Dr Roddy Ross and the Fingerlock/ SFU and Pachelbel’s Canon/ Silver Chanter Letter

At the 2009 Piobaireachd Society conference the late Dr Roddy Ross astonished everyone with his performance of part of the ground of the Fingerlock, writes the Editor. He also impressed attendees with the passion he had for the music and his personal insight into the MacCrimmons and the land that bore them.

Fortunately PS member Hector Russell was at hand with his video camera and recorded Dr Ross in full flight. Mr Russell has now kindly made the video available for Piping Press readers to enjoy on our archive.

Dr Ross delivers his talk

This tribute to Dr Ross (1921 – 2016) is well deserved. He was an extraordinary character. A war hero medic, he was a lifelong friend of Malcolm R Macpherson (grandson of Calum Piobair), a man he describes in the film as ‘a genius’.  Their friendship produced the book of ceol mor ‘Binneas is Boreraig’, a remarkable production which simplified tunes into separated phrases and colour coded variations. It was an instant success when it first appeared in the 1950s.

Malcolm sang or played and Dr Ross wrote down what he heard. A scientific draughtsman was drafted, plates made and the book published. With Malcolm, through his father Angus and his uncle Jockan, we have a direct link to the traditional way of the tunes. ‘Binneas’ is a priceless document.

Read more on Dr Ross here. Out of interest readers might like to peruse the other videos in the archive: Slideshow on the Life & Times of P/M Donald MacLeod; Slideshow of pictures from the 2016 Uist & Barra; Expert piper Donald McBride playing the Sound of the Waves at the New England Pipe & Drum Academy; Duncan MacGillivray playing the Unjust Incarceration; the 1991 Uist & Barra contest; the funeral of P/M Alasdair Gillies; Argyllshire Gathering through the ages.

To remind everyone, Piping Press is a not for profit organisation free of all subscriptions and charges. All of these videos are brought to readers free of charge thanks to the support of our advertisers and readers’ support for the Piping Press Shop.

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Robert MacNeil of the SFU Pipe Band (left) has written a feature on one of the band’s most popular pieces, Pachelbel’s ‘Canon’. Many will remember its outstanding delivery at their 2015 pre-Worlds concert (pictured top). In his feature Robert writes:

‘The Simon Fraser University Pipe Band’s performance of Pachelbel’s Canon on its 1991 ‘Silver Anniversary Tribute’ studio album and in subsequent live performances by the band propelled this magnificent classical music piece into the piping world, where renditions ….have subsequently been performed by many bands, including the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

‘However, many people are unaware of the creator of the arrangement of Canon for bagpipes, piper Dr. James ‘Jim’ Johnson of Minnesota…… In fact, Jim Johnson could be called the SFU Pipe Band’s first arranger. On the 30th anniversary of its creation, we elaborate on Jim’s influence on the harmonic sounds of the early SFU Pipe Band…….

With his choral singing experience and deep knowledge of music theory, Jim began contributing advanced harmony arrangements of slow airs….. which P/M Terry Lee enthusiastically accepted…..

‘During these years, Jim had also been composing many pipe tunes and copies regularly arrived in the post at my home along with handwritten personal notes on his piping and medical practice experiences. In 1988, a thick No. 10 envelope arrived with Jim’s arrangement for bagpipes of Pachelbel’s Canon and his notes on how he went about its transposition and arrangement and the challenges he encountered. It was a fascinating…,, however, at the time, the band did not have an opportunity to use the piece…..’

Read the full article here and, even better, Robert and the band have made the scores available as a free download too. Well done SFU!

Regular correspondent Duncan Watson has contributed an interesting letter on the Silver Chanter news reported last week. Read it on our letters page.

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