PP Editor’s Blog 5/12/14

[easyrotator]erc_9_1417192041[/easyrotator]To the SPA WW1 concert tomorrow where a quartet from the Army School, Donald MacPhee and I will play tunes seldom heard in public. They are all linked in some way to the Black Watch and the Gordon Highlanders. This will be the third of author Colin Campbell’s lectures on pipe music connected with the conflict, and will be a model of erudition and interest if the last two were anything to go by. Click on the picture for the Livestream link.
SPA poster


Thinking back on last week’s Shotts concert I really must, once more, congratulate North Lanarkshire council for their support for piping and pipe bands. I wish more local authorities would follow their example. Absolved of all criticism are Fife Council where school tuition has been put on a formal footing with pipers Sarah Muir, Roddy Weir and Greig Canning all contracted to provide weekly pipe lessons. I’d be interested to hear from readers about provision on their home patch.


sidelightsJust to remind everyone, especially those who followed our James Campbell Lecture reports, the Piobaireachd Society is now issuing his ‘Sidelights’ and ‘More Sidelights’ free with every new purchase of the Kilberry Book.  If you are new to piobaireachd then read Jonathan Gillespie’s lecture to learn about one of its leading figures of the past.


The results of our poll on the ‘Two-Day Worlds’ produced the following results: 43% thought it should remain a one day affair  – two days took focus away from the Saturday; 41% thought two days was a good idea – the Worlds was only going to get bigger; 13% said it should stay as one day – the disappointment was too great for bands that didn’t qualify on the Friday, and 4% said it didn’t matter as they didn’t like pipe bands anyway. I think I’m with the 41%. Last year’s finale was just as spectacular and exciting as it has ever been -as those who were actually there will testify I’m sure. Incidentally, make sure you download the free Pipe Band Magazine from the RSPBA website when it comes out on Jan 1. It has more on the Worlds and the deal that guaranteed this competition would be in Glasgow for the next six years. For now, let’s keep the poll fun going with our ‘Piper of the Year’ survey:


Those who know piper Douglas Elmslie (formerly Muirhead & Sons and latterly Kilsyth Thistle) will want to wish him the very best after his recent operation. A fine piper and a better natured man it would be hard to meet. Get well soon Dougie.


PP Web Watch: This is from ‘Slate Explainer‘ magazine…Bagpipes were playing as President Obama arrived at the memorial service for victims of the Fort Hood shooting Tuesday. The instruments were also heard at Veterans Day celebrations around the countryWednesday. What’s the deal with all these funerary bagpipes? They sound right for the occasion. Bagpipes seem to have become associated with U.S. military, police, and firefighter memorial services on account of their connection with Scottish martial history. As early as the 14th century, Scottish warriors used musical instruments—mostly horns—to intimidate their English adversaries. (Indeed, contemporary accounts suggest that every Scottish knight carried a horn around his neck.) But it’s not clear why this Scottish tradition in particular might have caught on among the U.S. armed forces while others have not. (You rarely see tartan-clad Army rangers, for example.) Perhaps the popularity of bagpipes at funerals is simply a matter of aesthetics. In any case, the instrument most commonly used at American funerals—called the great highland bagpipes (or piob mhor)—may not be the one used for hundreds of years by Scottish warriors….’

For more on piping at US ceremonial events I would recommend Lt Col Robert Keith Gunther’s  JFK’s funeral feature.


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Hector Russell has sent this recording of Donald MacKenzie (Malky’s son) playing his (Donald’s) new composition ‘Auld Caledonia’ on the electronic pipes.


Fraser MacInnes
Fraser MacInnes

It seems the College of Piping are not appointing a replacement Principal. I know they asked a few top professionals to take the job on, but each, for a variety of reasons, declined the offer. They have now appointed a General Manager to run things and an Editor who will work part-time on the Piping Times whilst holding down his day job. The former is Mr Fraser MacInnes a long time student at the College Thursday night class (and a successful businessman in his own right), and the latter Mr Stewart Letford, a piper with a keen interest in piping history and bellows pipes. Mr Letford is not a journalist but does have a background in publishing, producing Jeannie Campbell’s ‘Bagpipemakers’ book and his own witty ‘Wee Book of Piping Quotations’. I know better than most the challenges that each faces and I wish them well for the future.


The rather grandly named South West Scotland Piping and Drumming Academy will hold their second annual summer school at the Scottish Rural College’s Barony Campus near Dumfries on July 13 -17.  Call Walter Cowan for further information on 01461 202998. Last year’s school was considered very successful by tutors, parents and pupils alike.


Can someone tell me what is going on at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire of Music? I hear one very talented young piper has been refused entry to the Scottish Music degree course because the tunes he played were ‘too traditional’. The tunes? I hear you ask. No less than P/M Angus’s ‘Allan MacPherson of Mosspark’ and one of our more difficult hornpipes, Donald MacLeod’s ‘Man from Skye’. Who makes these decisions and to whom are they accountable?[easyrotator]erc_55_1416493860[/easyrotator]