PP Editor’s Blog: Kilberry Bagpipes/ British Championships/Piping Live

dougie - everyone welcomeDouble Gold Medallist Douglas Murray has taken over Kilberry Bagpipes in Edinburgh and reports brisk business at his premises in St Mary’s Street just off the Royal Mile. The above pic shows Dougie outside his new shop.

Visitors are welcome to call in for a chat or to have their pipes looked over by an expert. Douglas will be leading his much-improved Fife Constabulary band onto the field at the British Championships at Bathgate tomorrow. With his solo career, the band, his new shop and his expert reed-making, this is one busy man!

Apropos the Championships, check RSPBA tweets @RSPBAHQ for first results, here for summaries and Piping Press for comments from Sunday onwards.

The first championship of the year is always very interesting giving as it does an insight into what the bands have been doing over the winter; who's been caught short, who’s cracked their sound early on, who’s got the best new tenor sticks, that sort of thing. Will defending champions FMM resist the onslaught of Boghall, Inveraray, Power, Shotts, Glasgow Police, SLoT? Teatime tomorrow all will be revealed. For those going along, remember the change of venue, Balbardie Park of Peace/Bathgate Sports Centre. Family ticket for two adults and two kids is £27. Single adult admission £12, children £5, under 5s free. Parking £5.

Like to say welcome on board to our two new advertisers Piping Live and the Argyllshire Gathering. More and more competition, event promoters and Highland supplies companies are realising the marketing benefits that come from advertising with us and thus reaching thousands of potential customers each week.

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I attended the Piping Live launch concert during the week where a decent-sized audience heard music from Stuart Liddell, Shotts & Dykehead and the Finlay MacDonald band. On the way in to the Piping Centre I met Fred Morrison who will be headlining a concert at the festival. Fred tells me he is looking forward to competing this summer - good news all round. Also headlining will be the Tannahill Weavers a group  celebrating 40 years together. The Tannies were one of the first to have a piper: Alan MacLeod, a good player and a pupil of Donald MacLeod’s. I wonder if Alan is still doing the rounds.

Also at the launch was P/M Iain MacDonald of the Neilston Pipe Band, there to support son Finlay. Iain was telling me he has been P/M of the band for 43 years, which must be something of a record. Mind, they compete seldom, surviving on overseas trips and gala days. So perhaps the intra-band tension is reduced, members getting together in a relaxed frame of mind with no summary sheets to shred.

Shotts on stage

All the concert performers played well. However Shotts, led by P/M Ryan Canning and a clean-shaven P/Sgt. Glenn Brown, did give the impression that they needed to relax more (the Neilston touch!). Furthermore, I believe that quartet piping is best if the individuals assume the collective mantle of the solo piper and play that way - but with the required unison. To take four pipers from a band without the drums and then have them play exactly as they would with the drums and the rest of the pipe corps, is not the best way to approach things. A band, indeed a mini band, is different from a piping quartet. Ryan and Glenn are successful solo pipers, so with some thought it should not be too difficult to subtly change things with an improvement in musical delivery the result. It requires time, however, and with tomorrow's championship looming there won't have been a lot of that around out Dykehead way. Maybe this is why some bands are reluctant to take part in the festival’s quartet competition - it take place only a few days before the Worlds and really to do it justice the playing has to be properly thought through on the lines I suggest. Still, nice sound and very good fingering from Shotts.

Stuart Liddell demonstrated once again his incredible dexterity and one was left with the thought, ‘is there anything he can’t do with his fingers?’ To me the pipe was a touch thinner than it was at the RSPS recital I covered a few weeks ago, especially on the top hand. Chunks of kitchen piping had the audience in raptures. A blast of Lament for Hugh would ha’ cooled the ardour I thought, but this was a BBC show and there were audience figures to consider. (It goes out on Sunday’s ‘Pipeline’.) I wonder at this flash-finger imperative. Pipers seem to feel the need to let it run on and on. Oh, for a recital with none of it. Striking a balance is difficult, but to me the kitchen stuff should be reserved for an encore when the listener is sated with your beautifully timed and phrased 6/8s, or retreats, or MSRs, or Old Wife of the Mill Dust a la Willie Ross, or ceol mor.

The BBC's Gary West introduces the Finlay MacDonald Band

The show finished with spirited music from the Finlay MacDonald Band, the powerful fiddle of Chris Stout a perfect foil to the  leader’s low whistle and border pipes - and all held together in skilled fashion by the accompanists on flute, electric piano and guitar.

Piping Live has once more the use of George Square for its popular Glasgow city centre events and from what director Roderick MacLeod told us there should be something for everyone at the festival. It runs from Aug 10 -16.

Only four weeks to the New England Piping Academy. There are two messages on the Facebook page for students and those still thinking about attending. We have a couple of places left but no more.

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