PP Ed’s Blog: James MacKenzie/ Alex Gandy/ Inspector Clueless/ Invercharron/ Braemar/ Juv. Festival/ Jewish Piper

All reports to the PP office indicate that the numbers attending the games this summer are definitely up on last year. I hope our mini-campaign has helped but all credit is really due to the pipers who’ve taken the trouble and spent the money to get out there and have a tune. The knock-on effect is that local organisers will be encouraged that their time has not been ill-spent and future generations will be able to experience the enjoyment of the games as we have done.

One noteworthy and regular prizewinner has been James MacKenzie from the island of Lewis. James, a pupil of Iain Murdo Morrison, is an extremely talented piper who I thought we had lost to the folk groups. I remember judging him at Oban several years ago when he won the B Strathspey and Reel by a mile – then he vanished. Now he’s back making his mark in mainstream piping and we and he will be all the better for it.

As Duncan MacGillivray and hopefully myself have shown, it is possible to play in a traditional band and compete at the highest level. You may lose a few prizes of course – getting back late from various gigs is not the way to prepare for Oban and Inverness. I remember driving through the night after an evening concert at Snape Maltings at the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk just to play in the Senior Piobaireachd at Oban the following morning. How daft was that? But doable. Think of the groups as a bolt-on to the carrying stream of your piping James. Nothing improves the instrument, the fingers, the expression more than having to go in against your peers alone and on the stage with the world watching.

James is pictured top right with another young superstar, Finlay Cameron, after their success last month at Arisaig.


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I hear that top piper Alex Gandy, Pipe Major of the Grade 1 78th Highlanders (Halifax), is guesting with Iain Donaldson’s City of Dunedin band at the Worlds. With this calibre of player in the ranks no wonder MacStig’s report yesterday was tipping Iain’s band for glory on the Green. Later … Iain confirmed that Alex would not be playing with the band: ‘Hi Robert This is Iain Donaldson trying to get a hold of you. First, thank you for all of the coverage you are giving the band. It is very much appreciated. Regarding Alex Gandy, he has offered his assistance with tuning my band if needed but he is not on our roster nor will be be playing with Dunedin. Just want to clarify that in case any other parties question this. If you can please amend that in Piping Press; that would be great. We will be practicing in Kelvingrove Park next week at 1pm. Look forward to seeing you for a chat and/or pint. Thanks Iain’

Happy to correct that Iain and hope to catch up next week.


Don’t forget Michael’s Grey’s book launch at the Piping Centre on Wednesday (Aug 15). Mike is a prolific and very talented composer and this will be his seventh book of tunes with contributions from many other noted pipers. Humour is never very far away from Mike’s own work and with Inspector Clueless of Gayfield he celebrates a rather ignominious chapter in solo piping history with a tune surely destined to be one of the most popular in the book. Not in on the story? Add ‘Sore Arm Gate’ or ‘SPJA’ to the PP Search box. Have a good one Mike.



John Don MacKenzie has been in touch to let us know that the far north games at Invercharron, usually in September and the last in the calendar, have been cancelled for this year. Strangely, it appears the reason is that the dry weather in May, June and July has left the field bereft of grass and it cannot now be harvested until much later than usual (me neither). It is now too late to get another venue. The promoters plan to resume activities next year. Thanks to JD for letting us know.


Gerard McClumpha, Event Co-Ordinator for the Festival of Juvenile Solo Piping, has sent us this year’s rules and entry form and these can be downloaded here. The competition is on October 20th in Auchenharvie Secondary School in Stevenston in Ayrshire and always attracts a huge entry. There are events for all levels of player from chanter to advanced.


Jim Wood of the Royal Braemar Gathering has sent this: The 2018 Braemar Gathering will be held on Saturday the 1st of September. Tickets for this year are currently on sale via our Ticketing Page and can be ordered by visiting our website www.braemargathering.org or telephoning 013397 41098. The 2019 Gathering will be held on Saturday the 7th September. Tickets will go on sale at the start of November 2018.For accommodation, please use the following link to take you to local websites which offer information on catered, self catered and caravan accommodation; www.braemargathering.org/information


Piper Avi Bloomenstiel from Dallas, Texas, has drawn our attention to this story in his local Jewish newspaper ‘Forward’. It starts: ‘Not every bagpipe-playing altar boy considering joining the priesthood grows up to be a Hasidic Jew — but Ian Sherman did. Ian, known today in  many circles by his Hebrew name Ephraim Eliyahu, was born to a Scottish Catholic mother and an Eastern European Jewish father, and was raised in Goshen, New York. Brought up Catholic, Sherman was christened and baptized at an early age, later serving as an altar boy.

s/2018/08/ian-sherman.png”> Piper Ian Sherman

‘His mother’s older sister was

[/caption]‘His mother’s older sister was a nun, which always fascinated him as a child. In third grade, Sherman’s parents enrolled him in a Catholic school. It was two years later when he heard about a local place offering bagpipe lessons and signed up…’. Read more: https://forward.com/life/402265/meet-the-worlds-only-hasidic-bagpipe-player/


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