Historic Video Recording of Donald MacPherson Saved For Posterity

An important, good quality video of a recital given by the late Donald MacPherson has been saved from the waste bin thanks to the inquisitiveness and diligence of an Irish piper. 
The recital was given by Donald in the Crookhaven Hotel in County Cork in 1990. Introduced by local stalwart Noel O’Mahony, Donald gives a brilliant demonstration of ceol beag and ceol mor. His mastery of the instrument and its music is a lesson for pipers everywhere. He plays for around 35 minutes finishing with the piobaireachd, Lament for Ronald MacDonald of Morar.
Ronan Maguire, a leading piper with the former World Champion St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band, takes up the story: ‘I was about to throw out an old video recorder recently and I could see there was a tape stuck in it.

‘The eject mechanism didn’t work, so I had to pull it apart to get the tape out. Eventually I did and was delighted that it turned out to be a recording of a recital featuring Donald MacPherson, from Cork in 1990 so it was definitely worth saving for posterity.

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‘There doesn’t appear to be a lot of video of him up on YouTube, so I think this is worth a look and listen or two. He proves the point that you don’t need to play a gut bursting pipe to achieve a quality sound – he doesn’t even break sweat! The tape is about 35 minutes in length – and starts of with some nice marches and finishes with the piobaireachd.

Ronan on duty with the O’Tooles

‘Donald was over to give some tuition and I remember him taking a few of us through the Battle of Auldearn and a couple of other tunes that I can’t remember at this distance. A  few played at the recital that night, myself, Michael and Kieran Murphy, Noel Harford and some drummers too, namely Johnny Keogh and a young Stephen Creighton.

Donald with his father in 1953 after winning the Clasp at the Northern Meeting

‘The highlight of the night was Donald though and you could hear a pin drop. Personally, I was in awe of him. We’ll never see his likes again. Somebody local recorded it and they were selling it shortly after probably to raise band funds and that’s how I ended up with a copy.’

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 The Editor writes: ‘Having watched the recording a couple of times one is left in no doubt that here we have a master at work. Not for Donald lengthy tuning boring the audience to death like we hear so often, just the odd quarter turn here and there and off he goes, his immaculate fingering and expression to the fore, the pipe full and steady.

‘No need for flashy fingerwork either and I would like to encourage all those who populate so much of the airwaves with this kitchen piping to better spend their time trying to emulate what Donald MacPherson does in this video.

Donald MacPherson and P/M Terry Tully of SLoT at the launch of Donald’s Living Legends CD in 2006
‘We are due Ronan a debt of gratitude for saving this for piping and making it available to all.’

• Were you at the 1990 Cork recital? If so please pass on your memories to PIping Press. Email us at pipingpress@gmail.com. Read all about Donald MacPherson and how he achieved him immaculate sound in our unique series of articles on Piping Press here. Hear more of Donald’s playing on the PP Audio Archive.

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7 thoughts on “Historic Video Recording of Donald MacPherson Saved For Posterity

  1. Bob,
    Thank you for publishing Donald’s wonderful recording in Cork. As a friend of Donald’s over half a lifetime, I regarded him as a musical genius, I am quite sure he could have mastered any instrument of his choice. To be taught by Donald was a privilege, he brought to his teaching an insight into our music which one could not discover for oneself, It was quite remarkable!! I can hear him now……’that was good playing John, BUT’ there was always the ‘but’ and some small but vital insight would be explained and demonstrated on the chanter. I just could not get enough of his instruction, and he was unstinting and generous of his time in doing so. I have always wondered why his recorded sound did not quite match that when one heard him play ‘in the flesh’ as it were. It may have something to do with the harmonics of his wonderful pipe, but it was so. To hear him in competition or recital was to hear a pipe sound never equalled or surpassed! Bob, can you search for more of his recordings? I’m sure there are some more about.

    1. Thanks for that John; will certainly publish any other recordings. RW

  2. I enjoy how he tunes – no fancy fireworks, just a few phrases, and gets on with it. No multiple birls here. A stylish and understated master.

  3. wonderful recording / video of the great Donald MacPherson. short excerpts of this have been on you tube for some time, and always been a favourite of mine, for the effortless tone, playing and style at age 68 too! This was the year he won his last Clasp/ Oban Open (not sure which). Clasp I think?

    1. Yes,Nick……I put them up about 10 years ago,then could never remember where the original videotape went to,until recently,as per the story above.

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