Editor Robert Wallace reports: One of the rewarding outcomes of attending piping schools is that you really get to know your fellow instructors well. Last night we had a very successful concert in a nearby hall with more than 100 in the audience.
Star turn was Craig Munro whose blistering fingers showed why he holds his place in the front rank at St Laurence O’Toole with such ease. Craig brought the audience to its feet. I am trying to get Craig to have a go at the solos. He has the pipe, the fingers and the music. Craig has posted a lot from the NWS on the Wallace Bagpipes Facebook page.
The concert followed the tried and tested schedule of class performances and then one from the instructors. This seemed to go down well especially when we did the quick set of Crossing the Minch, Glasgow Police Pipers, Paddy’s Leather Breeches, Banjo Breakdown, Hen’s March and Train Journey North.
Principal Ronnie Bromhead, fluent in German, kept the whole evening moving along nicely. Afterwards it was back to base and some refreshment. It gave me a chance to chat to Brian Lamont from Inverkeithing in Fife. Brian began piping with the noted Fife piping stalwart Jock Innes of the Kelty band (another of Jock’s protégés is Robert Barnes). Later Brian was a student of Captain John MacLellan and got all his piobaireachd from John travelling over the Forth Rail Bridge to Edinburgh Castle on a regular basis.
A military man to the corps John was very strict, says Brian. Everything had to be done correctly. Once, when Brian opened his pipe box to reveal a chaos of reeds, hemp, old brushes etc. John rounded on him ‘What is that!’ pointing at the mess. ‘That won’t do at all. Get the reeds into a box and tidy the rest up.’
John was also a great player said Brian and although when he went to him angina was beginning to hinder his blowing of the pipe, he could rattle out all the big tunes on the practice chanter with considerable ease. Readers will know of John’s competition success, being one of the few pipers to win the four major events at Oban and Inverness in the same year. And this despite the interruptions of military service and postings abroad.
Brian, who turns a mere 50 next year, is quite the player himself as he demonstrated at the concert and at our ceilidh.
Brian is a full-time reedmaker and teacher and is heading straight to Denmark from the NWS to judge a solo contest along with drummer Chris MacNichol of Inveraray. Brian tries to compete at the games whenever it is convenient and plays on a set of very old MacDougall pipes which he says just never go out of tune. Seeing him in action at the school I wouldn’t doubt it. He never touches the drones.
In the late 1990s he found himself with some extra cash and some spare time and headed down to Australia for a spell. Arriving in Melbourne he decided to go busking and whilst entertaining the crowds in the city centre was approached by one knowledgeable gentleman and his wife. It was Murray Blair of the Victoria Police Pipe Band.
Impressed by Brian’s playing he invited him along to a practice to listen to the band. ‘I had never heard a sound like it,’ said Brian. ‘The best ever. Nat Russell was the pipe major and he asked me if I’d like to play with them. How could I refuse? I did one year and when I returned to Scotland they asked me back over paying for everything. I was with them three years and that included winning the Worlds in 1998. It was an incredible experience and I would like to thank Nat and all the boys for letting me share it.’