Editor’s Notebook: Govt U-Turn/ Talk Piobaireachd/ Piper Press/ Santa Rosa Laugh/ Thrilla in Manila

Unfortunately the Scottish government’s change of heart regarding indoor gathering has come too late to save the Celtic Connections festival here in Glasgow (it’s going ahead as a restrictions-affected hybrid) but the expected U-turn has to be good news for all other events especially those early year indoor mini band and quartet contests.

And with the cap lifted on the numbers attending outdoor gatherings from last Monday, can we really now prepare for a Highland games summer and major pipe band championship season as we knew it? I think so.

I wonder what the standard will be like? The playing will be just as good as ever I am sure, but the difference will be in ‘ring rustiness’.

There is no substitute for live performance. If you’ve not played in public for three years the nerves could be harder to control. Match practice is what you need. My advice to soloists is to support the smaller games and contests and for bands to do the same.

Those minor pipe band competitions need your support and you need theirs. Maybe an unexpected lockdown benefit will be a revival, hopefully not temporary, of the smaller pipe band events.

Philippines-based piper Julian Payne staged his own thriller in Manila on Hogmanay. Julian writes: ‘The start of New Year at midnight is marked with fireworks with as much emphasis on noise as on visual effects and with private residences adding their noise makers.

‘The result is that Manila sounds like a battlefield from about 11:45 pm to 01:15 am, including the smell of gunpowder. I decided to join in by playing part of Clan Campbell’s Gathering outside on our 33C degree condo terrace overlooking the city, starting about 11:50pm.

‘It was a great feeling to play a Gathering tune with that background battle-like noise and the tune really fitted the scene. A good example being able to play piobaireachd for sheer joy. I recorded it, then afterwards edited it fading the whole sound slowly in at start and out at end. I attach a copy of the recording, recognising my playing included some errors. Impossible for me to do a re-run until a year from now!’

Julian is pictured top on his balcony. Have a listen….

This occurred sometime around 1985, give or take a year, at the end of the games at Santa Rosa, California, writes Michael Hubbard. The 45-50 bands gathered for the Massed Bands and Amazing Grace.

With the crowd in the stands watching in awe, the MC’s reverberating voice announced that the Scots Guards were present and that their P/M would do the solo before being joined by the rest of us.

Silence came over the field for this solemn event. Then, seconds before the solo piper started, there was a sudden loud KAWAAM!, interrupting all and echoing throughout the stadium. Everyone, from massed band participant to spectator, snapped their heads to the inner field from whence the sound had come.

There was a port-a-loo situated right behind the announcer’s table and a man, holding a beer can, had emerged at that solemn moment and let the spring-hinged door slam shut. The bang had been picked up and amplified by the microphone. The man appeared to be oblivious to the disruption he’d caused, for he staggered over to the railing, set his beer can on it, and leaned on the fence to watch.

Laughter broke out amongst the massed bands and spectators and I imagine that if this gentleman had any relatives in the stands they likely died of shame.

‘I was looking through some of my piping stuff and came across a copy ‘Piper Press’ (No. 13),’ writes reader Stephen Beattie. ‘Forgive my ignorance, but I presume this was prior to the on-line Piping Press? Could you let me know when the paper magazine was first published and when it ceased. Do you know if there are old copies still available?

Piper Press was indeed the forerunner to Piping Press Stephen. It was a bi-monthly magazine I started in July, 1997. After two years, September 1999, it was amalgamated with the Piping Times when I moved to the College of Piping.

Though I retain a full set of all 14 copies the only place I can think of that would have similar would be the Piping Centre. There was certainly a full set in the College of Piping library.

My final Piper Press editorial in September 1999 announced the changes….’For all future editions the magazine [Piper Press] will be incorporated into the Piping Times under my editorship. The Piping Times has been established for more than 50 years and I feel confident we can ally its strong traditions to the new ideas and campaigning approach so successful with the Piper Press.

‘The new magazine will allow us to develop in size, content and presentation…We wish to assure our readers that the high journalistic standards which made Piper Press such a successful magazine will be continued in Piping Times/Piper Press.’

This we did until I left in 2014 with the PT winning a commendation for ‘Excellence in Magazine Publishing’ in the Scottish Magazine Awards in 2005.


Members of the Piobaireachd Society are in for a treat tonight when Alan Forbes (pictured above) delivers the latest in their ‘Talk Piobaireachd’ sessions. Alan, the Society’s Music Committee Chairman and Piping Convenor at the Northern Meeting, is also a long-standing member of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society.

This Society is the oldest in world piping, 140 years, and will be the subject of Alan’s illustrated talk. Online access is free to all PS members. If you’d like to join you can do so here.

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