondary School pipe band, founded in 1947 … The venue for this year’s Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships is in James Gillespie’s High School, Edinburgh, but in previous years the competitions were held at Broughton, although not in the same building.
Jeannie Campbell

He had planned everything meticulously. He even told a friend he had met a day before his suicide that he would soon visit a friend from Switzerland. Afterwards, we all found out that this “friend” had been dead for two years. This really was the most disturbing gig I’ve ever been asked to play at in my career as a piper.
Marco Kreissl

This [the Glasgow Tattoo] was a different audience to the average Celtic Connections regular. This was more a celebration of the common culture of the working class people of Ulster and the west of Scotland, something the chattering classes only talk about in disdainful tones.
Stuart Letford

January 2017 Piping Times

Jan2017 Piping Times FINAL APP.pdfWe hope you begin the year determined to improve your piping – and no matter how good we may think we are, we can all improve our piping – but also to enjoy it. Instead of pledging to practice more in the new year, it would be more effective to ask yourself, “Will I practice more this year?” This is because of something psychologists call the ‘question behaviour effect’ and it’s apparently more effective than bold statements. In any case, we made a New Year resolution 25 years ago that we have stuck to unerringly. It was to not make any more New Year resolutions.

Stuart Letford, Editor, Piping Times

Why has the onus been on the judges and not on the pipers themselves? I understand that the CPA requests that its members do not compete in front of their tutors and relatives. Clearly, given my experience around the games last summer, this is something its members ignore.

Jim Wilson

To mark Dugald MacNeill’s retirement, the College will hold a social evening in tribute to him. Dugald started lessons in 1943 (aged 13) with Seumas MacNeill and Tommy Pearston in a group which shortly afterwards officially became the College of Piping. Dugald went on to be a College teacher, its Principal and a Director. Details will be announced soon.

The College of Piping

I never really wanted to be a piper as a boy. My father was more keen than that me. My brothers and sister played and as a lad I enjoyed playing with the Pride of Murray Pipe Band, which was going really well at the time. I put the pipes down until well after I’d left school, though. I was well into my 20s when I started to compete again. I had always wanted to compete at the South Uist Games, and that really got me going. However, I was nowhere near the standard for a long time.

John-Angus Smith

It was said of Will [Nicholson] that he was 50% poetry, 40% music and only 10% business aptitude. Instead of attending assiduously to his business he “frittered away his time and opportunities by indulging in musical rhapsodies.” (Be warned, all you frittering pipers!).

Gordon Mooney

December 2016 Piping Times

Thankfully, the SPJA contains enough members who are big enough to admit that there is something not quite right about receiving prizes from a teacher. Those judges who have received prizes in the past from their teachers are having a hard time accepting that there is something wrong with this; perhaps they feel that in doing so they would have to admit that there is something ‘suspect’ about their own prizes.

Stuart Liddell would be our Piper of the Year. Stuart has had another annus mirabilis on the solo circuit but it was in the pipe band world that he really showed what a fantastic all-rounder he is.

Stuart Letford

“The Battalion will attack in four waves, each wave having a distinct objective and being responsible for the taking and cleaning up of the portion of enemy line allotted to it and bombing up the communication trenches towards the next line … As each trench is cleared each wave will move into the trench in front of it, and follow up until the first objective of the Battalion is reached … The 5th Gordon Highlanders will occupy the First German trenches immediately our 4th wave has passed over it.”

Orders for the taking of Beaumont Hamel, Capt. R. B. Ellis, Adjutant, 1/6 Battn.
The Black Watch

It’s high time that all these punitive sanctions against both individual members and the whole City of Whitehorse Pipe Band are annulled and the PBA gets back to actually trying to support rather than destroy pipe bands in Australia.

David Smith, Australia

I get the feeling he [Capt. John MacLellan] approached his piobaireachd compositions in the same meticulous way. He obviously considered the maximum effect certain twists and turns can give, and these unique sequences have created passages that make for great music. It is evident from his compositions that he was never afraid to ‘go for it’, trying out new ideas.

Murray Henderson

NOV Piping Times FINAL APP.pdfNovember 2016 Piping Times

You make your own luck by hard work and practice. Field Marshal Montgomery was not lucky in winning the recent World Pipe Band Championships. It won as a result of dedication, hours of practice, unstinting and unwavering focus and commitment. The band left nothing to chance. Likewise, Ian K. MacDonald wasn’t ‘lucky’ when he won the double this year. There may be elements of luck in winning piping and pipe band competitions – the draw, the tunes, the weather, the judges etc – but old fashioned hard work is the main factor. Stuart Letford, Editor

Given the support received from all over the world post-event it seems PBA has overstepped the mark with this one. No member should accept oppressive, unreasonable, unfairly prejudicial and discriminatory conduct from an association. We will continue to fight for what is right, making great music with great people along there way.
P.M. George Shepherd, City of Whitehorse Pipe Band

“I left school at 16 and I’ve never known anything else except the British Army – I’ve never had a job interview – so retirement will take getting used to, all the different routines.”
Major Steven Small

That there could be an uneasy relationship between the strathspey and the bagpipes seems paradoxical. How could Scotland’s national music and instrument fail to get on like a bothy on fire?
Professor Will Lamb

August 2016 Piping Times

August2016PTStuart Letford: We’ve commented previously about the detrimental knock-on effect the two-day World Pipe Band Championships has had on Crieff Highland Gathering. It seems that the next casualty of this could be Perth Highland Games. This year Perth finds itself in the position that Crieff has been in for the past few years with the event taking place the day after the Worlds. It is as clear as the proboscis on the visage that with the Worlds being held over two days there is little or no enthusiasm from bands to attend any other competition immediately after it.

Last month, Chris Armstrong and the College’s Shop Manager, Willie Park enjoyed a day at Go Ape near Aberfoyle swinging down zip lines and Tarzan swings. Willie said: “Chris told me he was launching his new bagpipe range at the College during PipingLive! I must have misheard him when he said ‘launch’. I launched him down various zip lines and now he’s launching his own line of pipes!”

Jack Taylor: During a Breton lunch (many oysters were partaken) the sound of pipes drifted over the waves. In the stern of a boat was Olivier Thoraval playing his composition, 'Lament for my Son Damien', a poignant moment. Then it was on to the boards on the beach. It’s a bit like a highland games this, with some passing traffic and competing noise; replace the ubiquitous burger van with boats being towed to and from the sea and you get the picture.

Ian Embelton: That situation [whether Joe Noble and John Wilson will remain as RSPBA adjudicators] may well change with anyone but right now they are continuing to be adjudicators. They weren’t happy with a decision made by the Adjudicators’ Management Board and didn’t wish to continue with their sub-role on it but they’ve made it very clear that they are fully supportive of the Association.

Jeannie Campbell: Pipe Major Angus MacDonald of the Scots Guards was of the opinion that the title, The MacDonalds are Simple, meant that MacDonalds were simple people in the sense that they led a simple uncomplicated life. Another theory is that they were simple in the sense of straight forward rather than devious.

July 2016 Piping Times APP.pdfJuly 2016 Piping Times

Atholl Gathering:
There were some divas who had registered to play but who for whatever reason couldn’t make it to Blair Atholl – where, incidentally, there was a waiting list to compete – but who hadn’t bothered their backsides to let the stewards/organisers know. This resulted in the stewards wasting time and energy – in sweltering heat – looking for them. One of these pipers is a committee member of the CPA, for goodness sake.

Donald MacPherson tune book:
Wednesday afternoon at PipingLive! also sees the launch of a collection of light music composed by Donald MacPherson … For the first time, all Donald’s compositions are now compiled in one book, together with stories behind the titles. The tunes were transcribed from Donald’s handwritten manuscripts by Jennifer Hutcheon. The collection is interspersed with family photographs. The book is priced £16 and available from the College.

Patrick Molard’s new CD:
Molard and Co.’s treatment of the fourth variation [of The Blind Piper’s Obstinacy] conjures up an image in my head of a teenage MacKay positively jumping around, in his aggressors’ faces, and flipping the bird. Ha!

Kylie MacHattie:
The problem is that I’m not very good at sitting on the sidelines. The night before I gave birth I was tuning drones and running our Grade 4 band practice. My mom was horrified that I was stretching up to adjust bass drones. I think she expected the baby to fall out as I fine-tuned the drones. After I gave birth, I decided to have a proper rest. No chanter, no pipes, no nothing. That lasted for a while but then I started to miss it too much.

Penny and a piobaireachd, 1979:
The annual ceremony at Boreraig in 1979 took place on June 22. Due to an airport strike the College representatives instead of flying from Glasgow to Broadford, made the trip by helicopter, which proved a great success as the touch down at Boreraig saved a 50-mile journey by road.