To Northern Ireland tonight for the Piper of the Year contest in Ballymena. I am sure there will be plenty of good playing on show so get along to the Adair Arms tomorrow for a listen if you can. Secretary Kenny Stewart’s details are above for anyone who needs further information.
We all know how Ulster’s bands have taken the world by storm, but thirty years ago the idea of them producing so many top solo pipers would have been fanciful. Now we have double Gold Medallist Alastair Dunn, Dunvegan and Braemar Medallist Jonathan Greenlees, Andrew Carlisle, a marvellous piper and piping professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the US, and many other fine pipers who all play at a respectable level. It wasn’t so long ago that playing a piobaireachd in the Province would have been frowned on by the band fraternity. Not so now. They realise the value of ceol mor in disciplining pipers in how to blow, in building stamina and in improving musical appreciation. I’ve been over to teach a few times myself but Andrew Wright has been going for yonks and the Northern Ireland branch of the RSPBA has been taking over Chris Armstrong and Glenn Brown from the Piping Centre for a while now. All this teaching has to produce a positive result. Locally, Norman Dodds and Kenny Stewart and the late Harry Denyer did great work in carrying the torch when no one was listening. I hope these men are now getting the respect they deserve. They were, after all, right all along.
Also taking place tomorrow is the National Mod piping. There seems to be a dearth of info about the contest, so if you are in the capital of the Highlands and want to hear some good piping, make your way to the Eden Court Theatre for 10am. I’ll try to get the results ASAP.
Mention of Chris Armstrong makes me wonder what changes there will be with Scottish Power now that he has his own choice of leading drummer (Jake Jorgensen) to work with. A band seldom clicks when a pipe major inherits someone else’s leading tip. There are bound to be conflicts and differences of opinion, old way versus new way. Occasionally it pans out well but not always. This should not be seen as a reflection on either party of course; it’s just the way we humans are built.
As promised I have written to the Daily Telegraph regarding the pathetic report on the Vale of Atholl PB at the Ryder Cup. Doubt if they printed it but maybe someone down south will have seen it if they did. The letter read: ‘Your correspondent Mr Liew’s rather derogatory comments about the bagpipe and its contribution to the Ryder Cup opening ceremony have caused some consternation among its devotees north of the border. A poll run by my website found 81% of our readers demanding an apology from your good selves. It is lucky for us that HM The Queen does not share Mr Liew’s opinion of our wonderful instrument, rising every morning to its glorious strains. If Mr Liew wishes to follow the good practice of his Sovereign I’ll happily send him a CD or two.’
I posted the following re Bill Blacklaw and the Highland dress story:
‘I must point out that the decision to use Gordon’s name in the headline was mine and had nothing to do with Bill. Bill included the episode in his piece to add interest and mentioned it merely as a passing comment, not for any bombastic or arrogant reason. As a man he is anything but, and certainly has no axe to grind vis-a-vis Gordon.’
Well done to Shotts & Dykehead for inaugurating their own juvenile solo piping and drumming contest. Lanarkshire has always been a hotbed of pipe band talent and now the youngsters will not have to travel far to show off their prowess.
PP Newspaper Watch: This appeared in the Oban Times about Angus MacColl Junior. It must give his father great pleasure to see the way he has come on:
The article read: Angus John said, ‘It was my second year at the Silver Medal but I was fairly confident of doing well. I am looking forward to competing in the Gold Medal next year. My dad was 20 when he won his Silver Medal, so I haven’t let him forget that I am a year younger than that.’
Belonging to a successful family line of pipers comes with its own pressures, the teenager admitted; AJ can trace his family line back to the celebrated John MacColl of Kentallen, a prolific writer of pipe tunes….
His father Angus is a regular prizewinner at meetings of the best pipers in the world and was runner-up at the recent Springbank Invitational…
AJ said: ‘I suppose I feel there is more pressure on me to do well because of who my dad is, but it is great to have him to help me. We put a lot of effort in to getting the tunes right.
Torquil Telfer, piping secretary at the Argyllshire Gathering, said, ‘There is no doubt about it. Angus [jnr.] is on track to be one of the world’s best pipers. The consistency of his results over the past few years show he is no flash in the pan.’
Thanks to the Gold Medallists who have sent in their tunes for the lists of winners. Niall Stewart was one, and I was happy to have the opportunity of congratulating him on his winning the Former Winners’ MSR at the Northern Meeting. It was equal to anything I have heard in ceol beag in the last 40 years and I hope Niall keeps a copy of the recording for the grand weans. He should be very proud of it.