PP Ed’s Blog: Aussie Rules/ St Petersburg/ Chris Terry

Latest from Pipe Bands Australia: ‘The national council of Pipe Bands Australia has voted to endorse the decision of bands in the recent annual ballot of bands to include a separate Grade 4 selection of marches events in the contest regulations.

‘National management committee last year introduced a trial rule for the event to encourage bands to return to the competition arena, retain players of long-standing and assist in providing a stepping stone for less-experienced players on the journey to entering the circle in MSR-Medley competitions.

‘The trial was used with success by two branches in recent months. Tasmanian branch chairman Tony Coen reported: ‘At the recent Richmond contest, the SOM went off very well. It attracted all of the state’s bands (except the one that is not yet registered with PBA, but is being worked on) and one or two of those bands hadn’t been in competition mode for some time. St Andrews Caledonian Band entered a full range of players that consisted largely of first-timers and led by a piper who had no rank, but was proficient enough to guide the rest. That band didn’t win the contest, but its members did gain a lot from the experience.

‘Although each band was aware of the conditions etc. associated with the trial, there were a couple that didn’t completely enter in the spirit of the intention. The band that won the competition contained a number of high graded pipers, whereas others could have done the same, but didn’t. There was a grumble about that in the aftermath.

‘Whilst some bands might have the capacity to field enough players that haven’t had expertise on the contest arena, others don’t and therefore the latter doesn’t have a choice, except not to enter. I’m talking of keeping ‘in the spirit’ of the trial rule. Personally, I don’t think that it matters what the make-up of players is, nor does it matter about winning. The experience for first-timers is what counts.

‘Victorian branch chairman Tim McLeod reported: ‘There has been significant uptake of this contest element in the recent contest season. A number of bands have used this element to develop young players or enable older players to return to competition. A small number of bands who have been off the contest circuit for a number of years also took advantage of the opportunity to compete in 2017, and they have indicated they will again do so next year. The additional performances created some pressure on judges and timings were reviewed and adjusted as the season progressed to overcome this problem. The Executive is recommending to Victoria Branch Council that this element be offered at all contests in 2017-2018 Contest Season.’

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St Petersburg and River Neva, Hermitage etc
I’ve been in freezing St Petersburg for an organ/pipes concert at the Mariinsky Theatre. Seemed to go well enough and there was a 2,000+ crowd in the magnificent auditorium with organist Kevin Bowyer, day job organist at Glasgow University chapel, playing a wide range of pieces and supplying superb accompaniment to my pipe efforts.

It’s my first time in Russia and if you are going I’d recommend bulling up on the cyrillic alphabet beforehand. Learn a few of the letters and suddenly all the signage, or a lot of it, starts to make sense. For R read P; for C read S and so on. Kevin’s name and mine as they appeared in the programme: 

A long walk round the city took us to many of the famous sights and onto the Metro which was as busy as ever despite the recent terrorist attack. Escalators seem to go down for ever and have been deliberately dug deep to double as fall-out shelters – or so I was told.

Prices are cheap but retailing is very understated – probably a throwback to the Soviet days – so don’t expect huge neon signs and glitzy shop fronts hence the importance of being able to read the signs.

Bottom line for any piper or other musician: these are cultured people who love Scotland and the Scots. Catherine the Great hired Scottish architect Charles Cameron and he is responsible for some of the buildings in the Venice of the North and there have been trading links over many centuries. Patron saint is St Andrew with the saltire everywhere and I’m told they still teach Burns in the schools.

Thanks to the good offices of Nicholas Taitz we now have a 1994 recording of Chris Terry of South Africa playing the Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay in the PP Archive. This is the tune with which Chris, now aged 70,  won the recent 100 Guineas contest in Jo’burg (pictured, top). Listen to Chris’s fine playing here.

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