Midst all the mayhem of Worlds Week, where the pipe band rules no question, piobaireachd, classical pipe music, could still be found by those looking for a more measured and contemplative bagpipe experience. The Piobaireachd Society was to the fore in providing just such an opportunity and here we have reviews from two recitals the Society promoted over the past seven days, the first in Edinburgh and the second in Glasgow….
What do you think of the idea of a recital of piobaireachd with no time taken for tuning on the platform and no breaks between performances? It certainly avoids the puzzled wonderment of the uninitiated concerning the usual tuning preliminaries, and confusion as to whether or not the tune has begun!
Last Sunday night (August 12th) as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival programme of events, the Piobaireachd Society promoted an unusual concert of ceol mor in St. Cecilia’s Hall, just off the city’s Royal Mile. The venue was ideal – an oval-shaped 18th century concert hall, Edinburgh’s first purpose-built hall for music recitals – and the audience of more than 100 heard four players present eight tunes in two tranches of four tunes each, played one after the other with no breaks and no preliminary tuning in the hall.
The first half of the concert comprised a welcome and introduction by Robert Wallace (Vice-President of the Society), followed by Ian K. MacDonald playing ‘A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick’, Glenn Brown ‘Beloved Scotland’, Jamie Forrester ‘Caber Feidh gu Bragh’ and Callum Beaumont The Phantom Piper of the Corrieyairack’.
Here are some photographs taken on the night in St Cecilia’s Hall. To watch the short video clip click on the slide:
After a short interval Ian K. MacDonald returned with ‘The Prince’s Salute’, Glenn Brown ‘MacLeod’s Controversy’, Callum Beaumont ‘The Lament for the Children’ and Jamie Forrester ‘The Desperate Battle of the Birds’.
Those of us cursed with an over-discerning ear for pipes that start and finish in perfect tune were not distracted by the minimal variation in a couple of the instruments, all of which began and finished in at least good fettle as one hears in top-level competition. The ambience, the sound quality (enhanced by the hall’s excellent acoustic), the impeccable technique and musicality, and the tunes themselves (with the pipers progressing through the audience seated in the hall), all made for an unusual and memorable experience.
So far as could be judged from the sustained applause, and comments over wine and whisky afterwards, most in attendance were previously unacquainted with piobaireachd and were greatly impressed by ‘Scotland’s Hidden Treasure’ (as the concert was billed). The attractive and informative programme notes (with biographical details of the recitalists, and notes on the tunes) provided them with a valuable memento of the occasion.
All credit is due to Robert Wallace, and his assistants on the night – Bill Wotherspoon and Alan Forbes. Perhaps the recital’s success will encourage the Society to consider staging such an event at the Fringe Festival each year.
‘Piobaireachd of the Day’, NPC Otago Street, August 15
Brian Lamond is from the Kingdom of Fife, and there was a distinct Fife flavour to this recital. His introductions and comments were pure Fife drollery, and he even described one of his compositions, Clarty Vale, as being in the ‘Fife Style’.
If you have imagined the ‘Fife Style’ to be big reeds and big grace-notes, think that no more. Brian’s playing was neat, clear and clean, with a personal musical stamp, and on a mellow, sweet pipe. So refreshing. And his ‘the old tunes are the best’ philosophy went down well.
So Shoals of Herring, Dream Valley of Glendaruel, Bobby Cuthbertson, Cutting Bracken, Angus MacNeill of Barra, Bonnie Ann, Shepherd’s Crook and The Flagon flowed with a sweet crisp sound, and relaxed lilt, preceded by box player Michael Phillip’s beautiful slow air Restless Wave.
The Piobaireachd of the Day was The Desperate Battle, which is supposed to represent two birds sparring. Spar they did in this upbeat and sometimes forceful interpretation.
Then with the ‘serious stuff’ over came selections including the aforementioned Clarty Vale, The Blind Photographer (story unrepeatable in public) and The Streaker, all of which complemented Banks of Lochiel, Braes of Mellinish, Center’s Bonnet, and another big MSR.
The recital finished with the start of Macintosh’s Lament, a fitting conclusion to this piobaireachd-themed recital sponsored by the Piobaireachd Society.