It is always worthwhile reading Alistair Aitken’s well thought out articles, more so as the contagion continues. Ontario’s beleaguered woes wear on with Maxville and the North American Championships cancelled again. But maybe the RSPBA can pull it off at the Green, with sufficient willing horses coping with the reduction in preparation time.
But pipe bands can be viral also, and we miss the infection of enthusiasm and the spreading of our chosen passion to all and sundry. Perhaps that passion can be quickly rekindled with Australia (haltingly, but hopefully increasingly), and virus isolated New Zealand, leading the way with some significant outdoor band contests returning.
By Robin Lawson
But talk of George Pryde made my mind drift up this west coast of British Columbia to Powell River where he landed in 1957 with an enthusiastic pulp mill sponsored pipe band that set an excellent standard and cut an LP in 1961 that many of us older folks around this continent cut our teeth on. (Good summary in Robert’s original article last year.) A series of world class pipers had been imported from Scotland to that isolated piece of BC wilderness that featured the mightiest tree slayer in the world (sigh from this naturalist, but I, too, lived a career in paper).
Their competitive chances rose quickly with George sturdily supporting the back end (at least two amazingly experienced Scottish snare players already there), and wrapping up all major prizes in this continent in that era. Possibly the successful Maxville run and the North Americans in 1964 quenched George’s devotion to the competition game as he then ventured into jazz and other teaching. If a pulp mill’s band wins in the forest of the north west, does anyone hear it? [The Powell River band with George Pryde as leading drummer is pictured above.]
George died in 2014, having lived a long and teachingly productive life, and after I arrived in retirement on this Vancouver Island. This also made me think of Willie McErlean who powered the Triumph Street Pipe Band (of Vancouver) to the World’s Drum Corps victory at Nottingham 1979. Canadian talk and legend still maintains that the sweet music of our City of Victoria band should have prevailed over that polis band and all others that day. Good article here.
Willie’s win presaged the successful impact of Reid Maxwell’s arrival to the Vancouver area. As Willie predicted, his win was a great boon to drumming and bands in this part of the world. Willie had been full of praise for Dysart’s 1976 drum corps performance featuring young laddie Reid and others of the associated Ballingry School under the late Bob Shepherd’s and Jim King’s amazing rhythmic leadership.
What was good for SFU hurt our Grade 2 Peel Police at the time. Willie also mentioned and and lamented that the Powell River band album did not feature a better mid-section, as George Pryde would likely have preferred.
Reid continues to tell me when our paths cross in Glasgow or at the Victoria Highland Games on this island that he has truly enjoyed the teaching aspect of the large SFU team organization. So it is great these legendary players continue to get their stuff out there for the willing practitioners and learners of the sonorous art. As Jimmy Catherwood emphasises, patience also stems from the teacher, and its calm delivery can pay fine dividends. Great to see the rudiments like ‘mummy daddys cum rolls’ emphasised so that articulate erudition can eventually be achieved. All things in time.
As a piper I marvelled around that Peel table with practice chanters how totally different the finger sizes, shapes and personal mechanics were, but how they deftly delivered, or almost delivered, the same results. Whether pipers have the large digits of a Pipe Major Angus MacDonald, Scots Guards, Ronald Lawrie or Ed Neigh, or the smaller lighter, nimble digits of Bruce Gandy and others, in time it must all sound the same if a pipe band is to gain that punched impact. Drummers can then clearly sculpt that co-ordination with fine rhythmic effect.
Thanks for a great read Alistair and all the best moving forward with whatever uncertainties we face in the near future.