Editor’s Notebook: Cheer Up/ Skye Changes/ Drummers Wanted/ James Robertson/ NPC Schools

Gloomy times indeed. The loss of Frank Andrews, and Alex Dalziel this week alone. PS Conf cancelled. Winter weather lingering here in Scotland; virus fears everywhere. And Dennis Browning in New South Wales proves its not a local issue either:

‘I and my fellow judges were sent the following by the Secretary  of Pipe Bands NSW regarding next Sunday’s contest at Scot College, Bellevue Hill:

Due to concerns about the COVID19 virus Scots College has advised that we need to postpone the event to later in the year – this will include all events, band contest, dancing etc. …… this is very disappointing but clearly necessary under present conditions.

Time for a Life of Brian moment….Always Look on the Bright Side……Summer is not far away, the weather will improve, the bug will be beaten, the sound of the piob mhor will ring around the land in band contests and Highland games.

Do you have a practice chanter, a set of pipes and a copy of Willie Ross 1-5 and the Piob Soc Collection? Time to learn those tunes you always wanted to learn. A handful of porridge (oatmeal) and some spuds and a few herring and off you go. What more could you want really? Well okay, let’s throw in a shot or six of some strong elix.

There you are; you’re ready to try out some new tunes and wile away those self isolated evenings. Three months hence it will all seem like a bad dream. For now, do as I suggested last week, keep your instruments spotless, wash hands, don’t swap and keep your pecker up.

Skye Gathering have announced a rule change for this year. Piping Convenor Cameron MacFadyen: ‘We’ve made one change in the 2/4 March competition where, in the heats, competitors will submit three tunes to the bench and play whichever is chosen by the judges; this is the same as in previous years. 

Sarah Muir was the winner of the prestigious Dunvegan Medal at last Year’s Skye Gathering

‘In the final, however, competitors will play the remaining two marches rather than, as in previous years, another march chosen by the judges played twice through.  In other words, finalists will play all three of their marches in the course of the event.’ Get Skye entry forms and rules here.

Reader Peter Tennant writes from Kent:I have just read your very interesting article on Stephen Creighton drumming in Florida. As a nation who introduced the bagpipes and pipe band drumming to almost every other country in the world it disappoints me to know that a lot of Grade 4 bands in this country struggle to attract drummers to play in competitions.

‘Our bands here in the south east of England have been trying to attract players especially drummers for three or four years now with very limited success. It would appear that as drummers move up the grades they forget where they started, and those who don’t just seem to disappear into the abyss never to be seen again.

Members of Peter’s Dartmouth band

‘Most Grade 4 bands run on a financial shoestring so can’t afford to attract top grade drummers to come and do workshops to attract learner drummers. The band I belong to have been advertising on social media and posting videos of us performing and winning quartets and mini band contests (drummers permitting) for years all with the aim of trying to attract more drummers and pipers. And here we are again going into another competition season needing more players to come and compete with us. Where have all drummers gone?’

I really don’t know Peter but maybe the size of corps in today’s bands has something to do with it. Anyway, maybe you will get some response to your appeal. Email Peter on peter.tennant@talktalk.net

Maya Chillingworth of the Tobar an Dualchais website has been in touch looking for assistance from anyone who has information on P/M James Robertson of ‘Farewell to the Creeks’ fame. TaD have recordings of him which they need permission to publish. What a pity his pupil Joe Wilson is no longer with us.

Maya writes: ‘Thank you for expressing your interest in P/M Robertson; it means a lot to us that he is remembered. At present we are still tracking down any remaining family who could disclose the rights to his voice in our recordings.

‘I can tell you that we have an hour’s worth of recordings between P/M Robertson and Hamish Henderson, chatting about his life and music; occasionally there will be a piece played on bagpipes, by whom we are still unsure, or Jimmy will sing or hum a small piece of his work. It’s a loving and fun series of recordings full of laughing and chattering, with two men reflecting on life through music and storytelling.

P/M James Robertson, Banff, composer and pupil of GS McLennan

‘We would be really interested in your input in finding the family of Robertson and getting the word out about his life and work. Also, feel free to enjoy our content online at Tobar an Dualchais Kist O Riches, where some other recordings of ‘Farewell to The Creeks’ can be heard as well.’

Everyone will know that Hamish used P/M Robertson’s tune for his song the ‘Banks o’ Sicily’ written at the time of the Allied landings during WW2. Contact Maya here.

I hope the virus doesn’t affect the Piping Centre’s Easter Schools. Summer study should be okay. The ‘Young Stars’ school for learners aged 17 and under runs from 6th – 9th April, then the NPC’s Adult Gatherings for pipers aged 18+ from 20th – 23rd April. Summer and Autumn dates are also confirmed and available to book.

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