PP Ed's Blog: Cailean's Last Show/ Piob Soc Conf/ West Fife Band Plea/ New Music/ College Board

Cailean MacLean’s last broadcast as presenter of ‘Crunluath’ the Gaelic piping programme is on Thursday (Dec 14) at 4pm. Cailean is stepping down after 20 years at the mic.
I don’t know who the Beeb has lined up to follow him but his are a difficult set of brogues to fill. Cailean was also the piping convenor at the Skye Gathering for many years, a post now held by Cameron MacFadyen. Among other pursuits, Cailean now hopes to spend more time adding to his marvellous catalogue of photographs of his native isle.

Those already planning their diaries for 2018 might like to note that the Piobaireachd Society Conference will be held on the weekend of 23/24 March with an eclectic mix of interesting papers planned and mingled, as usual, with lots of good music and camaraderie. Everyone is welcome to attend for the full weekend or as a day visitor. Venue is as before, the Birnam Hotel in Highland Perthshire. More details as they become available.

I hope someone can step in and help this band. Alister Rae, Secretary, writes: ‘The committee of the West Fife Schools Pipe Band [pictured top] is pleading to the entire piping community for help as the band is struggling to find experienced piping tutors. The band was set up in 1994 with the specific objective of providing school-aged children with the chance to learn to play pipes and/or drums at an affordable cost. We currently have eight intermediate pipers, three chanter learners and six learner drummers, all of whom attend schools in the West Fife area and they range from 10 – 14 years old.
‘The band has produced a strong performance in competitions and local galas over the 2017 season, however our senior piping tutor has retired, leaving the band without a leader. We have had help from a parent, pipers from other bands and one particularly gifted young piper who have all kept the show on the road so far. We now need some individuals to take ownership of the band’s development and progression. Without experienced piping tutors taking charge, it will be difficult to compete in 2018. We do have a very proficient drumming tutor who is making huge strides in developing the drum corps. We recently launched a recruitment drive for new pipers and drummers, and we have had a very encouraging response.
‘If there are any experienced piping tutors out there that can commit to a couple of hours per week, we would love to hear from them. We competed at Novice Juvenile Grade this year (2017) at all the major competitions by teaming up with another band. Our ultimate goal would be to do the same again next year under our own steam. The guys are very enthusiastic and always keen to do their best. All we need is a leader and a couple of experienced tutors to take us there by developing our pipe corps and improving our skills.
We meet at Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline, Fife, on Tuesdays and Thursday at 18:30. Contact the Band via the following: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WestFifeSchoolsPipeBand/
Email: WFSPB@GMX.COM Telephone: 07508 621148

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Those interested in new music, and especially music which has been influenced by piobaireachd, may like to look out for ‘The Wisdom of the Reeds’ by William Sweeney and performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at a concert last Saturday. The composer’s note reads: ‘The title was suggested by the Gaelic poet Aonghas MacNeacall. The piece could be thought of as a dream in which one of the great piobaireachd players meets Johnny Hodges [Duke Ellington’s alto sax man]. There is also some material which grew out of my attempts to represent the sounds of elaborate bagpipe figuration….’ The performance will be broadcast at 10pm on BBC Radio 3 on Feb 10 on the ‘Hear and Now’ new music show.

Following the weekend’s apology from the College of Piping Board to P/M Barry Donaldson a few readers have asked who comprises the Board. They are: Colin MacNeill, Chairman, a successful Edinburgh lawyer who is a partner in one of the country’s biggest corporate legal firms, Dickson Minto. Mr MacNeill is a noted amateur piper and a member of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society. He succeeded his father Dugald MacNeill as Chairman.
Stuart Cassells (38) is the youngest member of the board. He is a founding member of the piping rock group, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, and was a successful junior piper. Personable, Stuart puts his easy way with people to good use as a promotions man with Edrington distillers.
Major Bruce Hitchings MBE BEM is a retired Army officer and former P/M of the Queens Own Highlanders. For many years he was assistant to Gavin Stoddart at the Army School of Piping at Edinburgh Castle. Bruce runs his own bagpipe accessories business and is also a member of the Northern Meeting Piping Sub-Committee.
David Kerr (70) is a retired insurance broker, a member of the Glasgow Highland Club and has been a member of the CoP Board for 30 years. Mr Kerr has a holiday home on the island of Tiree where he is a director of the Tiree Maritime Trust.

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