The Blackthorn Pipers’ Society Annual Recital
Andy Wilson reports: The Blackthorn Pipers’ Society held its third annual piping recital in Dromore Rugby Club, Dromore, Co Down, Northern Ireland, earlier this year. The Blackthorn Pipers’ Society is in its fourth year having been formed along the same lines as The Eagle Pipers’ Society. We hold gatherings so that pipers of all ages and abilities can enjoy the great Highland bagpipe. At the end of our gatherings we have The Blackthorn Piper who gives a short recital finishing with a full piobaireachd. That’s not to say that we don’t welcome anyone with smallpipes, uilleann pipes or in fact, anything else with a bag on it.
The 2014 recitalist was P/M Gordon Walker and what a night of piping and entertainment he gave us. From the moment he struck up his bagpipe he had the audience in his hand. Having tuned the pipe for what seemed no more than a few seconds, Gordon went straight into the 6/8 marches, Capt. C R Lumsden, Kenneth J MacLeod and An t’Eilean Ard. Next were a selection of two-parted strathspeys and reels starting with Lady Madelina Sinclair, Capt. Horne, Stumpie, The Bridge of Bogie, Cutty’s Wedding and the Rose Amang the Heather. The reels comprised of the Kissing Reel, Molly on the Shore, an Irish traditional reel, Sleepy Maggie, Macfarlane’s Reel and the Maid behind the Bar. Two fine 2/4 Marches were next on the agenda, Tommy MacDonald of Bargullian and Allan Dodd’s Farewell to Scotland. One pleasing aspect of Gordon’s recital was that he continually interacted with the audience. He introduced every set of tunes that he played and, in most cases, informed us who had composed them. Gordon then played a set of hornpipes, namely, Donald Macleod, Lucy Cassidy and Dora Watt. He followed up with the Gaelic air, My Love, My Joy, My Treasure, and the jigs The Rakes of Kildare, The Glasgow Police Pipers and Donald Cameron’s Powder Horn as a jig and a hornpipe. Gordon then introduced the piobaireachd he had chosen to play for us giving us the story behind the tune, Scarce of Fishing. He set off in his usual confident manner and it’s fair to say that even non-piobaireachd fans in the audience were captivated with the harmonics of Gordon’s bagpipe and the music he brought from this great tune. He left the floor to warm applause, with everyone looking forward to more of the same in the second half of the evening.
This brought us to a timely interval where a folk band (complete with uillean pipes of course), provided background music as people enjoyed hot food, tea/coffee. It was interesting to note during this time how Gordon mingled with people and, in fact, picked up a couple of requests with which he duly obliged in the second half of his recital.
Gordon commenced the second half with one such request which had come from an elderly gentleman, the tune, Flower of Scotland. From the expression on the gentleman’s face, it was clear that it meant a lot to him and Gordon certainly made his night. 9/8 marches were up next with The Black Isle, The Banks of the Lossie and The Festival March before the Cameron Quickstep, Raasay House and The Kitchen Piper. Four tunes from one tune were next, that tune being Caberfeidh, played as a March, Strathspey, Reel and Jig. On to Gaelic airs in the form of The Deer Forrest, The Skyline of Skye, Leaving Barra and The Cycle of the Ocean followed by the jigs and hornpipes The Kiwi, P/M George Allan and The Train Journey North. A great set of 2/4s next: John MacDonald of Glencoe, The Pap of Glencoe (followed by one of the requested tunes), The Braes of Castle Grant and the Clan MacColl. Gordon’s next selection included waltzs and jigs starting with Up in the Mountains, The Little Girl’s Dance, The Eaves Dropper, Calliope House, Lady in a Bottle and Major Nickerson’s Fancy.
As a farewell he played The Banjo Breakdown as a jig and then as a hornpipe. He left the floor to rapturous applause and a well deserved standing ovation. Gordon had certainly put a lot of preparation and organisation into his recital and as a result, the audience got a lot out of it. We, as a society, certainly enjoyed every note.
The night didn’t end there for him. He was called forward to accept a presentation blackthorn walking stick presented by Blackthorn Pipers’ Society President, Willie Garrett. Afterwards he gave of his time freely to pose for photographs with young and old alike. We were fortunate to witness one of the modern greats at the top of his game in a recital which will be long talked about by all who were there.